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Archive for August, 2010

I was reading this morning in Craig Groeschel‘s (excellent) book, The Christian Atheist.

This phrase leaped out at me: No believer is so broken that the Master Potter can’t put you back together (p. 221).

I had been talking to my wife just the day before about the long, convoluted process of liberation that I have been through – how we may be released at one point in time from the prison, but that doesn’t mean that all the chains come off right away.

You see, Jesus, as a Physician, is not just there for the occasional office visit or emergency house call. He moves in. Full-time.

Liberation from sin, addiction, brokenness, frailty, and pride is a lifelong process. It’s not some one-and-done – “thanks for the prescription, Doc, now I’m all set for the next six months!” This Physician is in it for the long haul. And sometimes the physical afflictions (which He could heal in an instant, if He so choose) are the very means used to bring healing to the deeper, spiritual afflictions.

It’s easy to look back and question why it has taken so long. I sometimes shake my head in shame and perplexity at the chains that did not drop off immediately, at the time that ticked by while I stumbled around, made little apparent progress, and saw through distorted and darkened lenses.

But the Physician was there all along. And He’s still here, in the house. For the long haul.

(Image credit)

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It’s very easy to marginalize people who are different from you, labeling and dismissing them with an air of arrogant superiority. This is an equal-opportunity danger – open to all races, geographies, and political parties.

So, as a public service, I offer you         7 ways you can look like a really stupid bigot:

1. Assume that people are racist if they disagree with your particular agenda. Be sure to paint them with a broad bush, especially if you have no concrete evidence of their bigotry. And, do remember that only certain designated groups can possibly be guilty of racism. Others, by definition, can only be victims.

2. Assume that people are stupid if they don’t agree with your particular opinions. Especially if they don’t live in your slice of the nation, vote for different candidates than yours, or don’t sound urbane and “nuanced.”

3. Call groups that differ from you by dismissive and insulting names, like “tea-bagger.” It makes you look hip among other smug elitists.

4. Assume that people with religious sentiments are thoughtless boobs. After all, you worked hard to attain your intellectual and moral relativity. So now that you understand that there’s no definite right and wrong, you can feel good about being…right. Ooops.

5. Indulge in ad-hominem attacks, treating individuals who advance agendas different from yours with hateful spite and name-calling, and avoiding actual engagement with intellectual and philosophical arguments. That would be beneath you. Stick with character assassination.

6. Perpetuate divisive stereotypes – all the while accusing those different from you as promoting divisive stereotypes. Those racist, religious, hateful rubes that occupy the country’s “flyover territory”? Well, it’s OK to stereotype them, as long as you get to do the stereotyping…

7. Assume that a failure to learn from the past earns you the exalted title of “progressive.”

All of these (and more!) are excellent ways to look like a stupid, smug bigot. I can respect those who have different convictions and are prepared to engage in vigorous, honest debate. But bigots don’t want light to shine on their convictions. They just want to slap down anyone holding a lamp that shines with a different color…

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Can You Spare Me a Sign?

I was reading with the family this week the ancient story of Gideon, one of the “judges” God raised up to lead Israel out of the oppressive grip of its conquering neighbors.

Long story short, Gideon was a hesitant soul. God told him what He wanted him to do, and promised to provide deliverance, and Gideon kept asking for miraculous signs to confirm that God really meant it.

Instead of frying him to a cinder for his unbelief, God (who had chosen Gideon with full awareness of his weakness) condescended to accommodate his wavering faith, and actually provided multiple confirmations of His power to help embolden Gideon and give him the confidence to go forward.

Then, this morning, the story of Zacharias in the New Testament book of Luke. An old man, he and his wife had been unable to bear children. One day, as a priest serving before God, an angel appeared and told him that they would experience a miraculous conception and birth, and the child would be the forerunner to the Messiah.

Zacharias said to the angel, “How will I know this for certain?” And he was struck with muteness (until the birth of his son John) for his unbelief.

Each story has elements of both awe and amusement. But the takeaway, for me, was two-fold:

– God comes alongside us perfectly aware of all of our weaknesses, and has realistic expectations accordingly.

– God treats people differently for good and wise reasons that we may not be able to fathom.

Why was Gideon able to seek a sign (twice!) with a fleece, hesitating at the threshold of God’s promises, while Zacharias asked a pretty reasonable question about how such a thing could happen for a semi-geriatric couple? Multiple explanations could be advanced, but the comforting truth is: God puts up with our flaws and sins and weaknesses, and works with us right in the midst of them all.

That’s a good thing. I have a long and entangled relationship with doubt and hesitancy. It’s comforting to know that, like Gideon, I might still be used by God to accomplish something despite the messy condition of my soul…

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Preparing…

Prepare the way of the Lord, wrote Isaiah.

God prepared all the circumstances of John the Baptist’s birth and life – he who would prepare Israel for the Messiah.

I go to prepare a place for you, Jesus said to his disciples.

Believers are created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand.

To prepare is to make something ready beforehand. It implies forethought, care, and a level of control over circumstances. It doesn’t imply randomness or sloppiness.

I’m thinking that may be a very good thing. You?

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Consequences

My heart is hurting today. Not for me so much, but for someone else. For the sometimes-large consequences of often seemingly-small actions (or inactions).

Yes, I believe in God’s overarching providence. But sometimes my faith feels wobbly when someone I love hurts. Even if it’s from understood, logical consequences.

It’s easy to hate consequences. To want to avoid them. But they are our teachers. Like so many lemmings, we’d rush off the nearest cliff if we didn’t understand that A leads to B leads to C.

Still hurts.

But, consequences are not all bad. Living a life of blessing God, and blessing others, leads to great blessing as a consequence. Faith-filled obedience brings joy. Laboring, day by day, to build a good name and reputation opens dozens of doors in the future. Being faithful – even in the midst of painful consequences – brings richer results than stubbornly refusing to learn the needed lessons.

I’m not smart enough to know what the right consequences should be, even for myself. God does. Must lay it down right there, and rest…

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Invasive

One feature of our back yard is a 100-foot long, “stranded” gravel driveway that was used when this place was a farm. Now it is not so useful.

It’s one of my last big outside projects; I just haven’t been able to afford to replace it yet with nice, soft grass.

Weeds grow there, invasively poking out through the gravel. Every year, I seek to root them up, chop them down, spray them with unfriendly substances, and otherwise commit weed-icide.

They always come back. Why? Because there is nothing to replace them.

Chatting with my bride this morning (she’s been my bride for over 29 years – sorry if you think that’s sappy, but I’m not complaining…!), we discussed how God’s way of dealing with our sin was not merely to hack and hew it, but to replace it – with Himself.

Christ is, in this sense, quite invasive. As my wife is trying to push back weeds in one of our gardens by crowding them out with more desirable plants, so God “crowds out” our sin by giving us Himself.

For too long, I’ve simply looked down in fearful determination at the weeds. I really need to spend more time looking up at my Gardener and giving Him more room to plant the good stuff. To be more invasive than the weeds. After all, who is more powerful??

Hack, yes. But, O Lord, sow and water and prune as well…

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Connect with Steve Woodruff

Twitter: @swoodruff

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Connect with Steve Woodruff

Twitter: @swoodruff

Subscribe to Steve’s Leaves via RSS or e-mail

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