Tuesday, July 29, 2014

This week's lesson: how to be saved

If you forgive someone . . .

Does this mean you trust them?

I struggle with this question -- not least because I've told several people in our church that:
  • God loves you, God forgives you, God accepts you just the way you are . . . 
  • But you are not working with children. Ever. End of discussion. Period.
In return, I'm usually told that:
  • God loves them, God forgives them, God accepts them just the way they are . . . 
  • And if God is willing to let bygones be bygones, then why can't I do the same (and let them work with children)?
And they'd have a point . . . if forgiveness was nothing more than the pretense nothing happened.
But sometimes, somebody does something you can't ignore -- and when that happens, you have a choice:
  • You can say, "That's it! It's over! You're out of here!"
  • Or you can say, "We need to deal with this -- but I'm willing to work with you, if you're willing to work with me."
Fortunately, God is always willing to work with us, always willing to mend what's been broken, always willing to rebuild the trust that's been lost.
But that process begins with a decision: not a decision to forget the past, but to deal with it -- and yes, we can call that decision, "forgiveness."
In short, I forgive people because I don't trust them -- not yet.
But in time, I hope I will.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

This week's lesson: salvation

It's easy to get lost.

It's staying lost that's difficult.

Just one wrong turn, after all -- just one moment's inattention -- is all it takes to send me into terra incognita . . .

But once there, I will persist for hours in the belief that:
  • I know where I'm going.
  • I recognize that landmark.
  • And no, I don't need to stop and look at a map.
It's not easy to do this, you understand. No, it takes constant effort to ignore that gnawing feeling that I'm on the wrong track, that I should turn around and start over, that my wife was right when she said we should have turned left.

But when you're a guy, you make that effort.

Likewise, turning away from God may be easy . . .

But staying away is not -- not when you have a God who is continually trying to get you back. No, you need to keep pretending that everything is going just the way you wanted it to go . . .

And you need to keep ignoring that feeling that maybe it is not.

But when the time comes that you stop making that effort -- that you stop working so hard to stay lost . . .

That's when you discover just how much God's been working to save you.

You see, we're not saved by our works.

No, we're saved by God's works.

And that's true, even before we are saved.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

This week's lesson: the Holy Spirit

Not only does God provide tech support, but He doesn't outsource.

Some companies, after all, don't provide any help; no, you buy their product and you're on your own . . .

Like the time I bought a cheap MP3 player that turned out to have no manual, no website, and no toll-free number I could for help in figuring out how to turn it on.

In consumer electronics, this is called "lousy customer service."

In philosophy, it's called "Deism" -- the idea that God made us, then kind of . . . lost interest.

Then you have the manufacturers that do provide tech support -- or rather, they've given this job to another company located somewhere in South Dakota India the Philippines that is committed to providing fast, friendly service at the lowest possible price (with an emphasis on "the lowest possible price").

In business, this is called "outsourcing."

In philosophy, it's called "Neo-Platonism" -- the idea that God does not deal directly with His creation, but does so only through a near-infinite "chain of creation."

But when we need help, our prayer does not go to an angel . . . who passes it to an archon . . . who turfs it to a saint . . . who transfers it to a call center located somewhere in South Dakota India the Philippines.

Instead, God picks up the phone Himself -- and sometimes, He doesn't even wait until we call to get in touch! No, He calls us to see how we're doing. He drops by to see how we're doing. And if He needs to be there with us all the time, then we know where you'll find Him.

In business, this is called "on-site support."

In philosophy, this is called "immanence" -- the idea that God is close to us.

But if you need a personal name for God when He does this, then you call Him, "the Holy Spirit."

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

This week's lesson: the son

God is a lousy superhero.

If there's one thing on which all the comic books agree, after all, it's that superheroes are . . . well, they're super.

Yes, they have super-powers: super-strength, super-intelligence, super-invulnerability to everything from bullets to the common cold.

And when you add their super-good-looks, then one thing is clear: superheroes are nothing like God.

No, when God showed up on this earth, then He did so as an ordinary human.
  • He wasn't omnipotent.
  • He wasn't omniscient.
  • And he was vulnerable to everything from hunger and thirst to family misunderstandings (not to mention torture and death).
In short, the best picture we have of God's true nature is not one of a man in tights who spends a lot of time at the gym.

No, it is one of "a man of sorrows who is acquainted with grief."
All of which suggests that God would not do well in comic books.
But as for the real world -- the world in which we live?

It would seem that He fits right in.

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

This week's lesson: our loving heavenly Father

It's easy to make God sound like a child-abuser.

I grew up with a view of salvation, for instance, that was basically Manichaean -- a view that pitted God the Father against God the Son.
  • The Father was a God of Justice, while the Son was a God of Love.
  • Justice demands punishment for our sins -- while Love begs forgiveness.
  • And since the God of Justice needed to punish somebody, He walloped His Son -- and let us off the hook.
And yes, this is good news . . . 
But it doesn't exactly leave me with warm and fuzzy feelings about the God who treats His Son this way!
That's why our doctrine of the Trinity is important -- our belief that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are not three gods, but one. And if that's true, then . . . 
Anything Jesus suffers, the Father suffers too.
Anything Jesus offers, the Father offers too.
And anyone Jesus forgives is forgiven, not in spite of the Father. No, "if you've seen me," said Jesus, "then you've seen the Father."
So if you've been saved by Jesus, then you've been saved by the Father too.