Let’s Rethink What It Means To Compromise

 “Compromise” is a dirty word. It’s not the kind of dirty word like cusswords or slurs; it’s dirty in the sense that it makes us feel dirty. The sense that compromise leaves is one of dissatisfaction, of things not getting worked out as well as we would have hoped. We gave up something we cared about and got less in return than we would have liked. In short, compromise feels like losing (especially to those of use who are competitive). Even if compromise is necessary, it feels, at best, like a necessary evil.

But what if we were to take the word “compromise” and replace it with “sacrifice”? Isn’t that really the best sense of the word – to lay down, voluntarily, something that matters to us even if the return isn’t great. Sacrifice is a noble thing and shows care for others. It is thinking of a good greater than my own. Compromise feels gross because we walk away feeling shorted, like we didn’t get all we wanted out of the deal whereas sacrifice is a good, if difficult, action to bring about a better end. And that is fulfilling.

Of course not all compromises are bad. And, yes, some things we hold dear cannot be sacrificed. We must never give up or waffle on the essentials of faith and the commitment to Christ. But could we be willing to sacrifice in how we communicate them? Could we forgo aggression or argumentation for civil discourse or personal conversations? And we must be willing to sacrifice when it comes to the peripherals and preferences whether it’s church musical style or political affiliation. Sacrificing in these cases doesn’t mean abandoning permanently or disavowing; it means laying down those things that matter to us for the love of other. If, in a given context, we willingly relinquish a preference or desire for the sake of restoring or reviving a relationship that is noble, not weak. It is no loss to willingly give something up for the good of a relationship or the good of another person.

We know this because of Jesus’ life. He was a man who did not compromise, not in the sense that makes use feel like we need a shower. He didn’t give a little to gain a little like the compromises we so often encounter. Instead He sacrificed. He never “lost” even when he gave up things that were valuable (like his place at the right of God and then His life). And He did it all for the greatest good, without ever letting go of the essential aspect of His life and mission to glorify God by saving the world.

You and I aren’t perfect. We won’t walk perfectly in Jesus’ steps, and that means conflicts will happen. That’s when mutual sacrifice — a more accurate and uplifting phrase than compromise — matters most. Instead of giving more than we want to gain less than we hoped for, we end up giving what we can to gain what the other person needs most. And in this new version of compromise we reflect the character of Jesus instead of the dissatisfaction of compromise as we now know it.

photo credit: Pulpolux !!! via photopin cc

I Can’t Forgive Myself

Have you ever heard anyone say that?  Occasionally I hear believers say they know that God forgives them but they can’t forgive themselves.  What’s going on when we say we can’t forgive ourselves?

First, it reveals a lack of understanding or appreciation of the gospel.

We’re saying that what Jesus did on the cross wasn’t enough.  Oh, the cross was enough to satisfy God and purchase his forgiveness, but it wasn’t enough to merit our own forgiveness.  It suggests that we have a higher standard than God himself. We are saying we expect more of ourselves than God does.  Of course no believer would consciously say they have a higher standard than God but that is what’s implied.

Next, it reveals a lack of understanding of the depth of our own sinfulness.

If we can’t forgive ourselves it means that we think we should be better than to fall into sin.  We actually think we’re pretty good and shouldn’t fail like that.  It’s a subtle form of pride.

Actually, we’re all much worse than we think we are.

That’s helpful for me to remember.  No matter how bad I think I am, I’m worse.  I sin in ways I don’t even realize.  I fail to please God in a thousand ways I don’t know about.  The sins I become aware of are only the tip of the iceberg.

This doesn’t depress me though.  Getting a glimpse of my sinfulness makes the love of God displayed on the cross even more amazing.

God, the Holy One of the universe, the one who is infinitely holier than we can even imagine, forgives every single one of our wicked, foul sins when we turn to Jesus because of the amazing, incredible, powerful redemption accomplished on the cross. He saves those who are worse than they even know.

When we sin, rather than berating ourselves because we failed again, rather than saying I can’t believe I could do such a thing or fail again, we should first be humbled, that God in his kindness would allow us to see once again our need for a Savior.  We should yet again come boldly to the throne of grace for mercy and help in time of need.  And we should praise our Father for the incredible provision of his Son to cover all our sins and his astounding patience and forbearance with us.

So rejoice!  You’re worse than you thought you were.

But there’s a Savior who’s greater than we know.

photo by fakelvis

Preach A Bleeding Christ

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It’s not enough to preach God, or even Christ. We must preach a bleeding Christ.

“Christ did not redeem and save poor souls by sitting in majesty on his heavenly throne, but by hanging on the shameful cross, under the tormenting hand of man’s fury and God’s just wrath. And therefore, the poor soul that would have pardon of sin, is directed to place its faith not only on Christ, but on a bleeding Christ, whom God has set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood” (Romans 3:25). — William Gurnall

Christ is more than a teacher or an example of unselfishness to imitate. He is the sacrifice God provided to take away the sins of the world. He poured out his life blood to atone for our rebellion, and it is only Christ’s blood that can wash away sins and cleanse the guilty conscience.  Preach Christ crucified.

Preach a bleeding Christ.

photo by jurek d.

How Our Mercies Are Conveyed

“[See] the way and method in which your mercies are conveyed to you.  They all flow to you through the blood of Christ and the covenant of grace.”  — John Flavel, The Mystery of Providence

And he said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many” (MK 14.24).  The covenant sealed by Christ’s blood is the “everlasting covenant,” promised by God that he “will not turn away from doing good” to his children (JE 32.40).  In other words, Jesus’ blood purchased all the good that God does to us, from justification to sanctification to glorification, and every blessing in between from our first cup of dark roast Sumatra in the morning to the gift of sleep at night.

Think about it, we should be in hell right now, but instead we enjoy every good gift that comes down from the Father of lights.  Instead of eternal wrath, we get to enjoy Christ through his Word, worship, prayer and fellowship.  Instead of eternal despair and horror, we get to enjoy Packer and Piper, pulled pork and pumpkin pie, toddlers and teens, rafting and Riverdance, painting and pets.  Well, maybe not pets.

Immeasurable mercies flow to us through the blood of Christ and the covenant of grace.

Today as we enjoy the blessings God heaps upon our heads, let’s praise him for the blood and the covenant.  Tonight before dinner, let’s pray, “Father, we should be in hell right now, but instead we’re about to enjoy all this delicious food.  Thank you for your covenant to be gracious, guaranteed by the blood of Jesus!   Praise you for your love!”

photo by pareeerica

Scraps of Worship

Scraps

If you could use one word to describe your current devotional life, what would it be? Mine would be “scraps”. So often I feel like all I can muster is a distracted scrap of devotion to God. For example, here’s what my Bible reading time often looks like:

Step 1: Open Bible. Pray that God would meet me as I read his word.

Step 2: Read diligently for thirty seconds, taking in at least three full sentences.

Step 3: Begin wondering if I’ll ever receive my tax refund, because it sure would come in handy right now.

Step 4: Feel guilty for being distracted. Try to “come back” into the presence of God (whatever that means).

Step 5: Repeat steps one and two plus additional prayer of repentance for being distracted.

Step 6: Begin thinking about my next killer blog post that will rock the blogosphere.

Step 7: Repeat steps 1, 4, and 5.

You get the point. It’s a constant battle against my sinful nature, which will seize on the slightest distraction. Many times I feel guilty instead of refreshed after doing my devotions. I feel like I didn’t pray enough, or with enough passion, or for enough people. And I certainly didn’t have enough love for God. My feeble scraps of devotion to God are pathetic, with a capital “pathetic”.

But God has been teaching me about devotional scraps lately. My devotion (probably too strong of a word) to God is nothing more than scraps, but God accepts, and even delights in those scraps. And when I get distracted, I don’t have to work my way back into God’s presence. I can come right back to God and experience full acceptance. Why? Because Jesus Christ is holding the door open. Always.
God’s love for me has nothing to do with my devotion and everything to do with Christ’s perfect devotion. Jesus was passionately devoted to God. He didn’t offer any scraps, he offered perfect obedience and love. And then his life ended. Abruptly. Brutally.

Now his righteousness is mine, and he perfects my feeble scraps of devotion and presents them to God. God loves Jesus, which means God loves me, end of story. The door to God is held open by the cross.

So yes, my worship is nothing more than scraps. But to God, they’re delightful scraps, made perfect by his son. How freeing this truth is. Today let’s throw aside any hope we have in our scraps of devotion and place all our hope in Christ. True devotion to God starts at the cross.

Can you relate to my feeling of devotional scraps?

+photo by Payton Chung

Giving Blood

Dear Diary,

Gave blood today for little Jack T. Lots of people from the church are there serving, giving blood, chatting, laughing. First I fill out a questionnaire about the purity of my blood. Have I taken this drug or that drug, been exposed to AIDS, etc. One question is “Have you ever been born in: Mexico, South America or Central America?” I don’t think I ever was, but I might have been.

After filling out the form, a pleasant lady reviews my questionnaire then leads me to what reminds me of a padded lounge chair with an arm rest. A professional young woman swabs my arm with a brown liquid to sterilize the area where they will insert the needle. Then she removes a new syringe from a package. I’m slightly nervous, but I see an elderly lady giving blood a few feet from me and she seems fine, so I figure if she can do it I can do it. I just don’t want to start screaming like a woman or pass out in front of everybody.

“Little pinch” says the girl and sticks the needle in my arm. It’s definitely more than a pinch, but only lasts about 2 seconds. I lie there comfortably. Mary B. takes a photo of me and others come and poke fun at me, asking if I’m going to make it. After 15 minutes, a young man carefully removes the needle, applies a bandage, seals up the bag of my blood, and instructs me not to have any coffee for the rest of the day. Right. I’m heading to Starbucks as soon as I leave.

Gary D. escorts me to the snack room, ready to catch me should I faint. I cap off my ordeal with a couple glasses of orange juice, a sloppy joe and some kettle-cooked potato chips. Becky, Jack’s mom, thanks me, as do numerous others, and I congratulate myself for my incredible act of heroism.

Dear Diary

Gave blood today for all those the Father has given me. First, Judas turns me over to angry mob with swords and spears. The disciples all run away. Dragged into a kangaroo court, where false witnesses lie about me, twisting things I’ve said. Hauled before Pilate and Herod, then handed over to Roman soldiers who tie me to a post and whip me over and over with the infamous cat o’ nine tails, with its leather thongs embedded with pieces of bone and metal. My back is completely shredded and my sides, arms, and the backs of my legs are torn to pieces. My face is black and blue and puffy from the soldiers’ fists.

They make a crown from a thorn bush and press it onto my head. Draping a purple cape over my shoulders, they pay mock homage, bowing before me, spitting on me and smacking the crown with reeds, driving it in deeper. Tiring of their fun, they lead me staggering out into the streets carrying a cross.

Noisy crowds, pushing, yelling. I lose my footing and fall beneath the crushing weight of the cross. After a couple falls, I can’t get up. The soldiers force a bystander to carry my cross and they push me through the crowds.

On a hill outside the city, the soldiers stretch me out on the cross and pound spikes into my hands and feet. I think I might pass out from the pain, but I don’t cry out. They lift the cross and it slides into its hole with a terrific jolt – pain shoots through my arms like lightning. I hang there for 6 hours, convulsing with racking pain. My lips are cracked and my throat burns with thirst. I’m suffocating. I push up on the nails in my feet for a few seconds to catch a breath of air, until the pain becomes unbearable in my feet, then I slump down and hang by the nails in my hands and begin suffocating again. People all around are cursing me, laughing at me, shaking their heads.

Worse than all the physical pain – I’m under my Father’s curse – his infinite wrath descends upon me. I’m abandoned by God and man. Desolate. Alone. Infinite misery, despair, grief, sorrow. I plunge into total darkness of soul, the darkness of utter abandonment. I hang between heaven and earth, all alone, for what seems like an eternity, until I’ve no more blood left. A spear pierces my side and a trickle of blood and water drains out. It is finished. I’ve purchased my beloved ones.

Bitter to Sweet

I love how the Lord provides for his people in unexpected ways.

Peter doesn’t know where the cash will come from to pay the temple tax, so Jesus tells him to go fishing. He pulls out a fish with a gold coin in its mouth. Another time the disciples tell Jesus to send the crowds away so they can go into the local towns and grab some food. But Jesus comes out of left field again and turns a few fish and rolls into a picnic for thousands.

Three days after the Israelites watch God split the Red Sea and engulf the Egyptian army, they come to a place called Marah (Ex 15:22). Three days and they have yet to find any water. Their lips are cracked and their throats parched. So when they see desert sun glinting on water their hopes soar. But when they run to taste it, it’s brackish. It’s obviously Moses’ fault. He should have done a Google search for the nearest pure watering hole before leaving Egypt. “Hey miracle man, what are we going to drink?” they gripe. They were obviously suffering short term memory loss. Hadn’t God miraculously saved them from Pharaoh just 3 days earlier? How often our first response to any trial is to grumble and plunge into instant unbelief.

Moses does the wisest thing to do when in trouble – he cries out to the Lord. Immediately, God shows Moses a log, or tree (ESV footnote). Moses takes the tree, tosses it into the filthy water, and it becomes not merely drinkable, but sweet!

Approximately 1500 years later God again unexpectedly provides for his people by a tree. When our lives are bitter and brackish with sin, when there is no earthly way to cleanse our putrid souls, God takes his sinless Son and nails him to a tree. A Roman cross, drenched in the blood of Jesus, makes our bitter lives sweet.
“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree’” (Ga. 3:13).

Obviously, it isn’t the Roman cross that sweetened our lives, but the One nailed to the tree, taking our bitter curse so he could give us his sweet forgiveness and peace. Praise God for his unsearchable wisdom and unexpected salvation! Praise Jesus for immersing himself in our polluted world and by his death giving us life and sweetness and light.

Coldplay and the Worship of Heaven

Several years ago I attended a Coldplay concert in Pittsburgh (note: I don’t endorse all of Coldplay’s lyrics). It was an incredible concert. It was so loud I got my heartbeat and the drums confused, the lights dazzled me, and everywhere I looked people were singing their hearts out. People were excited to be there, and when the band came to their signature song, “Clocks”, the audience erupted into a deafening cheer. To say it was emotional would be an understatement. It was one giant, joyful celebration…of Coldplay.

At the Coldplay concert I got the slightest taste of what worship in heaven is going to be like. Listen to the words of Revelation 5:9-13

And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.” Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”

The worship of heaven is breathtaking. Millions upon millions of angels and saints lifting their voices in one passionate, pulsing, song of worship to Jesus. The worship of heaven is going to be glorious and deafening at the same time. Our voice will join with that great throng that surrounds the throne and we will sing, “Worthy is the lamb who was slain!” When we see the One who died in our place, the One who became our shame, the One who paid for every sin, we will not be able to keep silent. Our hearts will burst with songs of praise and songs will leap from our lips. We will be filled with joy that cannot be contained, but must overflow into joyful song. And we will be celebrating one person: Jesus Christ.

But we don’t have to wait until heaven to get a taste of that glorious worship. We can turn our hearts to God today in gratefulness for the cross. Today we can rejoice in and celebrate all that Christ has done to redeem wicked sinners like us. As you drive to work, lift your voice in joyful praise to Jesus your redeemer. As you take your 10:00 am coffee break, turn your thoughts to the Savior who bore your every transgression. Before your head hits the pillow, thank the One who became your shame upon the cross. Let us lift our hearts in worship today to Jesus, our sacrifice.

I Can Predict The Future

I’ve made an astonishing and disturbing discovery about myself: I can predict the future. I don’t know how I acquired this super power – perhaps though overexposure to coffee – but the fact is, I can accurately predict the future. Here are some predictions:

Throughout the remainder of the year, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady will continue to throw touchdown passes at a rate of one every 3.42 minutes.

Next summer 18 sequel movies will be released, including Indiana Jones IV, “Indy and the Secret of Beating Arthritis”, and Star Wars Episode VII, “The Untimely Death of Jar Jar Binks”.

Within two years a cup of coffee at Starbuck’s will cost $17.50…and your first born child.

Google will become an actual country, located somewhere in the western United States.

For the rest of my life I will continue to sin regularly

Although most of this list is silly, the last item is sadly true. Even though I have been born again by the Spirit of God, I will continue to sin for the rest of my life. Yes, I will grow to be more like Christ, but sin will remain with me until the day I die.

Assume for a moment that I’ll live to be 75 years old. That means for the next 5o years I’ll break God’s perfect and holy law on a daily basis. What a sobering thought! Because of remaining indwelling sin, I’ll think impure thoughts, say unkind words, and commit selfish acts for the next 50 years. Fifty years of wickedness lies ahead of me. Why doesn’t God simply cast me away right now? If you knew that a friend was going to do something every day to hurt you for the next fifty years would you continue to be their friend? I don’t think so. Knowing that a future of sin lies ahead of me, why doesn’t God simply condemn to hell this instant? Because of the glorious, magnificent, infinitely powerful sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

O how great is the sacrifice of Christ! When He hung upon the cross, He took all my sins upon Himself. The death of Christ is so great, so powerful, so effective, that every one of my sins has been paid for. Every sin in the past – gone. Every sin in the future – paid for. The death of Christ stretches over all of my life, canceling the record of all my transgressions, past, present, and future. It is like a great, cleansing wave, sweeping over my entire life, carrying with it my many sins.

There is no sin that can separate me from the love of Christ Jesus. Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe. Sin had left a crimson stain – over my past and my future – but He washed it white as snow. So I will rejoice in God! I will praise God for the glorious sacrifice of Jesus Christ, which is so powerful that it cleanses me not only from the past, but from the future as well.

Rejoice with me today. Lift your heart in praise to Christ, who died to cleanse your past and to secure your future.

Motorcycle Underwear

I’m eleven years old and I’m wearing underwear that’s covered with little pictures of a man on a motorcycle. Being homeschooled, I’m always a bit behind on the fashion curve and I don’t fully realize that it’s not cool anymore to wear underwear with artwork on it. So I wear motorcycle underwear…to a Little League game. But this doesn’t bother me because after all, who’s going to see my underwear? Or so I think. What I don’t realize is that my baseball pants are made of a partially see-through material that allows a careful observer to pick up on any underwear artwork. With normal drawers this wouldn’t be a problem, but with motorcycle underwear, well that’s another matter.

I don’t realize my fatal mistake until one of my older, cooler teammates says, “What’s on your underwear?” I play dumb, acting as if I don’t know what he’s talking about. Then he nails me. “There’s motorcycles on your underwear! Hey guys check this out, Stephen’s wearing motorcycle underwear.” I try to play it off as funny but it doesn’t work. I’m embarrassed and my face burns with shame. Needless to say, I never wear the motorcycle underwear again.

I wish I could say that the motorcycle underwear incident caused me the most shame of my life. But it didn’t. There are sins in my past that I am truly and deeply ashamed of. Just the thought of these sins make me feel ashamed of myself. These are the sins I don’t like talking about, sins I don’t want my friends to find out about. It’s these sins that prove that I’m not just a sinner, I’m a wicked sinner.

All of us have sins of this nature hiding in our pasts, like skeletons in a closet. All of us have committed wicked, ungodly, perverse sins that shame us before God and men. All of us are shameful sinners.

It’s my shameful sin that makes the sacrifice of Christ so glorious. Jesus Christ, the perfect, holy One, took my shameful acts upon Himself. Christ never had so much as a sinful thought, yet He willingly bore all of my wicked, disgusting, shameful sin. God punished Christ as if He had done my shameful deeds. God looked upon Christ as if He was the shameful sinner. 2 Corinthians 5:21 puts it this way: “ For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Let your heart overflow with thankfulness to Jesus today. He bore your shame so that you can stand before God unashamed. How sweet is the sacrifice of Christ.