God never…. never changes

God never…. never changes

(In response to John Pavlovitz’s Things I Stopped Believing After the Election)

We live in a world of opposing concepts. It is a world of flux, and a world of constance. We wake up, and the sun shines. We take a breath. Constance. Yet, the world is in flux. We learn news from around the globe that we weren’t expecting. Empires rise, and they fall. Power comes to some, leaves others… and soon enough the first to gain power have lost it. Political parties do this and that. People die. Babies are born. We may miss that bus, or meet a random stranger in the line for coffee. Our lives are dichotomies. But, as the title suggests, God never changes. He is light, and in Him is no darkness at all. He has no variation. No shadow. No internal conflict. No unexpected qualities or events. He is – יהוה. Yahweh. From before the beginning, and even after the end, God will have been the same being that sculpted the something from the nothing. He will be the Creator of life from emptiness. He will be the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, as. He. has. always. been. God never…. never … changes.

We cant say the same about people… We disagree with people. We dislike people. We may even hate some people. And hatred seems to be a prominent issue in todays culture. Both the right and left side of the political aisle have found that pandering to fear and hate produces voters, and voters keep them in power. This election cycle has been a nightmare, a dream, or a twilight feeling that you cant seem to shake! Many are dissatisfied with everything about everything that was this last election cycle. They are calling out. They gnash their teeth in anger. They seek something else to explain why and how and WTH?? Many have lost hope, they have lost faith, they have lost feeling.

I myself have not lost faith. Nor have I lost hope, or joy, or understanding. So, as I look out over this country after more than a quarter under a new president, I see a few truths that I feel need to be drawn out. This post is in response to many who have spoken out since election results, but particularly in response to John Pavlovitz, a man who leads a church and seems to forget what Christ’s Church is ultimately. It is not a place to feel warm and fuzzy, not like the American church is today. Christ’s Church is universal, it stretches across political boundaries, denominations, geographical distances, and space-time. Right now there is an American missionary in Turkey, held without a real sense of any release coming – and he is living a life not unlike Paul, that reflects Christ more truly than these politically comfortable churches out there! But that is another post for another time…

People are completely broken.
When Adam and Eve ate of their own pride and arrogance, mankind was broken. We are totally deprived, totally bad – though not as bad as we could be. Obviously there are people worse than you, dear reader. But you are never as bad as you could be. Sin hasn’t tainted you quite that badly. If you have kids, or have been around people for any amount of time. If you have friends – you know that people are not inherently good. To quote one of my favorite shows (and excuse the language – it has its place) : “people are bastard coated bastards, with bastard filling.” We cannot deny that. There is no human on the face of this planet that doesn’t have sin nature they are hiding. Your kindest, sweetest, most generous person goes home to a room full of baggage and sin that manifests differently for everyone. Your most devout Christian dad is hiding a tempting sin just waiting to overcome him.

I point this out to say that no man is perfect. No woman is perfect. Additionally, people are as broken today as they were thousands of years ago. Paul writes to Christians around the Mediterranean reminding them that they once lived in the most despicable sins. From lying and adultery, to homosexuality and murder. They were once, too, part of the damned crowd. This election cycle brought out the worst in many, many people. We saw, and still see, an unbelievable amount of hatred spewing forth from far too many powerful people. But look back at Cain, the Tower of Babel, Sodom and Gomorrah, the Pharaoh, the Philistines, the Syrians and Babylonians, and so many more. Think about the many historical figures you have studied that have done terrible things. Think about the articles you read, or specials you watch, that tear down the image of these supposedly “standup citizens” who actually have many many demons. People are broken. It is undeniable.

Sin corrupts our whole being, and we cannot deny that broken nature. It’s why we want to backstab when a wrong is felt. It is why we cannot help be feel selfishly angry when our friend is successful in the midst of our perceived failure. No man is good, not even one, and our brokenness leads to our eventual demise for said evil nature. If left to our own devices, void of any of God’s grace, we would tear down the walls of hell itself to let ourselves in. We would simply be given over completely to our passions, to our natures, to our malice and hate and pride. It would be an unnerving life to live. We would truly be like the animals. But there is an answer, and a solution to this dilemma we find ourselves in. Though many will never seek this road.

Christ makes the world better.
So what is the answer. Is it money? Power? Love? Karmic balance? Good works? No, surprisingly it is what the heading of this section is. Christ. Christ is what makes the world better, it is wha- Who – will save this world. The dilemma we face is a lack of Christ. Not a lack of the church. Not a lack of government funding programs. Or denominational support. Or parachurch ministries. We need – you and I and the world need – Christ. But which Christ? Suit and tie wearing, right wing, gun toting Christ that fought and died for your right to beat people over the head with His book while simultaneously breaking commandment after commandment in secret (many times while people know your sin)? Is it the grandfatherly character who just loves you so much that he sent another to take your place and redeem you and love you and blah. Blah blah? No. He also isn’t Christ of multiculturalism or the Christ of a meta-narrative. He isn’t the one who matches your every need, want, desire, wish, and belief.

Who He is is the Savior. The Son of the Living God. He is the one who by which all creation unfolded. He is the Word of Truth. He is the Bread of Life. He is the Living Fountain. He is the fulfillment of Scripture. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. What He isn’t is a catch all. He is not everyone’s Savior, but He is the world’s, because people from every tribe, nation, and tongue will be found in His Kingdom. Christ makes the world better. Not religion. Religion is man-fused. It has many bits and pieces of human in it. It tastes spoiled and poopy.

America is completely broken.
This sentiment may seem to go against the typical, conservative, Christian, political stance. Additionally, it may seem to fall in line with the progressive, leftist concept that America is a terrible place due to anti-this/that ideas and policies. Neither is true. The fact that America is completely broken has nothing to do with worldly things, and everything to do with spiritual things. It is also wrong to think I am simply pointing out America’s shortcomings. This spiritual brokenness spans across all countries and nations the world over!

Many conservatives read portions of Scripture and believe that they refer to America. The main verse used is 2 Chronicles 7:14, which reads, “if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” It is anachronistic and honestly foolish to think this. The people of God are no longer tied only to a nation, or country, or nationality, or any outwardly distinguishing factor! The people of God are the Church. And the Church is full of people who have a Savior. That Savior brought them up out of sin and brokenness. And America is terribly broken. We all can see that.

Beauty is not found in broken things. It is found when things are fixed, and put back in their true state. Many times things must be broken to see their beauty, but brokenness is not beautiful. It is this Truth that makes the Gospel more amazing. Christ saved those who were unbeautiful. Those who were unlovely and unwanted. America is many of those things, but America is not special. It is another broken nation of broken people needing Christ. The Church needs to show that more and more – especially when politics and other such things (many of which were relied upon as allies for many many years) are no longer showing that message. We need to be preaching salvation. Redemption by work that is not our own. Grace that abounds even in the face of our brokenness. Mercy that exists without expectation. Justice that will inevitably find its place, the question is where will we find ourselves? When time runs out, where will we be? Fighting for a better tomorrow that eventually will cease to exist, or existing to bring about a tomorrow that has already been set in stone by He who created all things? A tomorrow that is more beautiful, and unbroken, than we could ever imagine?

His table is big enough
This future date will come. All of creation is crying out for its arrival. A time is coming when people of every tribe, tongue, color, background, struggle, triumph, wealth class, societal class, etc… will be brought together. Under one banner. To one table. And that table will be overflowing. There will be more for those there than they can ever imagine or consume. But this table will not be furnished by mankind. It will be furnished FOR mankind, IN SPITE of mankind’s failures and faults.

Christ’s table is open to all who would be brought in. It’s a difficult subject to fully understand, but His table has had place settings since before the beginning of creation. Those who would come hadn’t even been born yet and God chose them to be there. We can be assured that His table is sufficient because He is without change, and knows who and what is necessary – always has, always will. This table will be overflowing with the best food and drink and fellowship that we could ever imagine. His table is being set, and the guests are being called. The invitation is simple, “do you believe in your need for salvation due to your undeniable brokenness? Do you believe that the Gospel, life, death, and resurrection is all you need to fulfill the debt of your brokenness?”

If that seems unbelievable or totally far fetched – you aren’t alone. Most don’t want to believe that’s all Christ is about, that this is all Christianity is about. They see crusades, and perceive bigotry in Christ and His followers. But Christ loves His own. His yoke is easy, and His burden is light. The call is a high one though, and a rough road. It is a humbling road. It asks you to give yourself up, a highly erratic thing to consider nowadays. To come to the table is to admit you cannot feed yourself – truly – on your own. But Christ is sufficient. His table is full, and will forever be full.

Our table is not. The worlds table is not. It will be ultimately found bare. It will exclude many. So for someone to claim that THAT table is not big enough, is simply an understatement. The world, with all its claims of love and acceptance, it will leave many out. New tables form. More are left outside. The world wants to provide but has not the means. Only one does. Christ.

Christ is all you need
This world has many gods. Many little cords that pull on our hearts. Greed. Honor. Pride. Niceness. Tolerance. Deeds. Family ties. So very many. And everyone is guilty of falling into their enticements. Many times we are enticed by promise of a better life, or at least and easier one. Before moving onto the obvious answer (it’s set up in the section title), let’s take an honest look at the other options we find in the world.

Money is a popular option. Money buys happiness. Money creates stability. It makes the world revolve. Wealth is a symbol of completeness. When you can lean on your wealth, you have little to worry about. But who can name the top wealthiest in the world? Who can remember the wealthiest of the 19th or 20th centuries? Where did Rockefeller, or the railroad tycoons’ money go? Who remembers the great fall of the Wall Street brokers in the past? Money causes the best of men to make the worst of decisions to simply obtain more of it. It turns us into slaves.

But what about spirituality, or godless religion? Doing good. Karma! These things bring about good in the world, no? Think about Buddha, or Ghandi, or Nelson Mandela! These people had no Christ. These people did good things in the name of mankind! If we can just do good, if we can just put more good in that we put bad we will have done our good service and can die in peace, to be taken back into Mother Earth! Right? This is a nice thought. No doubt about that. But did their work ultimately fix anything? Buddhism has been around for ages, longer than Christianity, yet their philosophies haven’t made any lasting impact. Ghandi’s passion still exists in many places, but racism and classism still pervades many minds. These actions will eventually fade. Every aspect to their work will become simply history – forgotten. And remember, there have been plenty of terrible things done in the name of “gods.” Every religion has had something attached to it, even anecdotally that is bad for publicity. I myself have asked that question before many times. Why do I need this Christ person? I am a nice guy. I do nice things, kind things. I seek to bring about good in others, I seek their good. But the question that always comes back to me is “why?”

Why do this? Why do one thing, and not the other? What reason do I have? Is it societal clues we have developed and trained? Is it evolutionary biology which has brought us to a realization of some form of right and wrong? Can we look out on the world we have created, and live in, and honestly say that there is even good or evil? This is a tough question, and one that has plagued theologians since we first sinned. But something that nearly all thinkers, scholars, theologians, sociologists, biologists, economists, philosophers, and many others can agree on is this: this world is broken. We have droughts, and famines. We lie, cheat, and steal. We murder – many times without remorse or second thought. We blindly follow passions and fears. We die. Civilization is crying for something to make sense of this “why.” And it is this “why” that I see such Truth in the Cross.

“Christ is all we need” can be a rather pithy statement. What about air, or water, or food, or warmth, or love? What about technology? Well, yes, our bodies need those things. But we are more than a body. Biology tells us that without a shred of doubt, these bodies will decay. There is practically nothing we can do to stop this slow churning to demise. But the “why” tells us something about after that happens. These bodies will die. We will take our last breath eventually. But, and I truly believe this scientifically and spiritually, we are more than our physical bodies. That spirit which lives inside us is more real, in many aspects, than the nose on our face. That spirit needs more than wealth, or religion, or warmth – it needs Christ. It needs salvation from the shackles it finds itself in. It needs redemption from its numerous short comings and pitfalls. It needs assurance of a brighter tomorrow. Things of this world will not bring those things. Not politics, not wealth, not preachers or teachers or gurus. No thing of this world will satisfy that hunger within you crying out for more. No song will ever fully satisfy that voice. No promotion will fully satisfy that desire. No women, or man, or child, will satisfy that need for family or relation. Christ. Can. So when I say that Christ has the ability to fulfill your every need, I mean it in a Spiritual way.

In Closing

Now, all of these sections could be expounded on. And maybe sometime in the future I will have time to. But I want to hear your thoughts. Your ideas on what I am saying. Wrestle with it. Question me on it. Dialogue. Think. Pray. This tumultuous time in our country should not be faced with fear and trembling, because He who as conquered the world is still in control. No politician can stop His kingdom advancing. No threat of violence can stop His Spirit from moving. No fear of oppression can prevent His Word from reaching the unreached.

Take heart brothers and sisters, Christ has won. There is no fear of today, for today is one day closer to Christ.

Take heart brothers and sisters, justice will be served. There is no need to fear those who oppose. Christ is victorious.

Take heart brothers and sisters, sin and Satan, have lost. Do not listen to their lies, for their lies cannot even convince their ears.

The world we live in may seem scary, may seem like a reality tv show – but remember to live everyday as to the Lord. To work your hardest to bring Him glory, and you will not be disappointed.

May the Lord bless you and keep you.

David

“In Christ Alone”

“In Christ Alone”

#hymnsforHim

This will be the first hymn I have done this year that isn’t a traditional hymn, and more of a modern hymn. I haven’t done one yet to drive a point home! So many Christians now-a-days think that traditional, older hymns are boring – or out-of-date. But they are so beautiful, so well thought out, and so deep. Praise and worship songs are, in many ways, today’s answer to a new style. However, I want to be purposeful in showcasing the older hymns. So, let’s look at “In Christ Alone.”

 

In Christ alone my hope is found;
He is my light, my strength, my song;
This cornerstone, this solid ground,
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My comforter, my all in all—
Here in the love of Christ I stand.

In Christ alone, Who took on flesh,
Fullness of God in helpless babe!
This gift of love and righteousness,
Scorned by the ones He came to save.
Till on that cross as Jesus died,
The wrath of God was satisfied;
For ev’ry sin on Him was laid—
Here in the death of Christ I live.

There in the ground His body lay,
Light of the world by darkness slain;
Then bursting forth in glorious day,
Up from the grave He rose again!
And as He stands in victory,
Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me;
For I am His and He is mine—
Bought with the precious blood of Christ.

No guilt in life, no fear in death—
This is the pow’r of Christ in me;
From life’s first cry to final breath,
Jesus commands my destiny.
No pow’r of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand;
Till He returns or calls me home—
Here in the pow’r of Christ I’ll stand.

 

One of the reasons I like this song so much is that it again speaks as a sermon in, and of, itself. That is the beauty of hymns, when written expertly, speak to a deeper truth than the words themselves. When we sing hymns, or songs, often times we simply follow the tune and rhythm. A good song follows a story, it draws you into it’s truth. A good hymn speaks words of truth – of the Truth. In Christ Alone brings us along through the life of Christ, the One who came to take away our sins!

Throughout the entire song we hear the words of the title, “in Christ alone.” It is a mantra reminding us what the foundation of our faith is. It isn’t our work. It isn’t our repentance. Not our prayers, or desires. It isn’t how good – or bad – we are. It isn’t us working along with God. It is not some kind of cooperative work that gets our salvation worked out. No – it is in Christ alone. In Him alone do we find the power. The imagery is biblical, the words emotive – it brings a little more light to the awesome might, and amazing Will of our Lord and Savior.

I am a bit of a theology nerd (Adam 4D: theology nerd) and this song touches on a number of profound theological truths that you may not register at first. Historically, the Truths that we take as obvious about Christ and the faith have not always been so. For instance, the Truth that Christ was 100% God, and yet 100% man was settled, in part, during the Council of Ephesus (431AD). “Christ, who took on flesh, fullness of God in helpless babe…” It is this Christ that could die a perfectly sinless life (as 100% God), while also providing the perfect atoning sacrifice for a sinful man (100% human). He was a true gift of Love, and pure righteousness. John 3:16 tells us that “God so loved the world, that He gave His one and only Son…” Many read this to be an emphatic expression of God’s care for the world. I think it can be more explicitly read as “in this way, God showed His love for the world, that He gave His one and only Son.” In this way meaning as a man, as a servant, as a perfect example of what God called His people to be. This Jesus took on flesh, to die a perfect absolution for His people – His called people.

And yet… this sacrifice… this willing sacrifice… He was scorned, shamed, hated for His words… hated for His miracles… As another hymn laments, “ashamed I hear my mocking voice call out among the scoffers.” This was the life He came to lead. He knew what He was getting into – He had seen this day from the inception of all days. Yet, even after all the misdirected hatred, even after the betrayal… after the abandonment of His closest disciples… after the whipping, and the mocking… after the nails… after the excruciating and indescribable pain… After all of that, He never once used a fraction of His power to call down even the smallest legion of angels to rescue Him. He took the sins of His chosen upon Himself… and He exclaimed “it is finished.”

One of my favorite things to do is to connect a text to readers in a way that many may not know. Take the phrase “it is finished” for instance. We read this and think, “yea, it is here that Christ has finished His duty to save us. He is letting those in attendance to His death see that He has finally died.” But no, there is more to that phrase. Remember that this event happened in history. It happened with language – real language – and real people who lived in a real time in history with cultural context. The Greek words used to recall Christ’s final words would have been very common to the reader of the time. They were used on a constant basis in the court room. They described a full payment. A debt was owed, and Jesus just exclaimed that that had been paid in full. Full restitution had been made… Just let that sink in… Christ was literally telling the Gospel. He was the very first to proclaim it! The Good News was proclaimed by that News that the Gospel is speaking of!

But the song, and the history books, don’t end there! The ground could not hold Jesus. Not even close. While His body would be laid there for a time – He bursts forth into a new day, a new dawn! Sin has lost its sting! Sin has lost its grip on the elect of God. It is but a memory. It may always tug at our flesh – but it has no real grip anymore. Christ has now brought in the beginning of the Kingdom of God. We now live in the time of the “already and not yet.” Christ’s reign has begun on earth, but its culmination has not yet come. But we are seeing glimpses. We have His Word recorded – and sustained through His power for millennium! We have the Spirit – Who attests to Him and His work in the world and on the Cross! We have Christ, a risen and living Christ – who intercedes for us at the right hand of God! Honestly, what else do we need??

Now finally… we reach that glorious last verse… If this verse doesn’t shoot right through you in an inexplicable joy, then I don’t know what will!

 

No guilt in life…

No fear in death…

THIS… this… is the power of Christ in me…

From life’s first cry to final breath… Jesus commands

Jesus commands

my destiny

NO power of hell…

NO scheme of man…

Shall EVER pluck me

from His hand…

Until He returns, OR

Calls me home…. HERE

In the power of Christ

I. STAND.

You cannot put this truth into better words. You cannot explain this joy with a better phrasing. You cannot show such power with a better image. Let me finish tonight with a question. It is a question that I must admit I don’t ask myself enough – but it is an important question that should shape our day-to-day lives. Do we live like this is true? Do I live a life that seeks a foundation in Christ alone?

When I wake up to a screaming kid, or a barking dog, do I praise God?

“He is my light, my strength, my song!”

When I am getting ready for my day – whether it be one of work, or one of relaxation, do I preach this gospel to myself?

“And as He stands in victory, sin’s curse has lost its grip on me!” 

When trials assail you from the left and right. When the world piles annoyances, temptations, frustrating coworkers, irritating situations, loud children, and so much more… do I remind myself that God is eternally in control?

“No power of hell, no scheme of man, can ever pluck me from His hand!”

When all seems lost – when we lose that one we love – do we sing the truth of His sacrifice to ourselves, to our friends, to our family?

“Till He returns, or calls me home, here in the power of Christ I stand!”

Brothers and sisters. This is what we are called to every day. To live each day as for Christ, not for yourself. Not for your boss. Not even for your family. When every day is lived for Christ, then every day is lived to it’s fullest. Amen?