Grumbling Is Sin?

I’ve been pretty hard on the poor Israelites fleeing Egypt for the Promised Land. They just witnessed God’s amazing judgment on their oppressors, I reason, and walk out of Egypt a rich people. As if that wasn’t enough, He dried up a path through a sea and wiped out the army of charioteers following them. Then they had the gall to complain when they got thirsty. They had the nerve to grumble about heavenly food provided for them on a regular basis.

Despite my judgment of that conflicted historical people group — which, by the way, coincided with God’s judgment of them — I somehow avoided putting all the pieces together to see that MY grumbling, MY disputing is sin. I can see it in ancient Israel. I can’t see it in me. Or don’t want to.

In my post “The Lesson Of The Bee,” I pointed out that the problem of grumbling must first be addressed when we grumble against God. But directly hurling angry words at Him is not the only grumbling that displeases Him.

The passage to the Philippian believers in which Paul commands them to do all things without grumbling in no way limits this to their communication with God. In fact, since the point of their not grumbling was so that they might appear as lights in the corrupt and perverse world, it seems to me the lack of grumbling and disputing would have to be true of conduct and conversation in the public arena, not just the church.

In thinking of this command in a hierarchical manner — first don’t grumble against God — my natural question is, Who is next in line?

I’d have to say, logically, that would be governmental leadership, starting with … the President.

Ouch! That hurts, doesn’t it? I mean, isn’t it sort of one of the American pastimes to shred the President if we didn’t vote for him? For some, that means shredding all presidents since those complaining don’t vote, or don’t vote for a major-party candidate. For others that means “only” going after the one in the “opposition” party.

I know it sounds old fashioned, but I was raised to respect the President because he was … the President. It’s right there in the Bible, after all:

Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. (Romans 13:1)

Well, that doesn’t say “respect.” It says “subject.” Can’t we put ourselves in subjection to a leader and not respect him? Paul goes on to say more about our response to those in authority in his letter to Titus:

Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed, to malign no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing every consideration for all men. (Titus 3:1-2)

Since rulers would fall into the “all men” category, I think it’s safe to say the “malign no one” part applies to them as well.

But what if the things we say against a leader are true?

Well, the things Israel said against Moses were true. They didn’t have water, and at one point, the water they had wasn’t drinkable. They didn’t have the strong-tasting foods they’d grown used to in Egypt, and there really were giants in the land.

The reality of those conditions didn’t mean they therefore had a pass to rebel against the man God had put over them. No, they could not stone Moses and return to Egypt because they were out of water.

Peter spelled out what was expected of the early Christians, many who suffered under the persecution of Roman rule, and why:

Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men. (1 Peter 2:13-15 – emphasis mine)

So are we muzzled? Can we say nothing critical about our President?

I think we are free to voice our opinion and even point out when we disagree with the President. I think we can state what we wish he would do instead of a course of action he’s chosen. For example, I have no problem saying I think the President is wrong in the decisions he’s made about health care.

That’s a far cry from hurling verbal stones — the kinds of disrespectful invectives that come out of the mouths of and onto the screen from many professing Christians.

It’s as if we think we have a better plan than the one God gave us. When He said we could be light to a crooked and perverse generation by not grumbling or disputing, we come along with plan B: Grumbling and disputing when it comes to “a bad President” is desirable and to be encouraged. It’s the American’s right, even responsibility, because that’s what you do in a democracy if you get involved. And good Christians get involved.

There’s the insidiousness of this argument. Christians should get involved. But how shocked would our culture be if we disagreed respectfully, without maligning anyone, treating all with gentleness, showing consideration even to those with whom we take issue? Wouldn’t that have the kind of effect that, say, God said it would?

And even if we never see any results from subjecting ourselves to our President, we will have accomplished the greater goal — to please our Sovereign King with our obedience. After all, He’s the one who’s told us not to grumble or dispute. He’s the one we sin against when we disobey.

Published in: on August 31, 2011 at 7:46 pm  Comments (5)  
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The Lesson Of The Bee

Not so long ago, I had a bee find its way into my bedroom. I don’t relish killing bugs, and less so bees, but this one was in my bedroom! What to do?

I ran through my options as I watched the angry little critter buzz to the top of the window screen, find no opening, and buzz back to the bottom. Again and again.

At last I figured out a way to avoid killing him. From the cupboard, I pulled down a goblet, then retrieved an envelop that fit nicely over top. I held the glass stem and approached the bee still bouncing against the screen in a futile attempt to zip outside.

In one quick move, I plopped the goblet over the wayward wanderer. As he flew into the bowl looking for escape, I slid the envelop between the screen and the lip of the glass. Got him!

Earlier he seemed mad. Now he buzzed with vicious frenzy.

Poor little guy, I thought. Wasting all that energy, so mad he’d sting me if I gave him the tiniest opening. Yet my only intention was to help him get exactly what he needed, the very thing he’d been looking for.

And then it hit me. So often I act just like that bee. I find myself in a mess of my own making and try furiously to free myself, often repeating the same futile steps over and over. Then, when things seem to get worse, not better, I rail against God, not realizing that He’s using the very circumstances I hate for my good.

How much simpler if I obeyed God and refrained from grumbling and disputing, if I trusted Him instead of blaming Him, if I turned to Him in dependence instead of away from Him in stubborn willfulness. After all, my buzzing about is no more profitable than was that little bee’s.

God, on the other hand, sees the big picture, knows what’s best, and has much more regard for me — love, actually — than I had for the miscreant I set loose from my bedroom.

“Do all things without grumbling or disputing,” Philippians 2:14 says. Now there’s a novel idea. 😉

What does me in, though, is what Paul says next:

so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world (emphasis mine).

By this one thing, refraining from grumbling or disputing, we will accomplish what Christ called us to do — serve as lights in the world, even the crooked and perverse world.

I’m thinking the first grumbling or disputing I need to eliminate is any directed at God. We’re so quick in our culture to say that it’s OK for us to rail against God. He understands. He forgives. He’s big enough to handle it. He knows what I’m thinking anyway, I might as well say it.

Actually, no. What I should do when thoughts of disgruntlement come into my mind, is confess them and seek God’s forgiveness.

Who am I to accuse God of wrong doing, or of falling down on the job, or of not keeping His promises? I’m really no different than an irate bee buzzing madly to get what I want, ignoring the helping hand stretched out toward me.

I don’t want to be that bee any more.

Published in: on August 30, 2011 at 5:43 pm  Comments (5)  
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Christians Are Sinners, To Our Shame

While some Christians isolate a few New Testament verses to validate a doctrine known as sinless perfection, others use Biblical freedom from sin and guilt and the law as a license to sin with impunity. Like the Corinthians, they revel in what they perceive to be their right to do as they please.

To my last post on the subject of Christians and sin, Jason commented, “If the apostles admonish believers to good behavior, it cannot hold that they are incapable of bad behavior.” An excellent point, but there’s a natural corollary that belongs with that statement: if the apostles admonish believers to good behavior, it holds that believers will want to respond with good behavior.

Paul addressed this wrong thinking in Romans 6:1-2a. “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be!” Later in the chapter, he explains further:

What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be! Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness?

In light of this concept, that we are slaves to whomever we present ourselves, Paul pointedly states in chapter 12, the Christian’s responsibility:

Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. (emphasis added)

To the Church in Colossae, Paul wrote that he was praying that their knowledge of God’s would increase “so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects” (1:10a). Later in the chapter he said

And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach— if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard (vv. 21-23a – emphasis added).

Clearly, Paul taught that the Christian would respond to his salvation, not by sinning to his heart’s content in the belief that he was forgiven, but rather that he would do all he could to obey God and look to Him in faith.

The entire book of James is dedicated to this very theme. In his introduction, James states that his “beloved brethren” are to be “quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger.” These are the evidences of faith as he explains in chapter 2:

What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.

Useless faith, dead faith, a slave to what we present ourselves — Scripture does not hold back. The Christian is not a forgiven sinner who continues in a lifestyle of sin, willfully and confidently taking the throne to do as he pleases because he knows he’s forgiven.

Rather, he lives to please God who is his Lord as He is his Savior. As the Christian submits to God, he becomes more like Him. As he obeys, he wants only to obey more. And when he falls short, he weeps and mourns even as he runs to God to cleanse his hands and purify his heart.

Two extreme positions — sanctified perfection or freedom to sin — and both misrepresent what the Bible actually says.

May we Christians eagerly ask God to search us and try us. When He does shows us our sin, may we put “aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness.” May we “confess our sins to one another and pray for one another.”

In other words, may we deal with the sin in our lives promptly so we can again enjoy the fellowship of our loving Heavenly Father, waiting for us with arms open wide.

Published in: on August 29, 2011 at 8:35 pm  Comments (2)  
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Fantasy Friday – ResAliens Tour Wrap

Seventeen bloggers, thirty posts — all discussing Residential Aliens, editor Lyn Perry, and the various authors and stories put out by this speculative fiction zine.

Enter the Residential Aliens contest to win your copy of Dead or Alive

Two things I neglected to stress. In honor of the tour this month, visitors to Residential Aliens may download for free a recent issue, 4.11. In addition (and here’s my big oversight), you can enter a contest at Goodreads to win a copy of Dead or Alive, An Aston West Collection by T. M. Hunter.

If you’d like to learn more about the prize, check out Fred Warren’s latest post introducing some of the ResAliens writers, including T. M. Hunter, and Bruce Hennigan’s review of “Some Assembly Required,” one of Hunter’s Aston West stories, or new member Dean Hardy’s discussion of the same.

And now, to the important business of selecting the next CSFF Top Tour Blogger, this one for the month of August. Here are the eligible participants and links to their three posts:

You’ll have ten days to peruse the posts, then vote for the blogger you think is most deserving of this month’s honor. Thanks for taking part!

The Truth About Christians And Sin

Some people claiming the name of Christ prefer to shuttle past the subject of sin. We’re all sinners, after all, no one is perfect. We sort of just have to live with it. Sin is part of the condition of Man.

A small group of Christians disagree, however, claiming that Christians have new birth and new life. There’s a new man inside, old things are passed away and all things are new. Sin is of that old life; consequently Christians — true Christians — no longer sin.

As with the passage in 1 John which I looked at in an earlier post, “The Christian And Sin,” these two conflicting views put those of us who believe in the Bible into a quagmire.

The Bible does indeed describe life in Christ as new. It does say old things are passed away. It even says we are no longer slaves of sin.

But the New Testament is also replete with commands to Christians about not sinning. If a “new creature in Christ” does not sin, then why all these pointed instructions? For example, Paul commands believers in Philippians to “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit.” James addresses his “beloved brethren” and says “if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.”

Be angry and do not sin

Or how about Peter’s command to those suffering for the sake of Christ? “Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler.” Paul was pointed in speaking to the Christians in Ephesus, too:

Therefore, laying aside falsehood, SPEAK TRUTH EACH ONE of you WITH HIS NEIGHBOR, for we are members of one another. BE ANGRY, AND yet DO NOT SIN; do not let the sun go down on your anger (Eph 4:25-26 – emphasis added).

Then there is his admonition to the church in Thessalonica not to quench the spirit.

Which brings up an interesting question. David said in Psalm 139

Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me and know my anxious thoughts;
And see if there be any hurtful way in me

Clearly he was turning to God to reveal any sin in him, a wise thing considering that Scripture says our hearts are deceitful and desperately wicked.

The heart is more deceitful than all else
And is desperately sick;
Who can understand it?
I, the LORD, search the heart,
I test the mind,
Even to give to each man according to his ways,
According to the results of his deeds. (Jer 17:9-10)

Wouldn’t it be true that those who quench the Holy Spirit would never ask Him to search their hearts?

But be that as it may, the Bible acts as the mirror to show us our lives. James again, addressing Jewish Christians dispersed because of persecution:

But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was.

James contrasts this believer with the who who “looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it.” Scripture, then, can inform us of our sin if we hold it up as a mirror and if we keep our eyes on it and live accordingly.

For example, the Bible says we are to love our neighbor as ourselves. Paul explains we are not to “merely look out for our personal interests but also for the interests of others.” As soon as a Christian turns his eyes exclusively on himself, then, he sins. Who among us can say we have always, since accepting Chris and His forgiveness for our sins, consistently thought of the interests of others and not merely our own?

In this instance, a person might claim selflessness in his heart, but I think actions override any protestations of righteousness. If someone is actually and truthfully thinking of the good of others, wouldn’t the “others” know it?

So what is the truth about Christians and sin? We are no longer slaves to sin, but our becoming like Christ is a process, not an accomplished state.

To know this is so, we have only to look at the first century Christians who the Bible showed to be sinners. Peter is one example. Paul confronted him for his hypocrisy.

Then there was the Corinthian believer who was living in sexual sin, and the rest of the church in Corinth who were feeling pleased with themselves for their tolerance.

In Phillipi there were Euodia and Syntyche, Paul’s fellow workers who were not living in harmony. Or how about John Mark who deserted Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary trip.

Yes, Christians sin. But should we respond with a fatalistic shrug — oh well, no one’s perfect. Hardly! We’ll need to look at that another time.

Published in: on August 25, 2011 at 6:26 pm  Comments (10)  
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CSFF Blog Tour – Residential Aliens, Day 3

Part 1 of Jeff Chapman's story in Residential Aliens

In my last post, I mentioned my plans, in conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour of the zine Residential Aliens, to do a review, but left the subject of such, up in the air. For a moment I was tempted to turn the table and review the blog participants! 😀 Now that could have resulted in some interesting discussion, don’t you think?

I also considered doing a review of one of the stories, but Bruce Hennigan, Jeff Chapman, and our newest member, Dean Hardy, among others, gave excellent reviews in their posts.

I considered giving a review of editor extraordinaire Lyn Perry himself, but Fred Warren beat me to that one and did a much better job than I could have, by far.

Well, there’s the obvious — a review Residential Aliens as a whole. Yep, you guessed it: on Monday Sarah Sawyer posted an article taking a critical look at the site.

So here’s what I decided after reading Shannon McDermott‘s post giving a thorough overview of Residential Aliens: I’m going to review the short story. Not a short story — the genre, short story.

Early in my writing career, I read that learning to write the short story was so unique and different from writing a novel that it required its own set of skills. That was enough to scare me off. I had my hands full trying to learn what I needed for my novel.

Then along came a little short story contest held by World Magazine. They wanted stories written from a Christian worldview, and they posted the submissions on line, allowing others to comment or critique.

Well, that was interesting. The upshot was, I decided writing short stories looked like a lot more fun than I’d imagined. And doable.

Not long after, Bethany House editor Dave Long began to hold short story contests which I entered. And I had the bug.

I’m not sure if it was the short story bug or the contest bug (probably the latter), but one thing I discovered — short stories afforded me the opportunity to experiment with voice, point of view, story structure, and whatever else I wanted to play with. In short, I discovered that short stories are a great boon to a writer.

Not only did they help me learn my craft, I actually sold a couple stories and had some modest success in a couple contests. That feedback was encouraging.

Now I’d recommend to any writer starting out to begin with short stories.

But what about for readers? I rarely read short stories these days. And yet, I find myself eighty pages into an anthology of G. K. Chesterton’s Father Brown stories, and I love them.

The more I thought about this, the more I realized that I don’t shy away from short stories as much as they shy away from me. Magazines don’t carry them any more (even Writer’s Digest which used to publish the winner of their Short, Short Story Competition, now puts it online, not in their magazine). I don’t get a Sunday school paper as I used to — those were always good for a story or two. And I’m no longer subscribed to the one or two magazines that may still carry short stories.

I have to say, I’m not fond of reading stories on the computer. I tend to think of reading as a chance to settle back and enjoy, not sit at a desk. Consequently free ezines hold less appeal to me than novels.

But then I see that Residential Aliens has multiple formats available, and I think, here’s an editor/publisher who understands the transitional world in which we live. One day, I suspect, everyone except the rare book collector will be reading from eReaders of some sort. But today we are in flux, and the more formats offered, the better the chance that readers of one stripe or another will find the stories.

May that be true of those Residential Aliens has published.

CSFF Blog Tour – Residential Aliens, Day 2

Illustration from Fred Warren's story "Beatitude"

Science fiction seems to be in short supply if we’re talking about stories written from a Christian worldview. Fantasy isn’t plentiful either, though supernatural suspense and supernatural thriller seems to have a bit stronger representation, thanks in large part to what Realms Fiction, a division of Strang Communications, has produced.

Because of the scarcity of speculative fiction, any number of enterprising authors set out to bring to the Christian market the stories so many desired. Bill Snodgrass founded Double Edge Publishing with its accompanying ezines: Sword Review; Dragons, Knights, and Angels; Ray Gun Revival; Haruah; and eventually MindFlights. Frank Creed started the Lost Genre Guild and the Writers Cafe Press. A handful of authors launched this CSFF Blog Tour and the team blog, Speculative Faith. T.W. Ambrose initiated the zine Digital Dragon; Grace Bridges founded Splashdown Books; and Jeff Gerke established Marcher Lord Press.

Undoubtedly there are a number of other endeavors which I’m not familiar with, and sadly some are no longer in existence. However, Lyn Perry’s zine Residential Aliens which CSFF is featuring this month, is going strong. Launched on July 1, 2007, ResAliens has published speculative stories written by over thirty authors, eight of which happen to be members of CSFF.

It is my privilege to point you to those stories in the hope that you’ll take some time this week (perhaps starting now? 🙂 ) to read at least one of each of our members’ stories put out by ResAliens: Brandon Barr, Fred Warren, Grace Bridges, Jeff Chapman, Jessica Thomas, John Ottinger, Mike Lynch, R. L. Copple.

I trust you’ll also visit the other bloggers who are buzzing about ResAliens. Bruce Hennigan has an excellent introductory post. D. G. Davidson (welcome back!) gave a thumbnail review of four of the stories from the archives. Brandon Barr, Jeff Chapman, and Fred Warren all unashamedly pointed readers to their stories (that’s a good thing — if they didn’t like their stories well enough to tell people about them, what would that say? 🙄 )

Tomorrow I’ll give you my review of … well, you’ll just have to come back and see. 😉

CSFF Blog Tour – Residential Aliens, Day 1

Speculative fiction for adults may be the most under represented genre in Christian fiction.

Happily writers continue to write and those who love the genre find ways to bring stories to readers. Author, editor, and publisher (and CSFF member) Lyn Perry is one who has gone out of his way to keep speculative fiction alive. Though not exclusively for the Christian market, his ezine Residential Aliens nevertheless provides a venue for those looking in that direction. From his editor’s page:

Is this a Christian Zine?

In that I am a believer and follower of Christ, yes. The authors and audience, however, may or may not come from a position of faith. But what I think you’ll find here is a collection of quality stories with a moral or spiritual thread that appeals to the broad and varied interests of fans of speculative fiction.

Residential Aliens includes “family friendly” stories “anywhere along the speculative spectrum,” which I assume includes horror, dystopian fiction, space opera, cyberpunk, and perhaps even epic fantasy. Each free online issue, updated bi-monthly, contains five short stories.

A downloadable version is also available for the reasonable price of $2.00. This month, however, in honor of the CSFF tour, this month’s edition is free.

While ResAliens is first an ezine, it is more. Lyn calls it a micropress which releases a quarterly print magazine, themed anthologies, and in the near future, novels.

Lyn has done a good job carving a niche for ResAliens in the social media. You can find them on Facebook and Twitter. These venues seem to have replaced a the once active Forum, though this board remains “live.” The zine blog continues to offer updates for those who prefer receiving news through subscription or at that site.

Residential Aliens‘ current issue 5.5, has more in common with CSFF than this tour, but I’ll discuss that next time. For now, take time to cruise around to other tour participants and see what they are saying about Lyn Perry, his zine, and his micropress.

The Christian And Sin

I’ve been reading in 1 John recently, the book of seeming contradictions. It’s interesting to see how some believers resolve the passages that deal with sin — passages like verses six through ten of the first chapter:

If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all 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.

What’s the problem, some say. The passage is clear. We sin, we need to repent.

But John goes on to say in the third chapter

Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness. You know that He appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin. No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him. Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. (vv 4-8)

Well, that passage is clear, others will say. Christians won’t sin, and the test of who a real Christian is will be whether or not they sin.

Aren’t the two sections of the same letter, written by the disciple of Jesus, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, in contradiction?

No, one camp will say. The first passage is talking about our pre-Christian state. Repentance in those verses is what the unbeliever must do, not the Christian who is walking in the Light.

No, the other camp says. In the second passage the “practices sin” indicates the habitual, consistent life-style of sin, not a sin act resulting from the “not yet” state while we are being sanctified and shaped into the image of God’s Son.

In other words, neither camp sees a contradiction because both take one passage or the other and interpret the second in light of the position they hold regarding the first. Both claim to believe the Bible to be the authoritative Word of God.

I’ve said from time to time that it’s important to consider the whole Bible, and not simply a handful of proof texts. I’ve been trying to do that more and more in my personal study. What I see is amazing consistency, even in places like this that seem to take honest, truth-seeking Christians in opposite directions.

Why are we stumbling if the Bible is consistent? That would be a worthy topic for another day.

Right now, I want to suggest, the way out of these quagmires is to look at God’s person and character.

We know that He is eternal (outside time) and that He is “the same yesterday and today and forever” (Heb. 13:8). We also know that He said, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9 – emphasis mine).

Does it seem consistent with the nature and person of an eternal God to forgive up to a point and not beyond, in light of His promise? Is He limited to cleansing us in a moment in time in the same way that He forgives us? I suggest He is not limited and that His forgiveness covers a lifetime.

But if God forgives past, present, and future sins, does that mean the Christian can sin with impunity? Hardly. This was the very issue Paul was addressing in Romans when he said, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?” (6:1-2)

Some may think we’re right back where we started, but Paul’s emphasis seems to be on what we should do. Are we to continue in sin, he asked? No, we are to consider ourselves dead to sin (v 11). We are not to let sin reign in us (v 12). We are not to present our bodies to sin (v 13). We are to present our members as slaves to righteousness (v 19).

These seem very choice oriented — things we are expected to do, things we are now capable of doing, but things we must do and do and do again.

The bottom line is this: sin enslaved us until Christ freed us. Our nature had been the same as the dog returning to its vomit, but now I have the mind of Christ, and I have the Holy Spirit living in me, convicting me of sin and pushing me to repentance, teaching me what it means to be Christ-like, increasing in me the knowledge of God.

Will God finish this work in me here and now? I wish, and I’m sure my friends and family do too. But sanctification is a process, not a finished product as is the right standing I enjoy with God. That’s a done deal. My becoming like Christ –that’s a work in progress.

Published in: on August 19, 2011 at 7:24 pm  Comments (2)  
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Writers Writing Nothing New

Writing instructors constantly remind novelists that there is no such thing as a new story. All of them have already been told before. And why should we be surprised by that since there is no new thing under the sun.

A wife lured her husband into grabbing for power. Is that Macbeth or Eve with Adam? An innocent man is kidnapped and thrown in jail. Joseph, or The Count of Monte Cristo?

First, stories happened, then they became a tale someone told.

But why do writers keep on writing if none of the stories are new? I think there are several reasons. For one thing, the particulars of every story change.

The man-versus-man conflict has been told millions of times, for example, but in each one, a man is not murdering his brother. Perhaps he’s selling him to traders instead or setting his field on fire. Maybe he’s stealing the heart of his girlfriend or sleeping with his wife.

There are any number of details that can change — particulars about the characters, the location, the time, the events leading up to the culminating act, the motivation behind it, the resolution, and what it all means.

Writers continue telling stories, in addition, because each one of us adds our own touch. The story, in essence, becomes an expression of us — our personality, our outlook on life.

Painters have not stopped painting mountains because some other artist completed a landscape featuring mountains. Photographers haven’t stopped snapping pictures of sunsets because others before them have taken photos of the sun slipping below the horizon. These visual artists know that no one has captured their subject at that moment, in that way, and from that same perspective as the one presently holding a brush or peering through a lens.

So, too, writers bring their unique selves to each twice-told tale.

J. R. R. Tolkien said that writing is an act of sub-creation. Scripture says Man is made in God’s image. It’s not a stretch, then, to believe that the act of sub-creation is something humans do because of who God made us to be.

A fourth reason writers continue putting out stories even though we understand we are not writing a new thing — society needs them. For one thing, language changes, and some people prefer stories told in the vernacular.

In addition, society forgets. We need stories to remind us that there’s still a Big Bad Wolf in the woods, that a scorpion still stings because that’s what scorpions do.

Our stories anchor us to the truth, but they also serve as beacons looking forward. They fuel our imagination and make us look beyond ourselves. They attach us to one another, though we live across the globe or the galaxy or in a different era or world. They show us our commonalities even as they inform us of our uniquenesses.

Sure, no story is new, but none of them has ever been told in exactly the same way before. So writers keep writing, and readers keep reading.

Published in: on August 18, 2011 at 5:42 pm  Comments (2)  
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