About Me

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Saginaw, Michigan, United States
A sinner who may come before God because of Christ

Saturday, January 02, 2016

5 Years of Learning.

Five years ago was my last posting on this blog because it was not going in a direction that I had wanted and because time was needed for more urgent matters in my life.

I believe the Lord has shown me much in these last five years and has grown me in wisdom and love and the desire to truly express His grace to this world.  How we respond to that grace is more important than how we respond to the ideas of the world.  To Him we are to give our utmost attention, not to the daily issues of life.

In those five years perhaps the most important thing that the Lord has taught me is that I am not here to impose Him onto others.  This means that I should be more surprised when sinners don't sin then when they do.  I should expect sin.  I should expect people to be unloving, unkind, selfish, and centered on what is best for them.  I should expect people to act out of that selfishness even in doing good.  It goes to motivation.  It goes to doing based on feeling rather than on obedience or command.

My motivation is the love and grace of Christ.  At least that is what I hope is my motivation.  The great definition of God's love in 1 Corinthians 13 describes the ultimate attributes of what it means to be loving.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (ESV)
4  Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5  or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6  it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 
7  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 

As CS Lewis so aptly stated:   Love is not affectionate feeling, but a steady wish for the loved person's ultimate good as far as it can be obtained.

In other words, the truly loving act is doing that which is best for another, and it is motivated by one's desire for the other person to have that which is best for them.  

My hope for the remaining years of my life is to show that love to others as best as I am able. 



Sunday, January 02, 2011

Rotting Fish Syndrome

One of the more interesting parts of the end of the year is the “lists” that come out that are compilations of subjects. These include the list of those who died in the last year, the most important news stories, the best weddings, etc.

I came across one on the Fox News website that listed “crazy diseases”. These are illnesses that have some odd or strange symptoms. Most are not really funny or “crazy” and those afflicted with them suffer in one way or another.

Most I had never heard about before, but one I did because, when I was a social worker, I actually had a client who suffered with this condition. It is Trimethylaminuria, fish malodor syndrome. The client always smelled of terrible body odor no matter how much deodorant or showers he would take.

The poor guy was “banned” from many public areas such as the local library and a number of stores and restaurants. He lived in a group home but would spend most of his time alone in his room or walk around the neighborhood, even in the coldest weather, for most of the day.

Despite having a mental illness and was mildly developmentally disabled, he was keenly aware of his problem so he would spend most of his time alone, embarrassed by his problem. It was very sad because he was a very likeable guy.

This article, and remembering this client, made me think about how our sin must make us smell to God. We, like someone suffering from this malady, seeping the odor of sin from our very breath. (Rom 3:13 NLT)

And it is a stench in the nostrils of God, so offensive that we cannot be in His presence.

The problem is that we get used to our sin like we do with an odor. The client never smelled himself. I worked in a blast furnace and after a short while the pungent odor of sulfur and brine disappears and we don’t notice the smell anymore. We get used to our sin and it no longer seems a problem.

If you believe that Christ is Lord and Savior, though, and are saved from the results of your sin (eternal separation), the odor returns and we are pungently aware of our sin and know that only Christ can wash us clean before God. He removes the odor so that, through Him, we are no longer have the stench but instead are a pleasing aroma to God.

Repent and smell better to God.


Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/health/2010/06/30/crazy-diseases/#ixzz19swVzs9u

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Health Care

Well, for the time being, the US has reformed health care. It remains to be seen whether this is a good thing or a bad thing depending on your politics, tax bracket, and ideology/philosophy.

As one who is trying to view life through the lens of Scripture, I struggled a bit on this one. On the one hand we are to help those who are less fortunate, but on the other is it fair to require someone else to involuntarily pay for it?

I have read numerous articles on this subject and a "Biblical" case can be made for both sides. At times in the Old Testament there was required dispersing of property and goods, such as the tithe. In th New Testament Christ turns the focus from law to grace, so pretty much giving becomes an example of conscience.

The more I think about it, this issue could have been avoided had the church been doing part of its calling and helping others. Instead we have relegated this to government to care for the widows, orphans, and poor.

Getting back to what should be our response to the health care debate is to give more of the gifts from God to others, as we rely on the Lord more than relying on government, employers, family, friends or even ourselves.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Discouragement

“Never let us be discouraged with ourselves; it is not when we are conscious of our faults that we are the most wicked: on the contrary, we are less so. We see by a brighter light. And let us remember, for our consolation, that we never perceive our sins till He begin to cure them.” Francois Fenelon (1651-1715)

We are not a race of people happy to have our faults shown to us. It seems to be one of the primary elements of our sin nature. We don't enjoy being wrong. We don't enjoy having faults and I know of very few people who enjoy having someone else point this out.

It was this way from the start. In the first recorded conversation between God and Adam in Genesis 3:8-12, Adam's reaction to God's question if he had about what he had done (eaten from the forbidden tree) was to blame Even and even imply it was God's fault (this woman you gave me).

This is what is often called a "natural" reaction to being confronted with doing wrong. When my kids were little I often wondered when we had adopted those two orphan children named "Aidunno" and "Knotme" were the ones responsible for any broken toy, marks on the walls, dirt on the rug or mess not cleaned up.

But this Christian life calls for us to fess up. Part of our salvation experience is predicated on our open awareness and admission of our sinfulness to the point we could not save ourselves. This is not just a "well no one is perfect" attitude, but one of acute awareness that we are an eternity away from coming even close to meeting the standard that is Christ. If we could, we would not need a Savior.

A Christian Response to a sin being pointed out is not one of blame-shifting or argument or even avoidance, but one of humble acknowledgement, repentance, and asking God, relying upon God, to help you turn from this sin.

Our sins should not be a source of discouragement but one of encouragement because we are see the work of the Father in our lives. This is a source of joy, knowing that our Father, through Christ, is molding us back into that image of Him he originally created us to be.


Friday, January 22, 2010

January 22 - a tough day for me

This is a difficult day for me.

It is the anniversary of the Supreme Court ruling giving the right of a mother to kill her child in her womb without cause.

It is difficult because I have experienced abortion in my life and have to face the reality that I was a passive participant in the murder of a child by standing idly by while their mother allowed a physician to go in and remove their baby.

This is much to my shame and remorse and every year on January 22 I remember my lost children and weep for them.

Even though this happened a number of years ago before I received Christ as Lord and Savior and experienced His forgiveness for my sins, it does not excuse nor justify the doing of this.

The circumstances were not desparation but inconvenience, and in one instance involved deceit, but I have to face the fact that I was still a coward for these children. I was unwilling to stand up for an innocent child who happened to come along at a "bad time" to be born (bad time based on our own selfish desires).

I wrote a song about this right after recieving Christ as Lord and Savior. On this day, I honor them who should have been, with these words:

SIMPLY KISS YOU GOOD NIGHT

This is for you, the one not at home,

Taken from life before you were known


And I won’t see you, out on the playground

And I won’t see you, going down the big slide

And I won’t see you, to push on the high swing

Or to simply kiss you good night


This is for you, the one far away

Who never will feel the warmth of the day


And I won’t see you, laughing and smiling

And I won’t see you, with tears in your eyes

And I won’t see you, caught in a deep thought

Or to simply kiss you good night


This is for you, the one with no choice

In the name of convenience I silenced your voice


And I won’t see you, as you’re held in my arms

And I won’t see you, to show you the way

And I won’t see you, to tell fo the Father

Or to simply kiss you good night

Thursday, January 07, 2010

The log and the splinter

Perhaps one of the most mis-used verses in the Bible is found in Matthew 7. It is primarily brought up when a Christian says something that is critical or (allegedly) judgmental about a person's action, word or deeds. The conversation goes something like this: Christian: you did this action and I think it was a wrong thing to do Person: you don't have a right to tell me what to do! Doesn't the Bible say to take the log out of your own eye before taking the splinter out of mine? You hypocrite. What is really happening is that the Person is not trying to help the Christian see the error of their way, which is the Christian's purpose, but the Person is trying to defer from having to deal with the rightness or wrongness of their own action. If they really read the verse and understood the context they would not use this verse as a defense. Here it is in full context: Matthew 7:1-5 (ESV) 1 "Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. 3 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when there is the log in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye. In verse 1, "Judge" here means to assess the state of a person based on an action, not to point out an error (that is a rebuke). This does not mean we cannot assess the right or wrong, properness or improperness of a behavior. It means we should not find a person as worthless because of an action they did. That is why, in verse 2, the warning is that if you judge others, you will be judged by by God with the same standard you judged others. The reality is that most people are hypocrites. They do violate their own standards at some point in their lives. Verse 3 & 4, probably the most popular, seems to indicate that we should not ever say anything to anyone until we are perfect. The "log" concept is often thrown out there in response to a criticism. But look closely at the context and it just a reinforcement of verse 2. If we are going to rebuke, we need to be very careful about how we do this. We need to examine ourselves as well. I recently come to the understanding that what Christ is saying here is that when we see others sin, our first response should be to look at the sin in our own lives. Here is the part that is most ignored - the "splinter". Christ does not tell us to ignore the splinter. A splinter left in can be a constant irritant, it can become infected and kill the person. It is not something to just let go, so regardless of the size of our log, the splinter that remains in the eye of the other person needs to be removed. But think about this, how is a splinter removed, especially from such a vulnerable areas as the eye? We don't go for the pliers but go for the tweezers. We don't first go for a knife, but use a needle. We don't yank and jerk at it, but try to slowly retract it. Our effort is to ease the pain not create worse suffering. We want to remove a splinter with the least amount of damage to the area.

This is how we should rebuke. To point out an error in such a way that we do the least amount of damage to the other person. This means we need to think about our tone, the words we use, our motives. Our goal, as Christians, is not to hurt but to help because we are no better than the other person. We are called to do this in love, with the other person's best interest in mind.

When a person does wrong, they often know it already. Our rebuke should be to help them turn from their sin. If they don't know it is wrong, then how we tell them will help them realize it. Never should our intent be to bring about more sin.

There is great risk in a rebuke. Most people don't like their sins to be shown and go to great lengths to hide or justify them. They look for loopholes and ways to divert the heat from their own searing conscience. But an unrepentant sinner is a doomed individual. We would try and stop someone from walking into the path of an on-coming semi, so why wouldn't we want to help someone whose actions are condemning them?

So, while we need to look for our "logs" and be aware of them, let us not be deterred from helping others with their "splinters", and do that not as one in authority, but one in the same station.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Thinking Inward

I have had some recent events in my life that remind me just how humble we need to be to others as I grow in my personal relationship with God and become stronger in my faith Christ. It is much easier to point outward than to consider inward.

Acts 17 tells of Paul and Silas going to Berea, a city in Macedonia, and found the Jews there "received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things [what Paul was preaching] were so." Acts 17:11 (ESV) The lesson here being that we need to compare what we are told by others with what Scripture tells us.

We tend to view this from a theological or doctrinal point - is what we are being told hold up as true or correct under the light of what the Bible says.

However, there is also another aspect to this. Are what WE doing meet what Scripture tells us to do.

It is easy to point out errors of others. It is much harder to see one's owns faults - or at least admit them. That is why before we start pulling out the specks in the eyes of others, we need to remove the logs from our own eyes (Matthew 7:3). This verse does not tell us to ignore the specks of others, verse 5 tells us to remove the speck but only after we have removed the log. (the use of a speck and log is to remind us that we need to see our sins as greater than the sins of others because we call Christ Lord and Savior yet our sins are a betrayal to those very words!)

The point here is that we are to be humble when it comes to others sins because we are no better. The purpose of pointing out sin should be to help another person, not condemn them (though they may initially feel that way), and it should have the same purpose in our own self-examination.

Now, getting back to me.

I have lived two lives.

My life before Christ and after Christ. I have a "BC" and an "AD", so to speak.

Before Christ I was hopelessly lost in my sin. There was not a commandment that I had not broken on purpose. My desire was not to be obedient to God but to feed my own lusts and flesh. My promise meant nothing. My mouth spoke a lie before truth (especially if it got me out of hot water). There was nothing that was personally moral to me - it was ok for me to violate my wedding vows, to ignore my obligations, to do what I wanted to do without regard for the consequences on others. I had so much pride in myself that I thought I could manipulate, finagle, lie, or ignore my way out of any problem.

Outwardly, I looked pretty good, until caught, but inwardly I was of poor, desperate, character.

After Christ, He dwellt in me and overtook me. My desire for Christ and Him Crucified became greater (usually) than the desires of self. I still have a long way to go to even dare to call myself even marginally righteous and I still battle my sin desires, but my succumbing to those desires lessens as I view myself more through Christ. Every breath is grace.

But here is where we Christians run into problems. We preach the Gospel with our lives but our lives have not always lived the Gospel and we tend to want to hide that in the dark corners of our lives, sometimes doing as the world does and pretending to be good people, and even relishing when others see us that way. Forgive me for hiding my past and wanting to look good. I was not good, ever, and any goodness I showed was because God was working in me.

Sometimes I think "pride" is the only sin, and all the other "sins" are just manifestations of that. It is our view of self that stands in the way of our view of God.

Our response to sin is to humble ourselves in its face. We are no better than ones without Christ and in many ways worse because it was God who gave us Grace and not our own righteousness that allows us to call Him Father. Let us always remember this both outwardly and inwardly.

For His Glory,
Tom