Friday, July 31, 2015

I Would Spare You Regret

I know I've written about this sort of thing before, but it's been a few years, and I need the review myself.

I would spare you my regrets.

My greatest regrets have come from the times when I've traded away love, or joy, or obedience, or humility, or hope, or trust.  And what have I usually traded them for?

Control.  The power to make something unpleasant stop, or to make something pleasant start.  

But as hard as it is for us to believe in the midst of painful, scary, or frustrating situations, the fact is that the fruits and gifts of the Spirit are worth infinitely more than control (or the illusion of control).

Love, obedience, joy and all the rest... these were purchased for us at the cost of the unimaginable agonies of Calvary. What will you and I trade those things for? How cheaply will you and I sell them off today... maybe even this hour?

God forbid!

Whenever you are reading this, please stop and pray.  Thank the Lord for His peace, love, hope, joy, and all the rest.  And prayerfully determine, by His grace, that in this hour you will not trade away so cheaply what He purchased with His blood.  Purpose not to attempt this in your own strength (that's impossible), but to be mindful of what's at stake, and to prayerfully cling to Him in whatever the hour may bring.

And then, the next hour, do it again by His grace.

The following suggestion will not apply to everyone. But in my own case I've found it helpful to install an app* on my phone that makes a little noise at the top of every hour. (I have it set not to disturb me during sleeping hours.) I use that little noise as a reminder to thank the Lord for the previous hour, and to confess any sins committed. I acknowledge His lordship over the coming hour, and my responsibility to honor and obey Him in it.  And so, when I fall into bed at the end of the day, I don't find myself struggling to orient my heart to Him, as I would if I'd ignored Him all day in favor of pursuing my own agendas.

And I come to Him without regrets.

I emphatically do NOT recommend such hourly reminders for anyone who would find them unpleasant. No one likes to be nagged. But if such a reminder would be a pleasure and a help to your heart, as it is to mine, then go for it!

But whatever you do, don't trade away priceless gifts for things which will only leave you sorry.

*There are many such apps available.  This happens to be the one I use.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Are You Merciful? Is Your Mercy Biblical?

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Mercy is a wonderful quality, commanded by God, demonstrated by Him in its utmost degree, and lauded by humanity.

But like every good thing, mercy can lose its power for good when it's wrested from its Biblical moorings.  So I must ask:

Is your mercy biblical?

There's a certain logic to biblical mercy, and since lots of folks like bullet-points, I'll use them here to show the flow of that logic.

  • Basic Tenet of the historical Christian faith:  Christ saves only those who come to Him in faith and repentance.  
  • Therefore, merciful Christians want to lead people to repentance and faith in Christ.  And, since they themselves also came to Christ in faith and repentance, and not with any merit of their own, they can (and must) lead others humbly.  Sinner to sinner.
  • Therefore, merciful Christians cannot celebrate sin, for salvation is impossible without repentance, and sin cannot be both celebrated and repented of.  "Love does not rejoice in sin" (1 Corinthians 13:6).  The non-biblical "mercy" that celebrates sin may make life more comfortable in some respects, but it merely pads the seats on the Titanic.  The disaster is coming, with inevitably tragic losses to those on board.  The biblically-merciful Christian loves and warns and pleads in the face of sin.  He does not, cannot celebrate it.
  • Biblically-merciful Christians know that every sinner's greatest need is the Gospel...the same Gospel that saved his own sinful soul.  While he doesn't hesitate to call any sin "sin," he refuses to make any peripheral sin the focus.  The biblically-merciful Christian learns from the example of the Apostle Paul, who encountered in ancient Corinth a moral atmosphere worse than our own.  And yet Paul was determined to meet that immoral culture with the Gospel alone (1 Co. 2:2).  When some Corinthians repented of their rebellion against God and received the Holy Spirit, then they began to change from the inside-out (See 1 Co. 6:9-11, especially noting v.11).  So the biblically-merciful Christian is Gospel focused.
So please, Christian, check your heart.  
  • Are you calling your mercy "biblical" but undercutting others' hope for salvation by hiding their need for repentance?
  • Which do you value more:  lost souls or cultural power?  In other words, are you more excited about evangelism, or about "winning our country back"?
  • Do you value lost souls more than personal comfort?  Do you grieve for the lost souls in the gay pride parade as they glory in their shame...or do you grieve more for yourself that you have to see it?
May I humbly suggest that, if you and I don't value the souls more than our power and comfort, then we'd better not open our mouths on moral issues until we repent.  We won't be qualified unless we repent, and we'll do the Kingdom and our lost neighbors more harm than good.

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