Bearing Burdens 

A couple of months ago in our staff meeting we sang one of my favorite hymns, How Great Thou Art.  The verse that always has meant the most to me is this:

And when I think,  that God His Son not sparing

Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in:

That on the Cross, my burden gladly bearing,

He bled and died to take away my sin

Then sings my soul…my Saviour God to thee:

How great thou art! How great thou art!

The line that hit me in a way it never had before this time was this:  “That on the cross, my burden gladly bearing…..”  At Samaritan we use Galatians 6:2 in almost all of our materials:  “bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.”  When we take on one another’s problems, help one another with sins (Gal. 6:1), and bear the hard loads with one another we’re displaying what Jesus did on the cross.  One of the ways I’ve explained this to folks new to the idea (borrowed from Seth) is that we move pianos.

You’ve moved a piano (or some other heavy piece of furniture) with a friend, right?  Everybody gathers around and finds a place to grab on and then lift, shuffle a few steps, and set it down.  Then repeat that until you’ve gotten the piano out of the house, onto the moving truck, and then back into the new home.  Bearing burdens for one another means taking on things too big for one person to handle and doing them together.  And Jesus displayed this (among other things) in His bearing your burdens and mine on the Cross.

You and I owed a debt we couldn’t pay, and so He took it on Himself.  He bore that debt, paid that penalty for you and for me.  He didn’t have to.  He did it out of love.  And when you help a brother in need or do good to another man or woman (v. 10) you display the Gospel.  You display what Jesus did when he bore your burden.

Live like that.  Don’t grow weary in doing good and show forth what He’s done by treating others with the same love and grace has He’s shown you.  Bear one another’s burdens and so proclaim the Gospel with your life and works.

Proud Eyes Can’t See 

There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him:
  1. haughty eyes,
  2. a lying tongue, and
  3. hands that shed innocent blood,
  4. a heart that devises wicked plans,
  5. feet that make haste to run to evil,
  6. a false witness who breathes out lies, and
  7. one who sows discord among brothers.
Source: Proverbs 6:16-19 ESV - Bible Gateway

(previous post here)

I mentioned last week that I’d be writing a series of 8 posts, including the introduction, on this passage from Proverbs chapter 6.  The first on this list is “haughty eyes.”  Webster’s defines haughty as:

having or showing the insulting attitude of people who think that they are better, smarter, or more important than other people

or 

blatantly and disdainfully proud

Pride is a hard thing to root out in your life.  This haughtiness, or pride on steroids, is all about a false self-image.  Those of us who have been won over by the grace of Jesus should know one thing as central to that Gospel:  there’s nothing good in you or me.  Nothing worth boasting about.  What did we bring to the table for our salvation?  Sin.  And that’s it.  A self-image based on truth is humble, not proud.  There’s nothing in yourself or myself that is worthy of esteem except what Jesus brings to the table. Continue reading

Haters Gonna Hate (and You Should Too)

The other day on the way to work, Moriah and I were listening to Proverbs 6 on an audio bible and this passage came on:

“There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.”‭‭ — Proverbs‬ ‭6:16-19‬ ‭ESV‬‬

It’s a familiar passage to us, and one that a family favorite song Judy Rogers did has set to music.  It’s a harsh passage to use today because we get told that hatred is bad.  Without exception.  And here Solomon says that there are seven things God hates.  Loving God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength means there are other things you are supposed to hate.  Over the next few weeks I’m going to run down through these seven things God hates, and explain what hating them means for you and me.  We’ll start next week with proud eyes.

As an added bonus, consider this post from Nancy Wilson that popped up in my feed recently based on the same passage:

But as I thought about it later, I realized that actually he is a hater. And so am I. And so are you. And so is that woman. We all hate something. She apparently hates haters. But being a hater is not a bad thing in itself. It all depends on what it is we are hating.God Himself hates lots of things. He hates sin. If He did not hate sin, Christ would not have  gone to the cross to redeem us from it. God is the ultimate hater because He hates sin more than any of us do, and we would do well to hate what He hates more than we do.

Source: Haters |

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1 Degree to the King

Weird thing happened the other night. I’m going to leave the names off here, because I don’t want “name dropping” to be a feature of this blog, but God has put me in an occasionally funny position.

Over my life I’ve had the blessing of getting to know some people who some would say, at least in the Reformed Presbyterian world, are famous. I’ve also met a few other “celebrities” in my travels from time to time and some of those people might even remember me. But I don’t consider myself one of those folks who’s “connected” with the movers and shakers.

But this weird thing: I got a Facebook message from a close friend. This is a guy I used to go to church with and who I keep up with via FB and email and occasional visits even though we don’t live near each other anymore. He has a friend who, if I mentioned his name, most of the readers would recognize. And his friend would like to get introduced to another guy who I”m sure most of the readers would recognize. Keep in mind I don’t know either of these two men who need to be introduced and both of them are somewhat famous.

But apparently I know someone connected to both. I have another friend who is close to the second famous person. Which is weird. Most people know the “six degrees to Kevin Bacon” thing where you’re never more than six degrees of separation from anyone in the world. In this case there’s two famous people I’ve never met and I’m the middle part of their four degrees of separation. And that felt weird to get asked to make that kind of an introduction.

But should it be weird? All of the people, my friend, me, the other friend, the two famous dudes included, are Christians. We all are siblings in the household of God. And while it might be cool to figure out you’re two degrees of separation from the President or the Queen of England or the CEO of some Fortune 50 company, if you are a believer you have something (literally) infinitely more important than that:

You’re one degree of separation from the King of Kings. In fact, He’s your “connection” to the Father and Creator (bear with my apparent non-trinitarianism for a moment) and He’s promised to always take your calls. Jesus is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords (an especially important thing to remember during the election cycle) and every prayer you pray goes through Him.

So while it was pretty cool to realize I was 2 degrees of separation from a couple of famous people, it was cooler still that it reminded me of that closer relationship with the King.

The Body

I’m getting old. I’ve been saying that since I was about 30, and I laugh at 30-year-old me regularly for saying that. What in the world did he know? The reason I know it’s really
true this time is that my body aches a lot. Lately, it doesn’t matter if I’ve been sitting or lying down for 30 seconds or 7 hours my body reminds me it’s not what it used to be with creaks and pains every time I stand up. Every. Single.Time.

Though to be fair, as my wife says, it’s not the years…it’s the mileage. And the maintenance. Some of the pains are related to being stupid and lazy, of course. There are tons of people older than me in much better shape than I’m in.

Thankfully the Body of Christ is not having the same problem with deterioration. Jesus is actually making it better every day. But there are some similarities in that, just like when you exercise a particular muscle group for the first time in a while, sometimes we become aware of a part of the body we forgot (or never knew) was there. Our awareness, usually, caused by that part screaming out for attention.

You’ve done that right? Lifted weights or run for the first time in a while and all of a sudden there’s that one muscle screaming for attention…because it got used in a way it wasn’t used to. And the Body of Christ works that way sometimes as well, which makes all of your lives much more complicated than you’d like.

So consider this section from 1 Corinthians 12 (ESV):

12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body,  so it is with Christ.13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 18 But as it is,  God arranged the members in the body, each one of them,  as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.

21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, 24 which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all
suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.

That “muscle” in the Body screaming for help…that’s verse 26 here “If one member suffers, all suffer together.”

So what does it mean to be a part of the Body? We know it’s painful at times and that our
sin gets in the way of community, but how should we approach this issue?

That’s where Paul’s intro here about “differing gifts” is important. Being a part of the Body means that not everyone is like you. We have hands, feet, eyes, ears and so on. Hands are not eyes. Eyes are not feet.

Being different can be complicated. People that are “not like you” can be annoying, confusing, or even infuriating if you can’t recognize the value of the differences.

When I was in school we had a one day pass/fail class called Critical Thinking. In one of the exercises we took a “test” that divided us into lateral thinkers (connections, divergent possibilities, “big picture”), vertical thinkers (details, logic, analysis) and a middle group. The three groups were then given a picture on the screen to look at and, as a group, describe the picture.

It was a cartoonish drawing of a woman walking a dog and carrying multiple shopping bags and such. I seem to remember she was wearing a hat. What happened next, though, was extremely helpful for me and my understanding of people. They asked us to read off our description of the picture, and the two groups at the ends of the spectrum (more lateral and more vertical thinkers) got pretty animated with one another. The vertical thinkers wrote down things like “3 packages”, “2 blue bags”, “dog is a schnauzer.” The lateral thinkers, though, came up with a narrative about how she was an assistant with an unreasonable boss asked to do chores on her lunch break.

The vertical thinkers were openly, honestly, offended at the lateral thinkers. It was amazing to watch. I think the professor had to cut things off or the boxing gloves were about to come out.

I learned that day that not only do people approach issues very differently, but that it’s important for you and me to understand that the different approach doesn’t make the perspective any less valid. In fact, much like the blind men feeling different parts of an elephant, we need one another’s perspectives to see things more clearly. And when we6-blind-men-hansmiss that it is the perspective that is different and not the principles at play we will start to impugn motives to the other or make other false judgments. And that’s part of what Paul is getting at here when he says in verses 18-20, “18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.”

And that’s the second thing about the body you need to remember: we all need the rest of us. Hands are no good without eyes or eyes without feet. Your potential is maximized because of the differences others bring. Now I’m not talking to you here, but the person next to you, right? Every one of you needs to know that the gifts others bring, especially those you find the most frustrating, are what is going to make you the best hand/eye/ear/foot you can be. 20/20 vision is great, but lacking feet to get you to go see something new, or lacking a hand to hold something up so you can look at it from other perspectives…is it better then? And you eyes tend to think the hands are pretty annoying moving stuff around when you just got it to where you wanted.

Can you see how much better things can be if the Body cooperates together, appreciating and leveraging every single gift it has? Some of you are very creative, divergent thinkers. Others are vertical thinkers…everything precise, in its place, and always adding up to details that can be measured. Most of you are somewhere in between and have leanings one way or the other. And all of you bring something unique to the table for your work, your family, your church and for every group God makes you a part of.

So that’s how you need to view the Body of Christ, brethren:

  • Not everyone is like you
  • You need people who are not like you
  • We function best when everyone embraces, appreciates and joyfully lives in the differences, each of you doing what God created you to do

God’s plan for the Body is for every one of us, you and me together, to be the part He’s designed us to be. And when you learn to not only accept, but love that truth you’ll find the gifts of others strengthening you in ways you never even imagined.

 “God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.”

My challenge to you is to live that truth out with every group of believers that you interact with, and most especially your local church.

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Heaven Belongs to Me 

3“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Source: Matthew 5 ESV

The word “blessed” here is also able to be translated, “happy.”  Being “poor in spirit” is not the opposite of happy, then, but something that leads to happiness.

You and I are supposed to be poor in spirit.

There’s nothing in you or me that makes us worthwhile in ourselves.  There’s no richness in your spirit apart from Christ, and recognizing that you are poor in spirit is a path to true happiness.  Realizing that you are spiritually poor means that you know Jesus has brought you to Himself and He says here that the kingdom of heaven belongs to you.

I realize all to infrequently that I’m poor in spirit, and because of that I avoid happiness.  I break my optimism and view reality through the wrong glasses.  I think I’m something and so prove that I’m not.  Does that happen to you too?  Do you ascribe to yourself spiritual riches that begin in yourself rather than in Christ?

It’s a simple thing to have it be otherwise:  repent.  Repent and believe what Jesus says about you.  Repent and believe the Gospel:  that you are poor in Spirit, that Jesus saves you by His death and payment for your sins, and that heaven belongs to you both now and forever.

Be happy.  Be poor in spirit.

Before Redemption, Before the Fall….Creation

Yesterday I mentioned interacting with a local pastor/blogger on his blog fairly recently.  During the same interaction I got into a different discussion with Eric (another local blogger) about the state of nature before Adam’s fall.

I think it is safer to extrapolate from Scripture that things were vastly different in the “normal scientific operation” of Creation pre-fall vs. post fall. To assume that anything worked identically to what we can measure today in the post fall world in the pre-fall garden.  Here’s the part of the comment where we decided to stop and move the conversation to later and elsewhere:

It didn’t rain before the flood (which is hundreds of years post-fall). If it didn’t rain in the garden, it seems that other now “natural” occurrences didn’t occur then either. So gravity? Probably there and similar to today, maybe even identical. Or maybe not. Thermodynamics? I don’t think it’s likely it worked like it does today.

The Garden is a picture of what heaven will be like, and people in the new heavens and the new earth will fall down and not be hurt. Jesus, in his new body, walked through a wall. Things will not be as they are, though we will see the similarity because Creation retains the character of the original though marred by sin.

In redemptive history (which is all of history), there are essentially three periods of time.  There  is original creation.  There is time from the fall until Christ.  And there is time from the resurrection until the end of time when Christ returns.**  From each period to the next there are continuities (things that stay the same) and there are discontinuities (things that are different).  Some of the similarities and differences in the ages are clear in Scripture, and some are much less so.  Some of the less clear can be deduced, and some are just unknown in this life.

Our conversation (friendly debate?) centered around the discontinuities from before the fall to after the fall.  I believe there was no death at all in the garden.  No decomposition, no insects or plants dying, and certainly no human or animal deaths.  None.  Consider this from Romans 5:

12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned— 13 for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. 14 Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.

Now I admit that it is only absolutely clear from this passage that death is only new for mankind after the fall…not that it is new to all of creation.  I don’t think so, though.  I think when God pronounced all things good that he’s declaring them good, and that they’re perfect at that point before sin enters and death with it.  Without the fall there would be no meat-eating (no animal death) and this is how it will be in the new heavens and the new earth when death itself is destroyed (1Corinthians 15).

So here it is, Eric.  It’s later now, and we can have this conversation here rather than tie up someone else’s blog with the give and take.  If you’re still interested, weigh in below, and if not, I got a blog post out of it.  🙂

** I’m not going to get into eschatology in this post (and maybe never on this blog), but there’s some argument to be made that there’s a very short period of transition that is different than the two on either side from the birth of Christ until His resurrection.  Maybe a topic for the future, but not the thrust of this post.

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