The Essence of Sin - Stott

For the essence of sin is man substituting himself for God, while the essence of salvation is God substituting himself for man. Man asserts himself against God and puts himself where only God deserves to be; God sacrifices himself for man and puts himself where only man deserves to be. Man claims prerogatives that belong to God alone; God accepts penalties that belong to man alone. John Stott - The Cross of Christ


Pax or Shalom?

As we meet with couples and others, most of them are initially looking for détente. You remember the Cold War? "We won't fire our missiles at you, you don't fire yours at us!" I have to admit sometimes that is what I am looking for too. It seems good enough.

How do you define peace?

The word, as commonly used in English, comes from the Latin "pax." Pax to the Romans meant a cessation of hostilities between the conqueror and the vanquished. Think of Pax Romana from your High School history class. The Romans veni, vidi, vicied and so they dictated the terms of peace. Until the Vandals came south. You see pax is always temporary because it changes with who is in the position of strength.

After World War I we dictated the terms of the peace with Germany. It did not prevent World War II.

On the other hand, the ancient Hebrew concept of peace, rooted in the word "shalom
," meant wholeness, completeness, soundness, health, safety and prosperity, carrying with it the implication of permanence.

Rabbi Robert I. Kahn compares "Roman" peace/pax and "Hebrew" shalom:

One person can dictate a peace; shalom is a mutual agreement.

Peace is a temporary pact; shalom is a permanent covenant.

Peace can be negative, the absence of commotion. Shalom is positive, the presence of serenity and wholeness

Peace can be partial; shalom is whole and complete.

What kind of peace are you looking for this season? What kind of peace are they looking for? Pax or Shalom?
Don’t settle for less. Not w/in-laws or out-laws. Not w/neighbors. Shalom or bust.

So where do we see shalom, how do we get it?

Isaiah 9

5 Every warrior’s boot used in battle and every garment rolled in blood will be destined for burning, will be fuel for the fire.
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end.

Dramatic change here.
Bloody garments and boots will be burned. Of all things the answer is a child. A son. The government will be on his shoulders, counselor, everlasting, mighty. Prince of peace (shalom) Jesus is shalom. For them and us. Everything else is détente at best. Everything.

Why is His peace different?
Remember the bloody garment and the warrior boot? Listen to Isaiah 53, maybe with new hearing:

"Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him
, and by his wounds we are healed."

There can be no shalom without war. There can be pax without war. But shalom, as I said, comes as a mutual agreement; a permanent covenant. The punishment that brought peace was laid on him. The full war, all guns blazing, all bombs dropped, all IEDs detonating, all nuclear missiles and spiritual weapons of mass destruction pummeling him. The wrath of God on the Son.

Shalom came on that day. That war brought us peace. It was a mutual agreement. He went as a prisoner. Surrendered, Stripped. He was the scapegoat. Yet innocent. That brought peace.

That is what we have been freely given. Shalom: wholeness, completeness, soundness, health, safety and prosperity, the tranquil state of our soul assured of salvation through Christ. That enables us to fear nothing from God and to be content with our earthly lot, whatever it is.

That is what they need.

This season: Pax or shalom?


Fenelon for you

“Tell God all that is in your heart, as one unloads one's heart, it's pleasures, and it's pains, to a dear friend. Tell him your troubles, that he may comfort you; tell him your joys, that he may sober them; tell him your longings, that he may purify them; talk to him of your temptations, that he may shield you from them; show him the wounds of your heart, that he may heal them; lay bare your indifference to good, your depraved tastes for evil, your instability. Tell him how self-love makes you unjust to others, how vanity tempts you to be insincere, how pride disguises you to yourself and others. If you thus pour out your weaknesses, needs, troubles, there will be no lack of what to say. You will never exhaust the subject. People who have no secrets from each other never want for subject of conversation. They do not weigh their words, for there is nothing to be held back, neither do they seek for something to say. They talk out of the abundance of their heart, without consideration they say just what they think. Blessed are they who attain to such familiar, unreserved intercourse with God.”


He is God

Every once in a while the thought comes back to my mind. It recently happened when I was reading Hebrews.

The whole book of Hebrews is worth your time and attention. The great theologian John Owen wrote a seven volume commentary on it because he found so much in it that pointed to the supremacy in Christ. It starts like this:

“In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways,
but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.” (Hebrews 1:1-3)

You could meditate on those verses for weeks.

The author is saying that Jesus is God.
That is the thought that keeps coming back to my mind and heart. He is not just another Moses or some mysterious priest like Melchizidek. He is not a super angel. He is not the best prophet who ever lived. He is God. He is heir of all things and the universe was made through Him. He sustains all things. He is robed in splendor. Wow. I am glad that thought comes to my mind every once in a while. It is good news. Because He is God, He is all powerful and His will is going to be done.

The thought that follows that thought is this: He disrobed. He set aside Himself to become sin for us. He went to a cross almost naked and endured the wrath of God the Father for us. He did it for His glory and so that we could have a robe. The robe of Christ’s righteousness. Amazing. Simple. Costly. Complex. He is God and He came for us. As we enter the Advent season can we encourage you to reflect on that? Maybe some of you wonder if it is true. Can we encourage you to explore during this season?

We believe he came for you. Even better, He is coming back for you. The king will return and He will not be naked. He will be robed in majesty, surrounded by glory and full of love for His people. Join us this season as we celebrate the once and future king.


Could be Dangerous

I had noted this rough patch on my nose for a week or two. I could feel it was different and, when I wrinkled my nose, I felt a general tightness on the top of it. Kind of like sunburn, but it did not go away. I also had a spot on my forehead that had been growing a bit darker and seemed to itch a bit more than it had. So off to the dermatologist I went. Here was my thinking: Could be nothing or it could be something. Better to have a professional tell me because I do not have the education to make the determination.

The one on the nose was something. The dermatologist compared it to a picture on her wall. She dealt with it right then. There was a bit of a sting as she froze it, leaving a red mark, but I am told a scab will form and it will fall off in a week or so. We caught it before it went to the second picture on the wall in her office. You don’t want to know what the fourth and final picture looked like, yuck! While I was there, she said, “Let me take a look around,” and she did. Here a spot and there a spot. Some to be concerned with and others no problem. I will be going back again for a bit more work.

As I left the office I was reminded that my sin is like that. All of it is a blemish no doubt. Some of it is growing into something darker and more sinister. It could be dangerous. I will never rid my soul fully of all the inclinations I have to besmirch the work of Christ, but I would be wiser if I noted, by feeling, the things that are giving my soul a tightness. How? I do not have all the education I need to tell the difference, so I am wiser if I go to those around me who can shine the spotlight on me and say, “Yes, that one needs to be dealt with; it might sting for awhile, but it needs to be dealt with!”

I don’t know who that would be for you. It may be a discipleship leader or an accountability partner. It could be a pastor or a friend. Don’t get me wrong. All sin is bad. Some is just worse and can move your life into looking like picture four. Believe me, you don’t want that. So, reach out and let yourself be examined by the One who loves you and can see what you need. It may sting a bit and it might leave a red mark but the balm of Gilead will soothe your heart and bring comfort to your soul.

Worship Well.

I want to be God!!!

“The best way to conceive of the fundamental project of human reality is to say that man is the being whose project is to be God" - Jean Paul Sartre

I want to be God. If you knew me, you might say, “Well there are moments when you act like it!” This is true. But more than you know or can see, I deeply want to be God. You see, I have become a bit like Him. I have
some of what He has, and I want more. I want more power, more knowledge, and more presence. I want what He has, and I am willing to do a lot of devious things to get it. I want to become God. Men want to become God. I know that is not the nice Christian thing to say or to think, but I think it is true. So what do I do with that? Do I join an accountability group and ask the guys to ask me question #6 each week; “Did you want to be God this week?” The answer is yes. The answer was yes last week, and it will be yes next week. I want to be God. What do I do with that? I am stuck, but I must press on.

God became man. I want to become God, and God became man. God said in effect, “You want to be God? I’ll become man. I’ll become sin. I will not consider equality with God the Father a thing to be grasped.” God became man. So what do I do with that?

Man wants to be God. God became man. Here is the kicker: Christ enables men to become like Him. Are we back where we started? No, we are on a whole new road. Sartre was right; our project is to be God. It started in the garden. We became like God then, in the sense that we knew good and evil. But, He did not let us taste of the tree of life. Since that day, every man and woman has wanted to get to that tree to gain eternal life. Every human who ever lived wanted to be God, through earthly power, a lasting legacy or even by discovering the fountain of youth.

But, something happened that day. Death entered the world. He said we would die, and we did. We would all die physically and spiritually. Those who are not in Christ are dead in their sin and trespasses. What about those who are in Christ? We who are in Christ carry death with us. Part of us, our sin nature, is separated from God, and what is separated from God is dead. That part of us, wants to be God. That is the part of us that wants to overthrow the king. Until we breathe our last breath, it will keep trying to usurp power, all to no avail and much pain. But, Christ has given us a new nature - Christ in us, the hope of glory. Our new nature wants to become like God too, but not in the same way. It wants to become like Christ. By the power of the Spirit, our new nature wants to be like Him.

Now that could be a good question to be asked each week; “Are you beholding Him and are you becoming like Him?” He wants that. He wants more of Him. He wants to make us into little Christs. That is the fundamental project of the blessed triune God, to make much of Himself.

One day we will see him face to face. We will be glorified. I can’t describe what that means or what it is. Somehow we will be able to stand in the presence of inestimable beauty and rejoice. We will be like Him. In the mean time, we can look to Him, ask Him to change us and pray that He shrinks that part within us that wants to usurp the crown.

Football? Forget Alabama!

We are in the middle of it all now aren’t we? It is college football season. Your team may be at the top or bottom of the rankings. Maybe they have a shot at going undefeated or perhaps you hope they win one game. Wherever they are, my guess is you still watch a game, go to a game or at least read about it in the paper each week. We love our football in Georgia.

I can understand why people go to watch a winning team. It makes sense that a stadium will fill up to watch a truly great football team. What I would like to discuss is why people go to watch a loser team. Why do people go to watch, or even follow, a team that has a 2-5 record? Why not change teams? Why not shift allegiances? That way you can always be on the winning team and you can always celebrate! One year pick Alabama, the next Georgia and maybe, if they are outstanding, take a year and cheer for Georgia Tech. Even better, you could change allegiance every game, perhaps waiting until the 4th quarter to decide who to root for.

Now I know you Georgia fans think I just committed heresy. Why?
Because there is something inside of us that is loyal. I have friends who liked TCU when they went 1-11. They are loyal to their school. Why? It is because part of them has been knit into the fabric of what they have come from. Their DNA was changed by what they experienced and to be disloyal would be to disavow themselves.

Christianity may be on the downswing in America. Polls indicate that there are fewer people going to church than there were twenty years ago. Eventually Muslims could be the majority religion. Even now, some would say “No Religion” is the majority in the country. So what are we to do? Is our team going 1 and 9?

Perhaps our religion will end up on the losing side of a lot of social issues and we will have some of our religious freedoms restricted. If so, what will you do?

The believer in Christ is called to persevere and bless; to know that he may live a persecuted life. It is part of our DNA because Jesus was persecuted. So we should surmise that we may be in the minority. That is a tough reality pill to swallow but it is the truth of the gospel. People may look at us as losers.

So what are we to do? Well, what we can’t do is change sides. You see we believe that once the gospel of Jesus Christ has gripped your heart, it is irreversible. His grace can not be resisted and He keeps those He loves forever. Those who are in Christ paradoxically have joy in that.

So win or lose in the short run, we are His and He is ours. We cheer for Him. We celebrate Him, even if things look dark. We rest in His finished work and we look for Him to come again to consummate all things. It may be in overtime, but He will come and His victory will be celebrated. Until the final whistle blows, we bless the world, for His name sake.

Worship Well


I Love the Way You Lie

It is the latest smash hit music video (no pun intended). “I Love the Way You Lie” by Eminem and Rihanna features Megan Fox and Dominic Monaghan as a couple who have a tempestuous relationship to say the least. Eminem raps about his inner struggle to control his rage and abusive tendencies. Rihanna sings the chorus:

“Just gonna stand there and watch me burn. But that's alright, because I like the way it hurts. Just gonna stand there and hear me cry. But that's alright because I love the way you lie. I love the way you lie...”

The scenes with Monaghan and Fox are alternating ones of sex and violence. It’s definitely not a family friendly video. So why do we bring it to your attention? Aside from the fact that we want you to be culturally aware (the video has more than 30 million views on You Tube), we want to state:

  1. Violence against a woman is never right. Never. Even if she says she likes the way it hurts. She doesn’t.
  2. Men who have anger issues need to get help. They can rationalize with themselves all they want, but the cycle will repeat itself.
Now that we have stated the obvious, can we share from the heart? People struggle. All people struggle with something. For some of us, our struggle manifests itself as rage against God. For others, it manifests itself as withdrawal from Him. Some of us do both; alternating between rage and withdrawal.

In some cases, we strangely learn to live and even love being in a bad place. It becomes like a home and because we can see no way out, we adapt to the new, sick reality.

We want to encourage you today to choose another alternative. Take your struggles to Him. He won’t hit you. He won’t stand there and watch you burn. He will begin to heal you by the power of His love. There is no other way to get real healing. If you need help to do that, we are here for you. He is the Good Shepherd and He is ready to minister to you. If you have a friend, point him or her to the One who can stop the madness. He will hear the cry. We love the way He heals.


Facebook and Jesus Christ Superstar

Flashback. Almost 40 years ago, Andrew Lloyd Weber wrote the musical Jesus Christ Superstar. The title song is sung by Judas as he questions who Jesus is. Judas sings, Every time I look at you I don't understand. Why you let the things you did get so out of hand. You'd have managed better if you'd had it planned. Now why'd you choose such a backward time and such a strange land? If you'd come today you could have reached the whole nation. Israel in 4 BC had no mass communication.....”

Now He has Facebook.

Phenomenon would be an understatement. Facebook may be here to stay. It has over 500 million subscribers and it is rapidly pushing to 1 billion. Imagine. 1/6th of the people on the planet using one social networking tool. If you do not count the impoverished in third world countries who have no access to a computer, it may account for more than half of the population on the planet. The world can communicate as one.

So what do you think? Does it make a difference that the Son of God came 2000 years ago? Could he have waited for Facebook? Would that have been a quicker way to spread the news? Apparently not.

Marshall McLuhan once said that the the medium is the message. McLuhan’s work is complicated to fully explain in a short piece but he was saying that content does not matter as much as the vehicle through which the content is delivered. I am not going to make an argument here about why Facebook itself is more culture shaping then a Facebook post by a 16 year old boy but I will say that the medium itself is what shapes society over time. Facebook is shaping society.

That is pretty esoteric. More thinking maybe needed by all of us. However, in the simplest of terms I can say that (1) Jesus’ birth fulfilled the prophecies so He came at the time appointed by God. (2) Jesus is the center of all things (3) He is more important and shapes the world more than content and (4) God has called His people to deliver His message.

Can Facebook be helpful to deliver the message? In large part; probably not. Facebook
as a medium won’t help spread the love of Jesus. The love of Jesus is spread by the love of people who are in Christ. Those people may use Facebook to that end, as long as they remember that Facebook as a medium has a message and it is not the message of Christ.

Yes, you can post your thoughts and responses to me on Facebook.



"Indeed, when I am in really great trouble, as any one who knows me intimately will tell you, I refuse everything except food and drink." Oscar Wilde ‘The importance of Being Earnest’

We are all addicted to something; and when we are hurting we run to it. Each of us have a bottle hidden somewhere in the cupboard of our life that no one knows about except us, or so we think. Oscar Wilde has his, I have mine and you have yours. Now here is the thing: You don’t have to tell anybody. When you’re in trouble you can just run to food or drink or sex or anything else that gives you comfort and helps you feel in control and you do not have to tell a soul. I can say with relative certainty that you will feel better for a while. After all, you can’t control all things in life so you might as well control your intake of a controlled substance.

Now that I aired that out, does it smell like freedom? Here would be the motto: “Do what you please to dull pain and promote pleasure!”

So where do we go from here? How about the Internet? Maybe to Dairy Queen for a large dipped cone? Perhaps the bottle of Glenfiddich? Nope. Sadly, and really gladly, we have to deal with Wilde’s entire quote. Lets start with why we are in trouble and then we can talk about what it means to run to something. Maybe along the way we will stop and chat about who intimately knows us.

Trouble is our middle name. Some of it is self inflicted. Even Jesus said that in this life we would have trouble and He knew what trouble was all about. No one escapes without some problems; strife, pain or anguish and most of us get a lot more than we want. So it would be good for us to learn to expect it and to learn how to deal with it. I often find that trouble comes when I least expect it. In fact that may be lesson number one: expect trouble. For some reason, I let it blindside me and so I often have a delayed response to try and cope with it. I wish I would remember what my driving instructor said when I was 16: “Just remember that every one else on the road is an idiot. They will cut into your lane, brake too quickly and generally try to run over you so drive defensively!” Good lesson. Trouble will come our way. So, perhaps we can now write our thesis as follows, “We will have trouble most every day!” Simple enough and I hope you won’t disagree with it. If so, you can stop reading and enjoy the rest of your trouble free day.

Now if you are still with me, lets talk about running to stuff when trouble comes. I think Wilde overstates the ability of food and drink and understates the complexity of trouble. No doubt, food and drink are great comforters. That is why whiskey and chocolate companies do well in times of recession as well as in times of excess. Food and drink are easy to come by and socially acceptable. But, for the most part people do not know we are in trouble when we drink or eat to excess. Most of us use food and drink as a quick but temporary fix for dealing with our trouble but they really are grammar school comforters. They can only satiate the body in a selected, time limited way. They may temporarily numb the soul, but they cannot sooth it so we must turn to harder drugs to accomplish what we need.

In general terms we run to “not God” to get shelter. By “not God” I mean anything that is not Him. That sounds so simple and tragic but it is amazingly deceptive. We run to success, hoarding, sex, or physical escape in order to alleviate the pain of trouble. We run to what we please. But it turns out it does not please us; motto aside.

The one thing we do not want to do is face it head on. I know a few people who say they like conflict. Most of them a boxers. No one likes conflict. No one wants to go head on and deal with hard issues. All of us would rather take the easy way because the hard way is painful. So, we medicate and avoid. That is not a healthy thing. Over time we get spiritually fat and our soul's arteries harden. Our spiritual and emotional muscles atrophy and we begin to doubt the future possibility of walking again, let along running. Try as we might, avoidance does not work and running to anything other than the problem or a solution only serves to make matters worse. What to do?

Well I suggest taking a bite of a cupcake, having a glass of wine or doing whatever you think will do the trick and then ask your self truthfully, “Is it working?” You know the answer and so do I so we might as well get on with the hard but healthy work of self-examination, of reconciliation and even of repentance.

To do that we will need to engage with someone who knows us intimately. He will tell us. We may need a lot of ground to be uncovered but it is the wise thing to do. Pain now or pain later, but pain will come and from it health can happen if we look to the One who knows us best and cares for us most. The Holy Spirit will enable us to choose health and life and peace. He will help us choose "not other". Then we can be free and forgive. He is the one who knows us intimately and further, He is the one who has seen trouble and dealt with it on our behalf. He calls us to come to Him and He will give us what we need.