Injustice and Suffering

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How do we handle injustice and suffering?

1.   Mourn for the sins that are in the world. In Ezek. 9. When God gave Ezekiel a vision of men slaying idolaters throughout Jerusalem- he only spared the ones that  mourned what was going on. So don’t ever become numb to it. Think about it, lament it, pray about it, do something in your community about it.

2.  Sanctify God through it: By mourning- we are sanctifying God. When we are being sanctified- we are becoming more holy- when we sanctify God however- we are simply recognizing his holiness- in every circumstance- as in mankind means something for evil- while God will use it for good somehow and will also come to the aid of the oppressed.

3.   It prepares us: mourning prepares us for when suffering comes upon us. If we can sanctify God when others suffer injustice, it will be easier to sanctify Him when we suffer as well.

If we’re not ready when it comes, if we’re not sanctifying God and thinking of his supreme magisterial knowledge- if all we know is to say trite things to people- like oh it’ll be OK- then when suffering comes to us, its going to go badly.

  • Ultimately, its a low view of humanity that causes the injustice and oppression that leads to the suffering we experience.

Click below to hear the “rest of the story”-

https://www.cedarrun.net/sermons/injustice-and-suffering/

 

The Politics of the City

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So we have this biblical wisdom- Christian beliefs, theology- based on scripture. And we have a mandate to live them out. Biblical wisdom teaches us what is desirable- and politics is a way we implement it. Biblical wisdom teaches us what ends are desirable. While politics teaches what means are effective. Wisdom is the end- politics are a means to that end.

Now the means doesn’t always justify the end- so biblical wisdom also tells us what means are permissible- not all laws are lawful…scripturally. You can find a clear example in the sanctity of life issue, i.e. abortion and euthanasia. But what about the poor? There are different and perfectly acceptable political means that we can disagree on as ways to try to remedy that.

  • Biblical wisdom is the heart changing, lifelong growing and maturing guidance that comes from scripture and the gospel. It’s bottomless.
  • While politics has a very limited scope. There are only so many ways to apply government, laws and regulations.

But when we take God out of the equation, we’re left with politics alone- and that’s pretty limiting. Trying to use politics alone to make the world a better place is like using an ice pick to sculpt a glacier.

Listen to the whole talk here:
Or here: https://www.cedarrun.net/sermons/the-politics-of-the-city/

Staying Off The Rollercoaster

Staying Off The Rollercoaster- Forgive

How do you do the best for someone who has wronged or betrayed you? Especially when they still need your help?

The only way you can truly help them is to forgive them unconditionally.

Forgiveness with conditions, i.e. the offender doing what I think is right- whether its some practical decision to fix things or a simple apology- is really just a way we want them to earn our forgiveness.

  • But unconditional forgiveness keeps me from the emotional rollercoaster of the both the best and the worst outcome.

Because only when I forgive unconditionally, not based on them doing what I want, does it allows me to act truly in their best interest. Because I’m not manipulated by the sometimes irrational hope that everything is going to be all right; or the despondency of “its never going to get better.”

  • My action for their benefit is not tied to an irrational hope that everything is going to be alright.
  • And my action is also not triggered only by their failure to do want I want.

So in both cases, I am able to stay off the rollercoaster and act independently of their actions, or my demands, and do what’s best.

The only way we can respond to people in a way that is truly helpful to them (loving them)- is to forgive them.

More Than You Can Handle

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True or False: “God won’t give you more than you can handle.”
Answer: True (but platitudinous:), i.e.:

* If God doesn’t give us more than we can handle we’ll never be able to handle more.
* How do we grow if we are not challenged?
* Where do we learn, if not from our failures?

BUT… that conventional wisdom doesn’t go far enough. We need to keep going. Until we get to the gospel.

Because if we ARE able to handle things ourselves, outcomes become performance based. There are two problems here: failure… and success. If your a Christian, it can become gospel short circuiting self-salvation as we subtlety begin to judge our own worthiness based on our works. And guess what, even if you’re saved you can fall for the joy killer that is works based salvation.

Here’s how it works: You believe in salvation by faith. But you’re a functional self-saver. And its leading to performance anxiety. The answer is to get back to the gospel. Since we are not judged by any performance other than Christ’s, we can stop being so outcome driven.

Our job in the “more than we can handle”- is to love God, love our neighbor and to follow God’s commands. Yes, we are to do things to resolve whatever we are “handling”- but only through the lens of love. And its only the gospel that allows us to act that way.

  • When the outcome is up to God, and the pressure is off- we can afford to be be loving and caring.
  • When the outcome is up to us- we become ruthless and judgmental.

We judge ourselves and the actions of others based on whether we’ve beaten the tyranny of the “more than we can handle.” And we no longer act out of love. Sure, in our success, we may give God a cursory tip of the hat- but there is always a secret part of us that is proud that WE did it. And oppositely, when we fail- we become despondent, frustrated with others, and angry at God.

The gospel tells us that Jesus performed perfectly, so we wouldn’t have to. That we’re accepted based on His performance, not ours. So don’t let performance anxiety creep back into your life. The gospel gives you the freedom to adopt loving your neighbor as yourself as your driving principle rather than the drive to succeed at all costs. Because the cost of “success” in life (being perfect) is paid for by the cost of love at the cross- the life of Jesus. Jesus was judged for the perfect outcome, so we wouldn’t be judged by the imperfect one. So in that sense, everything is more than we can handle.

Sanctuary Cities

Sacnctuary Cities_Justice

God is so interested in justice, that one of the first things He told Israel to do in their new land was to create sanctuary cities. If someone accidentally killed someone in ancient Israel, they were to flee to one of these cities. There they could find justice. They had some familiar protections: the right to face their accuser, trial by jury, and witnesses. No ransom was allowed either. So there was equality under the law for the poor. If the death was accidental, then the killer was to safely reside in the city of refuge until the death of the High Priest.

So even manslaughter is sin. In fact, all sin requires blood. And its the job of the blood avenger to get it. In the sanctuary city however, the sinner is safe, but if the offender is found outside the city, the blood avenger has the right to kill you. An avenger is someone who gets something back- as in, I’m gonna get you back for what you did. But if you’re a Christian, you don’t have to run any longer, because the blood of the ultimate High Priest has paid for your sin. He has also gotten something back for you- you’re place with God.

Click the link below to hear the whole talk and learn three things about sanctuary cities: the refuge of the city, the justice of the city and the blood of the city…

The Grace of Vengeance

GraceGods Vengeance

How could there be grace in vengeance? Well, first and most importantly, God sent His Son, Jesus to take the vengeance that we deserve for our sin- that’s the grace of the gospel. And secondly, if we truly believe that is God of justice, then we don’t have to take vengeance out on the people that have wronged or oppressed. The pressure is off, because we know God is going to do it. That’s grace, too- and by extension, it allows us to show grace to our enemies as well.

That doesn’t mean we sit on our hands, though. Jesus has a two fold mission: to declare freedom for the prisoners, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor… and eventually…the day of vengeance of our God (Isaiah 61). But today it is only the first part. Jesus comes today not to condemn but to save (John 3:17). How often are we condemning? We can still be “matter of fact” about our principles and morals, but we also have to love and relate and serve those around us like Christ did, while focusing on that first part of Christ’s mission- of lifting up, freeing and proclaiming. That attracts despite differences.

Vengeance has a lot in common with its cousin, revenge- but its not revenge. It’s similar in the sense that it involves cause and effect- it’s a response to something- a wrong. But the difference is in who does the judging.

For the full scoop, click below to listen in on my talk at Cedar Run Community Church last week on Numbers 31: The Grace of God’s Vengeance.

Suburban Gospel

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How can a saved Israel (Exodus), learn to obey such a holy God (Leviticus) in thankfulness for their rescue?  Numbers continues the journey of Israel as they seek to become the people God set them apart to be.  In Numbers 1-10, through participation, orientation and purification, God continues to reconnect His people to the one true “bigger thing”- Himself, as they continue their journey with Him in their midst.