Subscribe in a reader or enter your address to get posts via email: 
Like this blog on Facebook!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


'Christchurch Earthquake February 22nd 2011 Buildings of Note' photo (c) 2011, Lee Hanner - license:
"You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire."

"You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart."

-Matthew 5:21-22, 27-28 ESV

But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.
-Romans 10:8-10 ESV
This week we've been hearing a lot about the earthquake which occurred in Virginia. There wasn't a lot of damage (the picture accompanying this post is from a different quake last February), but there was a little bit... things falling off shelves in homes. A plumbing rupture at the Pentagon. Some pieces falling off the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. Walls and foundations cracking. Nuclear power plants shut down as precautionary measures. The earthquake was of historic strength, yet we were lucky enough that it really did very little damage. But one place that it did do some damage was a little town in Virginia with the unlikely name of Mineral, population 450. Mineral got a pretty good shaking, and they've got some pretty respectable rebuilding to do.

The reason that Mineral, VA got shaken worse than Washington, D.C. is that Mineral is geographically quite close to a place called the epicenter. Earthquakes occur because layers of rock, usually deep underground, suddenly slip past one another. Places near the epicenter feel rumbling and movement, but the actual earthquake didn't occur in Washington D.C., or Richmond VA, or even in tiny little Mineral. All those places and many more could feel the effects of the earthquake, but the earthquake itself, you could argue, actually occurred underground, and nobody really knows exactly where.

Jesus told us, in the "Sermon on the Mount", that the sin of murder actually starts with anger, and that sexual sin actually starts long before the sex act occurs. In fact, Jesus said that the sin of adultery occurs, not when the man looks at the woman with lustful intent, but before he even looks at her. When he looks at her, he has "already committed adultery with her in his heart" (emphasis mine). The sin occurs in the heart, deep inside. The actions that we see are the result of the sin which has already occurred.

Romans says that we will be saved as a result of confessing the Lordship of Jesus with our mouths, but we have been justified long before that... when we believe in our hearts that Jesus rose from the dead. Salvation occurs later on, when we say something out loud that people can hear and see us say, but justification, being made effectively sin-free (or, more precisely, free of the guilt of our sin) before God, occurs because of something that happens deep down, where nobody can see it but God. Once again, the actions occur because the event has already occurred inside the heart.

At the epicenter.

When the dishes fell off a shelf and broke in someone's house in Mineral, VA, it wasn't because the earthquake happened in that house; it was because an earthquake had occurred somewhere else, at the quake's epicenter, and that house was feeling the effects of the earthquake. When your life naturally begins to reflect the grace of God, when you start to do things God's way automatically without having to drum anything up, it's because something has occurred in your personal epicenter, in your heart. When the Word of God begins to transform you from the inside out, the world around you begins to see the effects!

Monday, August 1, 2011

(Un) Leashed

'Small tense dog on leash' photo (c) 2009, Derrick Coetzee - license: we recently moved into our new third-floor apartment, we somehow misplaced our dog leash. When you live in an apartment with a dog, a leash is not optional... doggie's gotta take a walk! ...So my wife went to the store and bought a leash. It's about five feet long, and the poor dog kept getting halfway down the stairs before I even got a step or two down, and then I had to run to keep up with him on the way to the doggie potty area. This was not optimal, so I went to the store to look for another leash.

The one I bought is fifteen feet long and retractable. It has a button on it so I can freeze it at any length I want (it's saved the dog from several run-ins with other dogs and one potentially fatal double-team cat attack!) and it allows him to run around a little more without me having to run too... this is VERY important in the 100°+ temperatures we've been having this summer! I'm sweating just thinking about it!

The funniest thing happens when we get out on the grass. My dog has 15 feet in any direction that he can go without me even moving. That's a thirty-foot radius he can run around in, sniff around in, and do you-know-what in. But it seems like no matter where I stop walking, my dog wants to go somewhere outside of that circle! He seems pretty much ready to strangle himself into unconsciousness if that's what it takes to get where he wants to "go" (which, no matter where he is, is somewhere else). Usually I give up and walk around with him, but I wish he would just operate within the freedom that I give him. I'm not trying to restrict him; in fact, I bought him a longer leash so he would have more freedom. If I let him go where he wanted to go, he would get run over by a car or banged up by a terrified cat.

People often ask questions about what behavior the Bible says is acceptable. Is it okay for me to drink a beer? Is this outfit too revealing? How far can I go with my girlfriend in romantic moments? Honestly, the Bible doesn't always have precise answers for those specific questions, but the Word of God does contain guidelines for a lot of situations. The Old Testament in particular contains some pretty restrictive rules; God gave Israel a short leash. When Jesus came, He made it clear that He had written those rules on our hearts... we don't necessarily have to think about right and wrong, because we know right from wrong by the voice of the Holy Spirit inside of us. We have a longer leash. And in reality, it's no leash at all... if we choose to move out of the circle of the Grace of God and into the darkness of sin, we are able to do that at any time. But if we stay within the boundaries of what the Word of God and the voice of the Holy Spirit tells us, without "going" out where we have no "business" being - doggie puns intended - if we stay within God's Grace, we also stay within His protection.

Years ago when I was a teenager, my youth pastor used to tell this short story. "'Mama! Mama! Why do I keep falling out of bed?' the baby monkey asked. 'Honey, it's because you stay too close to where you got in!'" Don't flirt with sin. That's the old you, the you that existed before you met Jesus. The edges of what is right are not a place to explore. There's plenty of freedom in Christ; there's too much at stake to push boundaries when God has already placed everything you need within reach!