Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The "Union" in Communion

So this blog is found at lilfytr.blogspot.com. As such it is to be a blog focused on "living in love" with the result that you would "find your true reward." For some reason though, throughout the years of keeping up (mostly not well) with this blog, I have lost sight of that purpose to the error of "let me fill you in on what's new in my life and maybe tack a verse or two on the end." Not saying there's anything wrong with that once in a while, but when I'm only posting once in a while, it can be problematic.

I'll fill you in on a greater breakdown of Live In Love Find Your True Reward next time, but today, I need to close out a chapter, and transition into the future point of this blog.

So I talked last time about how God had started convicting me in many ways about my bitterness towards Sarah (the fictional name of my most recent girlfriend [to protect her privacy and avoid the term 'ex']). At church yesterday morning I was urged in my gut to apologize to her. I didn't really want to, so I didn't take the first opportunity that came my way. After the sermon and during closing worship I felt led to take communion (since its available for individuals/groups who want it every week), but then was convicted by a passage in 1 Corinthians that is normally taken very dangerously out of context.

First Corinthians 11:27-29 comes in the midst of a section on church unity. Chapter 11, verses 17-19 explain the lack of unity that was going on. It involved the Lord's Supper. It involved people promoting themselves and devaluing others at the Lord's table. Paul concludes the problem by stating the goal: "For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until He comes" (11:26). The Lord's death was the most selfless act of love to ever occur. That is Paul's point. 

So when verses 27-29 roll around, what is to be expected? Well, let me copy it here: "Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy way will be guilty of sin against the body and blood of the Lord. So a man should examine himself; in this way he should eat the bread and drink from the cup. For whoever eats and drinks without recognizing the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself."

Is Paul now saying, "Make yourself right with God before partaking of communion"? Is he saying, "You'll be judged if you take communion without confessing your private sin last night to God first"? Not at all. It doesn't fit the context. He's speaking of the body of Christ, the church. He's saying, "If you have a problem with someone in the church, let go of that bitterness, make amends with him/her, and then come take communion." The fact that the phrase "without recognizing the body" in verse 29 has a textual variant that reads, "Not discerning the Lord's body," helps prove the point, since most variants entered into the text as a way of explaining the original meaning. So Paul wants communion to be a visible picture of the church's unity. If there's hostility between members it would be a feigned image of unity. This is why Paul wants them to make things right before taking communion.

So I refrained from the communion table yesterday. As soon as service ended, I approached Sarah and asked for her forgiveness for the bitterness and anger that had built up inside of me over the previous few weeks. She forgave me, because her motto is Victorious Grace, and she exemplifies it better than anyone I know. I'm glad to know that hole is patched up in my local church's unity.

Soli Deo Gloria

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Drama Queen or Drawn to the KING?

“I’m out here exposing all my private matters publicly,” raps Christian hip-hop artist Tedashii on the opening track of his album Below Paradise. And sometimes I feel like I’m a drama king. I say king, because as a male I’m not a queen. Recently, I’ve been guilty of the exact same thing that Tedashii speaks of: I’ve been confessing secret sins and struggles in very public arenas.

And I can almost convince myself that there’s nothing wrong with it. One complaint against Christians is that we act like everything’s great all the time. Plastered on smiles and holiness that turns those who aren’t happy or holy away. So, for me to say, “I’m struggling; I’m not happy; I’m not doing well in the holiness category,” is my way of showing a watching world that the reality is not a false front.

But then I talk to my dad on the phone, and he confronts me with Mark 10:42 where Jesus says, “Whoever causes the downfall of one of these little ones who believe in Me—it would be better for him if a heavy millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.” My dad tops it off by getting extremely personal in the application of that verse to my life, and I almost started crying on the phone. That was never my goal, but it’s what I was accomplishing with my blog posts and facebook statuses. Earlier the same day, my pastor had convinced me of the same thing.

And the day before, my best friend in Missouri was preaching and convinced me that I was in sin regarding my attitude towards my now ex-girlfriend (even though that term “ex” leaves a bad taste in my mouth). He wasn’t preaching on it, but I had preached on it a month and a half ago; 1 Peter 3:8-9 talks about how to practically relate to those in the church (and outside) who hurt you, whether intentionally or unintentionally, and it was the first thing I thought of the moment she broke up with me: “All of you should be like minded and sympathetic, should love believers, and be compassionate and humble, not paying back evil for evil or insult for insult but, on the contrary, giving a blessing, since you were called for this.” At some point, though, I’d lost track of it, and it led to belittling and accusing on facebook and this blog.

Then I started reading 1 John on Sunday the 17th. I’ve been reading in the NIV this year, and it helps convict me, since it translates “brothers” as “brothers and sisters.” So everytime (which is a lot of times) John says, “The one who says he is in the light but hates his brother is in the darkness until now,” I read, “hates his brother or sister,” and am convicted of bitterness, anger, and spite for a girl that never did anything to hurt me. The post that I have now removed was clear proof that it was me that was the problem in the relationship; I was the one doing the hurting. 1 John 4:20 says, “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ yet hates his brother (or sister), he is a liar. For the person who does not love his brother (or sister) whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.”

In God’s sovereignty, which has been running full steam ahead for the last year, I started reading Uprooting Anger by Robert Jones a few weeks ago. God used it along with everything else in this post to show me I was in error. He defines anger on page 15 as “our whole-personed active response of negative moral judgment against perceived evil.” He took the rug out from under my feet in chapter 2 by telling me (and any other reader) that our anger is most likely not righteous. He then convinced from chapter 3 to chapter 6 that it doesn’t matter if my anger is manifested in punching walls, cussing, or just clamming up and plotting imagined revenge, I need to repent of it and put it to death. (I usually fall into the category of the last two initially, until my simmering anger pot boils over.) Then he pointed out in his next two chapters that part of my problem is that I’m secretly angry at God (at least in a small part), and not so secretly angry at myself in a large part. Finally, he gave three reasons for dealing with my anger, “Dealing with anger God’s way will enhance your physical and spiritual health. . . . We must deal with it to love others and promote godly relationships. By doing so, we bring grace, healing, and hope to those around us. . . . Anger, as God-playing, is of the worst moral evil. To repent of anger is to acknowledge God’s rightful and sole place as King over your entire world” (157-164).

Throughout the book, Jones really enjoyed talking through the book of James. I was in James last week, and the same day I met with my pastor and talked to my dad, I was struck by 1:2, where James says, “Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials.” I wanted to throw my Bible, simply because I realized I had not even come close to doing that over the previous month. Paul is clear in Philippians 4:13 that it is possible, and the reason I opened this post with Tedashii’s lyrics are important. He has another song on the same album called, “Nothing I Can’t Do,” where he basically applies Philippians 4:13 to the situation he was facing. His situation was that of losing his infant son, and God gave him the strength to “go chasing You, trusting You, hope in You, forever,” which are the closing words of the album. The chorus to the closing song is the prescription to preventing anger at God in the midst of trials, and it was a very good reminder this past week: “You give and You take / Through it all I will chase / after Your heart, not Your hand / when my heart don’t understand.” I’m much too often guilty of chasing after God’s gifts (hand) instead of His self (heart). If there’s no other lesson He’s trying to teach me right now, it’s this: I need Him and nothing else.

So, please keep praying for me. But know that my goal is to make Jesus look good, not to push people away. It’s not about being real, so much as it’s about the reality of Jesus. Instead of posting about my drama, I’m going to post about being drawn to the King, and I hope that my posts will draw you closer to Him too.
As a song off my upcoming album states:

“Jesus, I love You; that’s what You see
Every single  time You look at me
You see a broken wreck who knows he needs You
You see a messy life, but Your love is still true
And we’re working through stuff—You and me
And on the last day I know I’ll come out holy
But for now You see me—weak and small
But You loved me enough to give me Your all”

If you belong to Him, He loved you enough to give you His all. If you haven’t already, trust Him today. It won’t solve life’s problems, but it will give you a looking-glass to view it through.

Soli Deo Gloria

Sunday, April 10, 2016

What's Your Reputation?

So a coworker made a comment a few weeks back that has stuck with me to this moment. I've finally decided it's worth it to write down. Here's the comment: "He's got a reputation." Here's the background: it was said about a guy who I'd consider to be a relatively good friend. Now, I emphasize "relatively" because he isn't a super close friend, but it still got me thinking. I've always gotten along better with people who don't have everything together.

Several examples will suffice. My best friend growing up was always getting into trouble. I was always getting into trouble with him. At church, at school, at our houses, wherever he went we got into some sort of trouble. Then, he really ended up with a reputation when he went to juvenile hall halfway through sophomore year of high school. When released a month later, he let jail run his life and the reputation became, "I'm bad. I do drugs. I am a criminal. I'm not at all a good kid." I was still drawn to him, though I didn't want to end up where he'd ended up, and even though I never see him anymore, and rarely speak 5 words to him in a month, I have a 19 year long sense of commitment to my friend.

My current best friend is different. He has the same name as the prior, but those that know him best know that he doesn't have it all put together. He's got stuff he deals with and fights, and those that know him could judge him for it. But he's also given his life over entirely to Christ (unlike the previous), so he's confident in his standing there because Christ became sin for him.

And then there's me. I deal with everything it seems like. From anger and depression to lust and pride, it's all there. But the good news is this, and it's the point of this post: "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners" (Jesus in Mark 2:17, NIV). I get along best with people like me, who are jacked up and know they need help, and even those who don't know they need help. My knowledge of my need for help enables me to reach out in compassion to people like my childhood best friend who are lost and wandering in this world apart from Christ.

And then we come to the topic of girls. Before knowing Christ I was greatly drawn to those who had a reputation. I may have never acted on that knowledge or dated any who had a reputation, but I really didn't want anyone's input on my girlfriend choices. I was free to choose who I wanted. Even post-salvation I was in this same place. Finally, I decided I was sick of failed relationships and sick of hiding who I was talking to from my parents, so I decided to pursue a girl I knew they would approve of, who had a really squeaky clean reputation. She ultimately decided she wanted nothing to do with me (after about 2 years). Then I moved to Bolivar, Missouri for school, and pursued several girls who didn't pan out at all. Then, I decided to attempt another one with a really really good reputation known to everyone. I thought to myself, "There's no way this could go wrong."

Wrong. And don't get me wrong, she's still great. Whoever marries her one day is going to be very lucky (though not as lucky as I will be when I marry the woman who's out there for me). Let's just say that I had too many problems for her. It reminds me of my situation with my "near perfect" roommate this past summer. When you're a struggling, sinful wretch fighting to stay afloat, and those closest to you can't seem to figure out why it's so hard because they've "got everything together," it becomes too easy for them to blame you for the problems with the friendship.

My point is this. Jesus came for those who are sick. He came for me. I am more relatable to those who admit their sinfulness than I am to those who act like they're almost perfect. I wrote a song several years ago that contains the following lyrics:

"I'm praying for you, what I mean is this
I pray for people that I miss and right now that's you
You and only you though I doubt we've even met
Though one day we will, God already has the date set
I'm praying for you that you save yourself for me
Though if you once made a mistake don't worry about it--you see
God loved you first and forgave all your crimes
So since I truly love you too, I'll do the same and call you mine."

I'll just be honest. I'd rather marry a girl who's made many mistakes in her life, and who still feels the weight of them, but knows in her best moments that she's been forgiven and made new by Christ, then a girl who acts like all is well and pretends to be more spiritually mature than she actually is. Being real is very important to me. I try to be real with everyone I come in contact with. I don't try to put on a show to make others like me. And now that I'm coming out of a relationship, I have zero reason to put on a show for others. I have no one to impress but Jesus.

Jesus showed grace to people. Jesus forgave rapists, child molesters, thieves, homosexuals, heterosexuals, porn addicts, drug addicts, murderers, liars, parent-dishonorers, and much more. If I truly love the girl I'm going to marry one day, I say, "Bring on a negative reputation. Jesus loved you enough to forgive you. Who am I to not?" There is nothing she could have done before or after meeting Christ that is too bad for me to forgive. Jesus said in Luke 7:47, "Her many sins have been forgiven--as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little."

My prayer is that I would daily love everyone I come in contact with with the type of love that says, "I've been forgiven much!"