Tag: depravity

The cost of losing our integrity

Two shifts have occurred in our culture from walking away from morality and objective truth towards moral ambiguity and relativism. 1) We’ve lost our integrity. 2) We’ve insulated ourselves from accountability. In our culture’s quest to be more nuanced and evolved, we’ve created an irresponsible and uncivil environment.

Lack of integrity erodes trust
Fundamental to all scandals of late is violation of trust. People are angered by government surveillance because they’ve seen violation of trust by the IRS. We’ve seen through many institutions: churches, schools, colleges, government, families, etc. a downplay of integrity and an abuse of trust. Lack of trust builds antagonism and erodes civility as culture becomes polarized and reactionary. We are angered by such violations, but why?

Moral relativism erodes accountability
Relativism means we can’t tell someone they are wrong. This further propels us to avoid conflict. Conflict has grand potential of telling someone they’re wrong. Then, once trust is violated, we become angry. Not at what was morally wrong, but at the trust violated. Is integrity more important than trust, perhaps. What we’re seeing now that a lack of morality also equates to a lack of trust. How did this erosion gain so much momentum?

We destroyed accountability with irresponsibility
We the people. We the problem. We don’t trust government because we don’t trust one another. By not being able to declare rights in wrongs; from that avoiding conflict, and from that removing consequences as much a possible, we undermined responsibility. In the name of compassion (which is a good thing) we sacrificed responsibility. Part of this erosion is not understanding how our government and society works. This is not the fault of public education. We the people. We the problem. We created the mess that we’re in.

Yes, we’re depraved
Some in ministry circles push to downplay total depravity, often citing it’s overuse. Some outright deny the doctrine. Until we admit and see the problem, we cannot work towards a solution. While the ultimate solution is the Gospel, there is also a need for civility. God ordained government for a reason. One aspect that is profound about our government is an underlaying understanding of depravity.

The past wasn’t so bad
We view history often as inauthentic because of glaring errors or sins. We sense disillusionment. There are two problems with this. First, we’re no better and our sense of disillusionment is just another form of the judgmentalism we deride and often do. Second, in times past one’s accomplishments were viewed more highly than their faults. We see this at today’s funerals. The integrity, humility and civility of times past allowed one’s accomplishments to outshine their faults. This is a lost art today. In reading from the men of old they did not view themselves as flawless. They were keenly aware of their faults. But, unlike today, they had a framework to deal with that.

The bottom line:
A man of honor is a man of integrity. We need to get back to this basic. In thinking we are more enlightened than times past we’re so much worse than times past as well. We need to get back to declaring right and wrong, to upholding human responsibility. We need to get back to man’s word being everything. We need to get back to three pillars George Washington talked about: education, morality and religion.

The Gospel according to farm & sports injury

In recent news people are debating the issue of the labor department setting 85 pages of regulations to protect minors from farm injuries. In 2010 there was about 7,500 farm injuries. The thought is farm injuries are often severe and debilitating. I’m not for injuries or exploitation. This isn’t a let’s call out government overreach either. Here is what I am saying: Mountains of regulations doesn’t make one safe nor can one be completely safe. As humans we often pick an legislate an issue, ignoring the fact that life is often beyond our control.

Soccer
According to an ABCnews article between 1990-2003 1.6 million boys and girls were injured playing soccer. I’ve personally interacted with some whose soccer injuries were debilitating and are now a life long issue. If child safety and the prevention of exploitation is a concern, why has not the 1.6 million soccer injuries been addressed? Wait, soccer is popular here so I better stop now…

Football
According to WebMD football injuries didn’t fair so well. In fact, in one year alone it made up a third of all the soccer injuries between 1990-2003.

Researchers found high school football players suffered more than half a million injuries nationwide during the 2005-2006 season. And they were more likely to suffer season-ending injuries, such as fractures and concussions, than those who play collegiate football.

Now, I’d ask the same question I asked before, but recognizing the religious zealotry that is football, I better pipe down.

Oops, there’s more…
According to stopsportsinjuries.org 3.5 million high school athletes are injured. 30,000 of which are hospitalized. This data was found in the mid 90’s, but according to other statistics there’s been a 5 fold increase in some specific types of injuries. What’s even funnier is how the CDC states more than half of the injuries were preventable.

The Gospel
At it’s core the Gospel is this: We are incapable of saving ourselves. The hope of Jesus dying on the cross and rising again is that one day He will make all things new. We can’t save ourselves and it’s Jesus’ work in our life that makes the difference. Here’s the catch. No amount of legislation can make us good. Just like with childhood injuries, we too look for specific “bad” things that we can easily prevent, but we often ignore things that may not be as severe, but still leaves a significant impact of life long repercussions.

How about you?
Are you content because you’re not doing the “bad” stuff? You’re not in the “7,500 farm injuries crowd.” Yet, you’re doing things that are still wrong. You’re in the “millions of soccer injuries” crowd. You’re no better for doing a “less” bad thing. Fine, you may not be having an affair. But, if you’re gazing at a person and committing adultery in your heart, that still has repercussions that can harm a marriage. Here is what’s cool: Jesus covered it all. He can work in the “really” bad and the “less” bad issues.

The bottom line:
The issue with child labor on farms points out to a pattern in human behavior. Injuries are bad and often they’re preventable. No legislation can prevent injuries because we’re fallen and we’re broken. We often focus on a major issue, but injuries are injuries. The same is true for sin. We’re incapable of keeping ourselves safe. We’re also incapable of saving ourselves. We need Jesus and He’ll make all things new.

Manic Monday: Good people need the Gospel too

God puts everyone on a level playing field. Even if life is good and everything is in order, there is still need of the Cross. The Sunday sermon is something we should ponder throughout the week. This Sunday’s sermon grabbed my attention. We often forget about the moral person.

As Jon talked about Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea, men who had it all together, I remembered a time in college. I was talking with a gentlemen about mankind’s condition. The often used phrase “religion  is a crutch” and “man is morally good or neutral” were used. He claimed to be an atheist or perhaps an agnostic. Chance would have it that the movie we picked was Sphere…

Given my class in the Book of Romans, I wanted to hear his insights to Romans 1 and 2. In church we often focus on Romans 1, but we forget about chapter 2. In discussing human depravity we focus on how bad man can be and forget our man can be relatively good. Paul deals with the moral person. Moral people who do good by following “the law of God as it is written on their hearts.” Even given their moral code, they fail to measure up even to their own standard. After discussing our views on man, we watch his beloved movie.

The movie Sphere brings out the nature of man in Romans 2. Here a perfect object- the sphere- brings out the worse of the characters. Their conclusion was man wasn’t good enough to posses the sphere. Man was depraved according to the movie. When it ended there was that awkward silence right after. I did not pounce, and he said there was more to think about. We agreed, even good people have faults. We enjoyed the discussion and it brought more depth to watching the movie. A seed was planted.

Romans 1 talks about the highly sinful man, Romans 2 the moral man and Romans 3 the religious man. All three need the Gospel. Back to the sermon… Jesus related to the moral and the religious. He talked with Nicodemus, even if it was on the down low. Part of mission and being compassionate is meeting people where they’re at. While Jesus came for the sick and the needy (those who need the infamous “crutch”) He did not neglect the good people too. Jesus knew this simple truth: We don’t need a crutch or a good moral code, we need a savior.

(especially on Monday)

Why not Wednesday? Own depravity

We try to push the idea human depravity away. We hide it, talk it away, claim that it’s a negative outlook, etc. The last we want to do is own it. Some overplay the depravity hand claiming because we are depraved we are therefore worthless. This too doesn’t own depravity. We need to own it.

Conflict resolution
This idea did not go over well as I was training camp counselors in conflict resolution.

“People are naturally good, not depraved,” said a counselor.
“People who say people are naturally good have never worked with children,” I replied.

The group wasn’t buying it. To move forward and be optimistic you first need to understand and see reality. Understand the reality of things and you can move things towards the best. They still didn’t buy in. I told them to give it a week… it only took a couple of hours.

“Trouble makers”
A church that had a large group of unchurched kids asked my advice on dealing with them. Apparently my answer did not have an appreciation for the situation. The rebuttal given was “but they don’t behave!” Aha, there is the problem. My advice was you need to love them first. We polarize discipline and love- they are truly one. If we love we deal with the reality of the situation and work towards the best. Love includes discipline, it’s not exclusive. Good behavior doesn’t come first and then we love. Despite our depravity, Christ acted on our behalf! Jesus loved, saved and then begins to perfect us.

Easier said then done
My kids pour on the love talk when they are in trouble. It KILLS me. They’re cute. They’re adorable, and I LOATH to see them hurt or cry. I knew this moment would come. I knew it would be hard. But love does what is best for the person. It doesn’t act with a cold heart, but it does compassionately deal with reality. This too is the Gospel. As God saves us He also lovingly shapes us. As hard as it is to discipline my boyz, hugging them afterward and showing forgiveness is a powerful moment. It communicates that even when they mess up, they’re still loved.

The bottom line:
We must own depravity. It means doing something that is counter-culture these days: taking responsibility. Bringing it back to the Cross, God knew we could not be perfect. That is why He gave us Christ. Owning our depravity isn’t seeing everyone as evil and worthless- it’s seeing people as being imperfect and need of redemption. Yes we are depraved, but that doesn’t have to be the end of the story. Yes people are depraved, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t love them and get involved in people’s lives. That is precisely what Jesus did, and one day we’ll be made perfect because of it.

The Gospel According to Snow

We are fallen
Exodus 4:6
The LORD furthermore said to him, “Now put your hand into your bosom.” So he put his hand into his bosom, and when he took it out, behold, his hand was leprous like snow.

Job 9:29-35
“I am accounted wicked, Why then should I toil in vain ? “If I should wash myself with snow And cleanse my hands with lye, Yet You would plunge me into the pit, And my own clothes would abhor me. “For He is not a man as I am that I may answer Him, That we may go to court together. “There is no umpire between us, Who may lay his hand upon us both. “Let Him remove His rod from me, And let not dread of Him terrify me. “Then I would speak and not fear Him; But I am not like that in myself.

God’s provision
Job 37:6
“For to the snow He says, ‘Fall on the earth,’ And to the downpour and the rain , ‘Be strong.’

Job 24:19
“Drought and heat consume the snow waters, So does Sheol those who have sinned.

Psalm 51:7
Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean ; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

Psalm 147:16
He gives snow like wool ; He scatters the frost like ashes.

Psalm 148:8
Fire and hail, snow and clouds ; Stormy wind, fulfilling His word

We need to respond
Proverbs 25:13
Like the cold of snow in the time of harvest Is a faithful messenger to those who send him, For he refreshes the soul of his masters.

Proverbs 31:21
She is not afraid of the snow for her household, For all her household are clothed with scarlet.

Isaiah 1:18
[“Let Us Reason”] “Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the LORD, “Though your sins are as scarlet, They will be as white as snow ; Though they are red like crimson, They will be like wool.

Isaiah 55:10-11
“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, And do not return there without watering the earth And making it bear and sprout, And furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater ;So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth ; It will not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.

Snow is the look of the Savior
Daniel 7:9
[The Ancient of Days Reigns] “I kept looking Until thrones were set up, And the Ancient of Days took His seat ; His vesture was like white snow And the hair of His head like pure wool. His throne was ablaze with flames, Its wheels were a burning fire.

Matthew 28:3
And his appearance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow.

Revelation 1:14
His head and His hair were white like white wool, like snow ; and His eyes were like a flame of fire.

~Scripture taken from The New American Standard

Why I stayed in church

I’ve constantly dealt with the question of why 20’s and early 30’s were leaving the church. I never asked why I didn’t leave. Here is a first attempt at answering the question. It revolves around one key thing: God.

“For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” ~Philippians 1:6

Religion is a crutch
True. We do not need a crutch, we need a savior. We don’t need help or an aid, we need something that will radically change us. The biggest thing to me about the church is the Gospel. The central message of the Gospel is death to life; sin to righteousness. This isn’t found by a right of passage or a self-help crutch. It is founded on Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection.

Christians are just hypocrites
True. We’re also liars, thieves, fornicators, cheats, gossips, gluttons, drunkards, murderers, slanders, etc. Funny thing is, as I look across the human experience, I see the same thing. The church isn’t made of perfect people, and if it were, we’d at least be liars according to 1 John. Church is family. We’re not perfect, but being perfect is not the point. Again, it comes down to the central message of the Gospel. Church is filled with redeemed people not perfect people.

Church doesn’t meet my needs
True. Here is the paradox of church: If everyone comes to church focused on meeting everyone’s needs, everyone’s needs gets met. Church is not about what you can get, it is about what you can give to others. Why would someone join something that is not about them is a bit crazy. This goes back to the central message of the Gospel: Jesus gave Himself on our behalf. His focus was on our needs and the Father’s will, not Himself.

The Gospel
I did not quit because I believe Jesus died and rose again. Believing this means being a part of a community of people who also hold that belief and seek to proclaim the message of death to life. The Gospel is central. Church is not about what I get, but as Jesus modeled, church is about what I give. The hardest principle to get is realizing the church is not about me, it’s about Him.

The Church
I embrace the church because it is Jesus’ most prized possession. In pursuing Christ and helping others, ultimately our own needs get met. In getting the focus off ourselves we gain depth and a spirituality that can only come from the grace of the Cross. In church we realize the greatest need of all mankind and the only solution. We’re messed up, and knowing that fully, Jesus still reached out to us.

The bottom line:
I did not quit church because Jesus did not quit on me, those in the church, or those who still have not heard the Gospel. The church isn’t perfect and neither am I, and that’s ok. Christ is the one who makes us complete and perfect. The problems of church become less and when I pursue God and help others more.

Name it & claim it!

The Sunday sermon talked about the cows of bashan from Amos 4. (Ok, you can insert corn fed, I mean lame jokes here: The sermon was moo-ving, A1 sermon, nothing like milk of the Word, etc.) I suppose there is just no way to discuss that passage elegantly as the cows referred to women. The juxtaposition of brokenness to hiding it was striking.

Pondering the sermon
Those who hammer holiness in their sermons need to take a serious look at key women in the Bible. It’s messy. Then, take a look at key men in the Bible. It’s even more messy. The problem with depravity is the constant thought that we don’t measure up; that we are lacking. This leads us to a choice: to listen to the fool or the wise. To listen to fallen voices of depravity or the grace of the Gospel. Pastor Jon did a good job pointing to these two choices: truth or error.

Name it & claim it
There is truth to the name it and claim it phrase. It’s not centered on our wants, but grace. 1 John 1:9 is a name it and claim it principle. If we confess our sin (name it) He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins AND cleanse us from all unrighteousness (claim it). Name it and claim it should be about grace, not possessions. When we embrace our brokenness God offers not just forgiveness, He cleans us up!

The Bottom Line:
We have a choice. What will we pursue? Truth or error? Grace or tyranny of our fallenness? If being perfect consumes us, we will never get dirty. Serving and helping people is messy. We want to hide our depravity, but Jesus bring it into the light. We view it as a stain, Jesus views it as dirt to be washed away. His scars prove that. We view it as hopeless, Jesus forged the Gospel in hope. Name your sin, claim its forgiveness, and as a bonus Jesus makes you clean. The Gospel is a powerful thing.

Unspiritual warfare…

The Bible teaches about spiritual warfare and depravity. Both are important to keep in mind, but we tend to ignore depravity. Often we view that good things are blessing from God and bad things are from Satan. This puts us in a seemingly innocent place. Satan can “bless” (the Bible often speaks to the unrighteous prospering) and God can be the source of “bad” (the Bible also speaks of trials and testing that God allows in our lives). It is dangerous to ignore our depravity.

The path to sin

“But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when list has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.” ~ James 1:14-15

Lust is a desire that we have: hunger, thirst, sex, acknowledgment, etc. God designed us with certain appetites. He did not create us as unemotional beings. Being tempted is not a sin. Desiring is not a sin per se, but there are frequent times when our own lust carries us away to sin. This is not a spiritual battle, this is our own self we’re talking about. We often choose to sin because we want the sin that is before us.

The reality of sin

“If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.” ~ 1 John 1:8-10

John’s letter was written to Christians. He gives us a reality check: we sin. While in Christ we are saints, the reality of our current condition is we will sin. To ignore this fact is to miss the mark. This is not a spiritual condition, it is a human one. We are depraved. But, in Christ we have forgiveness. While Christ covers all our sin, there are sins we need to scrub out of our lives. This is not a tragedy, it is a reality. Christ took the tragedy upon himself so you and I can be forgiven. We can be clean.

The choice to sin

“Do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.” ~ Romans 6:12-13

In Christ we have the freedom of choice. We can choose to be righteous. We can choose to sin. The power of being in Christ is that sin does not have power over us. Christ broke the bondage of sin. God does not describe this as an easy choice. He knows that we often desire the sins before us. When sin reigns in us, it’s because we let it. The power of Christ gives us the only way out.

The bottom line:
We avoid the fact that we are depraved as it leads to what we loath even more, responsibility. To ignore our depravity is to ignore the power of the Gospel. Christ on the cross broke the bondage of sin. Reality is we will struggle until we see Christ face to face. Depravity is the greatest equalizer we are all guilty, but in Christ everything changes; not making us better than others, but making us free.

In Christ we are: a new creation, saved, sanctified, cleansed, an heir, family, royalty, a crown, alive and righteous. In Christ we are saints. If we ignore our depravity we forget that we are nothing without the Gospel. If we ignore it, we can lose sight of the hope that is to come: a time when there will be no more sin. In Christ we are free. After all, He won!

God not so angry in the OT: The Law

Jesus summed up the Torah in two statements: Love God, Love people… I took the time to read Leviticus and Deuteronomy back to back… The theme? Love God, Love people.

Thinking on Jesus fulfilling the law
One aspect of Jesus fulfilling the law the law we often miss is Love God, Love people. Seriously. Jesus made it his mission to point people to God the Father, not himself. Jesus paid the ultimate sacrifice so we might, through him, have a relationship with God and better relationships with each other. Love God, Love people. The law is more that the 600+ commands. It boils down to the big 2….

Write your own law
Write or think through your own law… What are the non-negotiables? What are the annoyances? What are the paths of reconciliation? What are the deal-breakers? How do you show and actively help the dis-advantaged? How do you show hospitality? While we may gawk and the huge 600+ some odd commands, the number doesn’t seem so huge when you start adding up your own decrees. Now that you have your own law written down, who does it serve: you or others?

Absolute perfection and absolute holiness
The law points to the necessity of Christ and the reality of what God being holy means. For example: I have an eye defect at birth. Based on this one defect, if I were a Levite, I would not be permitted to sacrifice. My youngest son has eczema, he would not be able to sacrifice either. God did not want any imperfection in His presence. With that in view, how significant is Jesus touching and healing the lame, blind, lepers, and prostitutes? Jesus fulfilled the absolutes and provided for the imperfects like you and I!

The bottom line:
I think we misunderstand God in the Old Testament. In looking at the 600+ commands, it made provision for the disadvantage, for mistakes, and for evil. It deals much with human conflict and depravity. Perhaps it is not so much that God is vindictive as it is people are depraved and do not want to repent. Take a look at your own “law.” Who does it serve, yourself, or focus on others? God rooted the Law in His nature  and the service of others. Love God, Love people.

Manic Monday: Wasted

One of the most wasted resources in the church is the Sunday Morning Sermon. (Did I just hear a class break?) While some of my friends might be gasping for breath, hear me out:

A good pastor wrestles with what to preach
He must meet the needs of the church, but in doing so making sure it’s God’s timing, true to the Bible and clearly communicated whether popular or not. The time invested in this is massive, days, not hours. Sometimes even weeks. Praying, reading, researching, etc all goes into this.

He digs into the text and then has to deal with his own depravity and fallenness at the same time. This is extremely hard when the sermon is about something the pastor is just starting to work through. While preparing people come to mind that the passage will address. The point isn’t to preach at those people, but feed the whole church. In speaking truth to actions, one must let the Holy Spirit be the Holy Spirit.

Then Monday hits
Being a young idealist, I disagreed with an elder pastor that said to me: “You’ll preach a sermon on Sunday and then on Monday someone will be in your office needing counseling on what you just preached on…and they weren’t there, or weren’t listening.” My first Sunday Morning Sermon (on John 4) I got the usual “nice sermon” pat. On Monday, I get the call… Sure enough, The elder pastor was right. And as years past by, he’s proven right more and more. At times, I’m the Monday guy.

So on Monday…
We need to learn to listen to our pastors. It’s really not about the them. It is about what God wants us to hear. Sometimes the pastor’s sermon is what the pastor needs to hear as much as those in the audience. None of us are perfect, but we can all do a better job listening. If the Sunday Morning Sermon ends with a “Nice job, Pastor,” then we are wasting a valuable resource God gave us. On Monday, chew on the message. Wrestle with it. Some sermons will be more profound than others, but we must not leave the sermon to just Sunday. (Some sermons we may wrestle with for a lifetime.)

It’s not about the pastor. It’s about us and God. We can all do a better job of listening and pondering what He is trying to get across.

(especial on Monday)