Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Betrayer

At the Last Supper, Jesus said that one would betray him. Incredulous, the disciples all asked, "Who? Who is it." I wonder if they thought, could it be me? Will I betray Jesus? After all, when Jesus was arrested, everyone scattered, and Peter followed at a distance and then denied Him 3 times, saying "I don't KNOW the man!"

So, knowing that they all had that potential in them, they were worried. But then Jesus said it would be the one to whom he dipped the morsel and gave bread first. This was usually the choice piece of food, given to the person of highest honor. And it was given to Judas, the betrayer.

Could Judas have changed his mind? Could he have chosen NOT to betray the Lord? Regardless, he didn't. In fact, he was ordained for that purpose. He was the son of perdition. The one who it would have been better for him had he not been born.

But think about Judas. He spent 3 years hanging with Jesus. Listening to His teaching, seeing miracles first-hand. Yet all he could think of was money and selfish needs. Perhaps he, like those crying Hosanna on Palm Sunday expected Jesus to overthrow the Romans and free Israel. When that wasn't happening, he might have felt betrayed, embittered. And no amount of kindness or show of love from Jesus would win back his loyalty. Jesus, to him, was a fraud and one that needed to be discredited publicly. With such a dark heart of selfishness and rebellion, Judas was open for Satan to enter. He went and sold the Creator for 30 pieces of silver.

And like it always is, when Christ was delivered up for torture by the Religious leaders and the Roman soldiers, then sent to be crucified, Satan left Judas. Left him with the hollow despair that a world without a Savior offers. Left him to realize that his best life was now and it wasn't that great. He'd just shown all his friends from the past 3 years what an absolute louse he really was. Who would take him in? Who would he hang out with?

In that obsidian darkness, he did the only thing that's left for a child of this world - he hung himself, falling and spilling his guts in the valley below. Such is the end of a rebel's earthly life after rejecting and murdering Christ. Unfortunately, that's not the final end. He will endure his atonement for his sin eternally in Hell, suffering eternally, never reaching the peace that could only be offered by Christ and His 6 hours on the cross.

Don't be Judas. Don't take the choice morsel and then reject Christ as a fraud. The irony for Judas is that his role served to provide the only victory for hope that he could have had.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Changing the Rules on God

It appears that many are following the notion that marriage is simply a human invention that can be re-invented according to subjective values based on nothing more than what we feel is right.

God's enemy is clever. Satan isn't an obvious villain who twirls his mustache and cackles wickedly. No, he re-defines things. He says, "Did God really say..." and then, "you won't die ..." in fact, "God wants to keep you down, make you a slave, prevent you from being His equal."

Satan re-defines an argument so it seems that God is the bad guy and the only sensible thing to do, the only RIGHT thing to do, is disobey God's directive.

In the case of marriage, God ordained it. He invented it. He said it is one man, one woman.

Then you read some Satan-inspired take on the Bible that says, "Did God really say..." and then points to instances of polygamy, rape, incest, etc. They suggest that God authorized such things. Don't be fooled. The Bible never endorses anything other than one man, one woman. Whenever people in the Bible varied from this model, trouble followed (just like it does today).

The next thing people point to is the Law, which called for stoning of homosexuals. Guess what? The Law also called for stoning of people working on the Sabbath. The first instance was someone gathering wood on the Sabbath. Taken out and stoned to death. Pretty harsh? Yes. But it wasn't about the act of collecting timber. It's about a human's decision to do the opposite of what God said to do (or not to do).

One might say, well who is He to say what I can or can't do? Um, He's God. He made you. He can say what you should do.

Another might counter that they believe in a "Loving" God who doesn't "Judge."

That's like saying you would want a "loving" judge who won't "condemn" a mass murderer who just tortured and killed your family, but will rather let them off with a smile and nod.

See, the flip side of love is hate.

What? Are you INSANE, Bryn? No. And listen up: If you LOVE your wife, you will HATE anything that would take her from you. If you LOVE your children, you will HATE anything that would destroy them. If you LOVE peace, you will HATE war. And so on. You can't have one without the other. And neither does God.

God LOVES righteousness. He HATES lawlessness.

And this affront to God's order for marriage is nothing short of lawlessness.

Does that mean that I support stoning homosexuals. No. I believe in kindness and love toward all people.

But, you just said that the Bible calls for stoning of all who don't do what God says. Yes. It did. In the Old Testament Law. That Law had a purpose: To show how pervasive sin is in our lives. If you read the Law, one can't blink without breaking a law.

How wonderful, then, is the New Covenant, the one of Grace, forged by Jesus Christ on the cross. He was fully God, but fully Man, lived in complete obedience to God's Law, loving God with all His heart, soul, mind and strength, loving the sinful wretches of the world, choosing to love the unlovable, then died for them, taking God's wrath in full for those who would repent.

Christ was the sacrifice that all the animals in all the rituals could never be. He took God's wrath for us so we could be forgiven for our rebelliousness and lawlessness.

But here's the thing: If we accept His sacrifice, we can only do so for real if we repent of our lawless nature and turn to Him for rescue and reformation. We can no longer go on willfully sinning and endorsing sinful behavior.

That's different than those who go around hating on sinners. We're all sinners. So, we have no place to be hatin' on each other. Jesus calls us to love one another. And He sets and example of loving the worst sinners. For God so Loved the World - he did this to a world that was vile and odious, wretched and stinking. We're called to love the unlovable. And yet, to preach God's grace through the cross, calling sinners to repentance.

It's hard to call people to repentance if we condone the sin as being an issue of "equality."

Truth is, homosexuals are equal to everyone else. We're all equal in God's eyes. Equal to receive the wrath for our lawlessness. Or equal to receive His grace when we repent and accept Jesus' sacrifice. But we're not equal with God and we don't get to change the rules He's given us.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

The Image He Loved

In the beginning was nothing. Not even a canvass. He stretched it and formed it on the frame he had fastened with steel nails. With the canvass spread, he placed it in his studio and arranged his tools around him. Before the first stroke, he felt the picture growing within him. An emotion he knew and nurtured blossomed until the colors bled into his mind's eye. As the image formed within him, he lifted the brush and dipped it in paint.

Strong, veined hands guided each tender stroke, bringing richness and depth to what had been empty and void. Order marched in harmony from his heart, his will, his hand, the brush and onto the work before him. Bright light cascaded from the sky, dappling the subjects, illuminating the bowls of fruit and glinting off silver platters. A festive feast awaited his creations, everything to sustain and please them.

Tirelessly, the maker coaxed his world into focus, providing joy to their faces and strength to their frames. Among them, a gentleman smiled, while a lady demurred innocently. Behind them, some laughed brightly and others nodded in fellowship.

He formed a tree, a sprawling, fruit-bearing tree, with various creatures playing beneath its shade. The fruit hung heavy on some branches and a few of the people held it in their hands, admiring it.

Hour upon hour, the maker smeared, blotted, stroked and refined his painting. From top to bottom, corner to corner, he worried over every detail.

While he worked, his young son came in to watch, marveling at his father's skill. Without a sense of time passing, his son would watch him work, drinking in the glorious creation sprawling out before him. It was as if he could hear the laughter, feel the giddiness and enjoy the camaraderie of the friendly throng. 

At times, father and son would sit back and tell stories, sometimes talking to the friends who inhabited the picture.

Then, after carefully applying his brush, the maker was finished. He and his son stood back and gave their approval. It was good. The maker never used a scale for his work. He would never say something was better than bad, but less than good. It was either good, or bad. Either it would hang on the wall or fuel the furnace.

Together, father and son, they carried the picture up to the master dining room and hung it over the grand mantle, above a roaring fire. In the pristine light from the windows and the glow from the fireplace, the image took on greater life. The people in the painting enlivened the room with their infectious companionship.

It was then that the maker decided to have a feast and invite all his friends to join him to celebrate the picture, feasting with them, in a way, around the grand table, warmed by the fire and in the glow of this wonderful image.

The next day, when he entered the grand room, the picture caught his eye, but not in a good way. Something looked odd, like a cold breeze had settled over the people and darkened the sky. Wondering if this was just a trick of the light, he brought his son to the room without telling him why, or what concerned him. He, too, said something looked distant, detached with the people they had, just the night before, been so familiar with.

Each day that passed, both father and son watched the picture darken and twist. They took it down and returned to the studio, looking at it in different light. But there, something more startling happened.

The woman in the foreground, the one who had the gentle blush, glared out defiantly at her maker. The man's smile had turned to a sneer. The merry crowd gathered around were now engaged in riot and vile activities. Clothes were torn off and the people were bent to degrading tasks, painfully, yet with hungry abandon. The fruit that had been so lush and inviting hung withered, dripping with rot.

As the maker and his son watched, their carefully created subjects joined the mob behind them, engaging in thrusting pain and empty amusements that further marred their images.

Then the son said, "What will you do? What you made good has turned bad."

"Yes. It's fit for nothing but the furnace. But it isn't that way because of how I made it. Somehow it chose to stop being what I intended it to be."

The son could see that, though the picture now reviled its maker in every corner of its canvass, the father had not stopped loving it. In fact, he seemed to love it just as much, knowing how painful this path was and what would have to happen to the world he'd created.