If the Law ( or laws ) could make us holy, then Jesus would not have needed to die on the Cross. No state-appointed law is going to make us clean for Him. He is SO HOLY that we don’t stand a chance. If we could make ourselves holy, then Jesus died for nothing. I think Paul says that quite eloquently. At any rate, think on it. It IS extremely tempting to think that finger pointing and condemnation will make another person BETTER, but it doesn’t work. Only the BLOOD of JESUS CHRIST can make any one of us WHOLE again. Without Him, not one of us is CLEAN.
– Carley Evans, July 25th, 2013
I listened with some interest this morning to NPR and later CNN as radio and television newscasters commented on the conviction of an abortion provider for poor and downtrodden pregnant women and girls in somewhere, America. His name is of no importance to me, frankly.
What is important to me is the schizophrenic nature of America’s view of abortion and murder. Somehow we are appalled when a spinal cord is snipped to kill a child the mother of that child came to the abortion clinic to rid herself of. Somehow it’s okay to chemically burn an unborn baby alive as long as the child is out of sight inside the mother’s womb. But let that same unborn baby emerge from the womb and the snipping of the spinal cord with a pair of scissors is suddenly horrendous and murderous.
This makes no sense to me. How is it murder now if it is not murder a few moments before? And how is the mother (or father) of that child not then the murderer?
We are truly schizophrenic. We work to save unborn babies in hospitals while we strive to kill them in abortion clinics.
Like I said, this is far from common sense. Common sense says that a baby – whether wanted and protected or unwanted and unprotected – is still a baby, and as such, has civil rights as promised, but yet to be secured, by the Constitution of the United States.
This morning I realize why I don’t like church. I don’t like church because of the sometimes invisible, sometimes highly visible people inside the building who spout evil rather than good, who obviously hate rather than love. The pain I feel inside church is unimaginable. I used to try to ignore it, deny it, justify it. No more. I fully embrace this pain, this incredible disappointment in people who claim to know who Jesus is. I pause because I know how hard it is not to hate these hypocrites –right back at ya!
But, I recall Jesus dies for them, too. His agony on the cross is proportional to the level of their hatred.
Who do they hate? So-called Christians in church hate sinners. They hate “the least of these.” And they hate socialists, communists, homosexuals, abortionists, murderers, the poor, the disenfranchised, the lonely, the mentally ill, the homeless, the lost. Oops. In short, they hate themselves.
At Mepkin Abbey in Moncks Corner, South Carolina this weekend, I notice — as I always do when I am there in the guest dining room — the iconic painting of Jesus Christ. Jesus’ eyes are not symmetrical — His right eye looks more and less at you while His left eye looks off into a distance you can’t imagine. A single tear appears to be falling from this eye onto His cheek.
A young man across from me mentions Jesus’ “wonky eye” and speaks briefly of how strange it looks. He’s right. Jesus’ left eye can most definitely be described as “wonky.” I laugh, but later as I stare at Jesus’ face, I think: “How odd. Jesus looks at me with His right eye which appears accepting of me while He looks away from me with His left eye as if He can not look at me. He’s calm and accepting on one side; He’s crying and rejecting on the other side.”
Looking very closely, I notice the pupil of Jesus’ right eye is at the top of His iris — giving an impression of Jesus looking upward, perhaps toward heaven. The left eye’s pupil is dead center, but the focus of the eye is definitely not the viewer of the painting. Jesus looks off to His left into distance.
Whether true or not, my impression is that Jesus — in this painting — is both accepting and rejecting me simultaneously. He is offering me heaven and warning me of hell in the same moment.
In “ESCAPE FROM L.A.” Snake Plissken says, “Nobody draws til this hits the ground.” Three armed men lower their weapons. Snake tosses a rusted tin can into the air, then shoots the three men as the can falls toward the earth. When it strikes the ground, Snake announces to the three dead men, “Draw.”
Plissken is the ultimate ‘tough guy’ in a world gone berserk with corruption both on the side of ‘good’ and the side of ‘evil.’ Everyone is in it for himself; no one cares for his neighbor. In this world, Snake is the anti-hero hero.
I’m glad Jesus is not an anti-hero hero. I’m glad He doesn’t trick people into putting down their defenses. Rather, He invites people to come to Him just as they are. Hungry? Crippled? Blind? Deaf? Terrorized? For each person who comes, Jesus feeds; Jesus heals.
Jesus is my hero.
I’ve pondered this verse many times: Jesus says to the Pharisees, “Woe to you experts in the law, because you take away the key to knowledge. You yourselves do not enter, and you hinder those who are entering.” (Luke 11: 52, NIV)
Jesus speaks to the Pharisees about “loading people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and not lifting one finger to help them.” (Luke 11:46) And He speaks to them of “building tombs for the prophets” even though their forefathers murdered those very same prophets.
I think Jesus tells the Pharisees that they have no knowledge of God at all. These “experts in the law” miss the whole show, so to speak. Worse yet, they parade around as if they know God and know the way to Him. And in their burdening of the people with rules and regulations, they hinder these same people from “the key to knowledge.”
In Jesus’ day, the “key to knowledge” is the Torah. Who takes it away from the people who are trying to enter into it? The very ones who ought to know it and teach it appropriately — the experts!
Jesus warns us not to hinder the children from coming to Him. Children are those who do not have any knowledge of Him except what they see and hear from those of us who claim to know and worship Him. Let us beware that we “experts in faith” do not hinder those who are “entering” the Word for the very first time!
I hear the Lord — yes, dangerous to assume the small voice in my mind is His and not mine — say, “Get up. Go to Mepkin.”
I glance at my clock — it’s 4 a.m. Lauds starts in 1 1/2 hours; the drive is about 1 hr. I can make it if I get up now!
“But, Lord.” I say weakly. “My hair’s dirty. I could wear a hat, but the only ones I’ve got are baseball caps and who knows what the monks will think about that! And, yes I’ve got time to take a quick shower, but…”
Then, I remember the newfangled metal automatic gate at the entrance to the abbey. Ah, I think, gotcha now.
“But, Lord.” I say with a bit more confidence. “The gate! What if the gate is shut? Gas is so expensive. What a waste if I can’t get in.”
And here’s the real fear — right here. “But, Lord.” I say this emphatically. “What if the monks disapprove? What if one or two or all glance my way and think, oh no, she’s back?”
A little background is called for. I used to travel to Mepkin Abbey almost every weekend. On Friday night, I’d ask the Lord to wake me if He wanted me to go. Usually I woke up about 4:20 a.m. just enough time to throw on clothes and get in the car. I’d drive the 45 minutes to 1 hour, go through the old wooden — yes, open — gate, park beside the Clare Boothe Luce library, walk to the sanctuary, quietly enter, sit in the visitors’ section in the semi-dark and wait for one of the monks to acknowledge me and perhaps offer me a place in the — I don’t know what it is called — on either side of the church and facing each other are two lines of wooden chairs, each with a wooden bench that can be folded up so as to lie flesh with the wall so you are able to stand against the wall. Then the bench can be folded back down for sitting. Hopefully, you can imagine this, or have seen it yourself. At any rate, I was always acknowledged and if the guests — the retreatants — were already seated and a place remained for me, I was allowed to join the liturgy.
Now, my fear of being looked at with disapproval is not of God and comes not from the monks of Mepkin but from myself and perhaps from some ‘force of evil.’
I say this because Mepkin has brought to my life nothing but joy in the Lord. I never regret going; I definitely regret the last thing I said to God this morning.
I heard Him say, “You want to get up. You’re wasting your life.”
And I said, “But dreaming is my life, too.”
Today is Epiphany — the day Christians celebrate God manifesting Himself to the world through His Son, Jesus Christ; extending His offer of salvation to the entire world; inviting Gentiles to join with Israel in the gift of eternal life.
Living in a home with unbelievers is not necessarily as bad as living in the cupboard under the stairs is for Harry Potter. Unbelievers don’t always treat you with contempt or take advantage of your differences like Potter’s aunt and uncle and cousin do to him. Much depends on your family’s own upbringing. For example my parents were raised in Christian homes; my mother even attended Bob Jones University back in the days when the school was openly hostile to both unbelievers and Blacks. My father was raised Methodist while my mother was Southern Baptist. As I grew up, I got a bit of both. God seems to have pressed His finger on my heart from a young age. I remember being aware of His presence early in life.
Under the stairs I find a safe place to read His Word so I might understand Him better. He talks so clearly in His Word, and so indistinctly in places of worship, in shopping malls, in movie theaters, in people. For me, it’s like the difference between looking at the sun and looking at the shadows the sun forms. The shadows do, but I prefer the direct light.
I take my children to a Christmas eve service. We are almost horrified at the opening song. For me, the Lord confirms again this is not a place of worship as much as a social gathering place for Christians. I do not say it is as bad as being stuck under the stairs in a spiritually dark home, but it is not the same as a true place of worship — for me, anyway. The second song is not much better. Eventually, the music shifts to more traditional hymns reflective of Christ’s birth. But the first two leave a sour taste in the mouth of especially my daughter. I am hurt. For some reason, we are here. But I know not why.
I feel very much like I am under the stairs. At least my Bible is with me.
“Who knows the mind of the Lord? Or who is His counselor? Or who ever first gives to Him, and has to be repaid?” (Romans 11:34-35, HCSB)
Who loves first? Who gives first? Isn’t the first lover and the first giver God Himself?
“We love because He first loves us.” (1 John 4:19)
“This is how we come to know love: He lays down His life for us. We should also lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has this world’s goods and sees his brother in need but closes his eyes to his need — how can God’s love reside in him?” (1 John 3:16-17)
“Love consists in this: not that we love God, but that He loves us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (1 John 4:10)
“Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Messiah is born of God, and everyone who loves the Father also loves the One born of Him.” (1 John 5:1)
“Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God — God remains in him and he in God. And we come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and the one who remains in love remains in God, and God remains in him.” (1 John 4:15-16)
Father God, thank You that You love us first, that Your love casts off fear as it eliminates punishment. Thank You for Your wondrous gift of salvation from our sins and from the horror of eternal fire. In Jesus’ Name, may we walk in Your love. For we love because You love us. Amen.