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Posts Tagged ‘mercy’

A friend recently asked me what are my family’s traditions for Christmas.  Besides a formal meal, we also purchase and decorate a Christmas tree, the latter usually to the backdrop of nostalgic Christmas songs and candlelight.  But the most familiar tradition, even an oft-lamented one in our materialism-saturated society, is the exchanging of gifts.  But I am convinced there is nothing inherently wicked with either the getting or the giving of presents.

Gift and give are newer forms of a presumed old, old root, the Proto-Indo-European (PIE) *ghabh- meaning “to give or receive”.  Before it reached English, it appeared in the Old Norse with a definition “gift, good luck”.  For a while it was pronounced yiven, before the guttural ‘g’ resurfaced.  An initial ‘h’ sound is also associated with the root, developing into the somewhat opposite word have.  Isn’t it interesting that giving and receiving are so closely linked that they’re all mixed up with the same family of words?

Present specifically carries the notion of something offered, freely, but before it is received.  It is set in the presence of one, placed “before their face”.

The word receive has a more Latin than Germanic heritage, entering English c. 1300, about 200 years after the Norman French conquest of England, from the Old North French, meaning at that time “seize, take hold of, accept”.  I like the emphasis on the fact that a gift cannot simply be thrust on someone; the action is interactive, with the receiver willingly taking the gift.  In earlier forms, found in Latin, the word meant “regain, take back, recover, take in, or admit”.  There’s a sense of vengeance contrasted with the sense of hospitality.

Hospitality is, in Greek, xenia, especially referring to the “rights of a guest or stranger”.  There is a city in Ohio named for this word.  I think that is a lovely motto of which to be reminded every time one’s city is mentioned.  It is not so much seen in our country as in many other nations, including the Israelite tribe whose generosity to the poor and stranger in the land was mandated by the Mosaic Law (see also this passage).

Hospitality is also a French/Latin borrowing, also since the 1300’s.  It comes from a word meaning “friendliness to guests”.  Compare this to the word host, whose entry at Etymonline.com goes further than the longer form hospitalityHost goes back to the PIE *ghostis- which is supposed to have referred to both the host and the guest, with an original sense of referring to strangers, on whichever side.

In the 1993 movie, “Shadowlands”, based on the life of C.S. Lewis, there is a scene about Christmas in which he is discussing the fate of the season in their mid-century culture:

One [Inkling] laments, “I’m afraid Christmas, as I remember it, is rather a lost cause.”

Jack, as his friends call him, and sounding rather like his voice is echoing out of far-away winter-bound Narnia whispers, “It’s because we’ve lost the magic… You tell people it’s about taking care of the poor and needy, and naturally they don’t even miss it.”

To which his friend, a Roman Catholic priest, responds, “The needy do come into it: ‘no room at the inn,’ remember?  The mother and child?”

I do like to remember that.  I like that older songs remember that.  I like that my friend this year asked for suggestions of how to make our holiday reflect the truth of this verse, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.” She wanted to know how to celebrate being made rich and to imitate Christ’s poverty-bearing, rich-making love.

There is a tradition of being charitable particularly at Christmas.  (This is in the line of other, biblical feast-days, during which kindness to the poor was encouraged in response to God’s blessings of abundance that were being celebrated, especially in the harvest-feasts of Firstfruits and Tabernacles.  It is a way to recognize that it is God’s undeserved blessing that provides enough to survive or feast.  If we, by pleasing Him, do not relinquish His grace, we are to expect His continued blessings.  And He is pleased when we remember the poor and have charity towards them.  We can give like the saints in Philippi, depleting our own storehouses, knowing that the God who is using us to care for the poor will faithfully provide for us as well.)

This responsibility to the poor is communicated by the history of the word generous, which originally meant “of noble birth” (same root as genus, referring to biological descent and classification into kinds or races or families) and only by implications of the duty, of those blessed with more, to share with those who have less did it come to mean “magnanimous”.

Benevolence, “disposition to do good”, is a compound word, from the Latin bene “well” and volantem “to wish”.

Alms is another term for this benevolence.   In Old English it was ælmesse, occurring also in German, and Latin, where it is spelled eleemosyna.  This was, in turn, borrowed from the Greek eleemosyne, referring to “pity, mercy”.  In modern English, though rare, it means a gift, especially of money or food, given out to the needy.

Charity is from the Old French, “charity, mercy, compassion; alms” from Latin, “costliness, esteem, affection”.  Isn’t it instructive, the impulse of expressing love by costly, sacrificial giving?  It can be satisfying, and blessed, to give.

Love is, by own definition, the giving of a treasure.  Treasure comes from the same Greek root as thesaurus, and it means “hoard, storehouse, treasury” – presumably of something worth enough to be collected and kept safe.  Can stores be shared?  What does it say when one is willing to disperse a hoard?

Donation is attested in Latin, donum, “gift”, from the PIE *donum.  The same word is found in Sanskrit: danam “offering, present” and in Old Irish dan, “gift, endowment, talent”.

In my family’s tradition, the focus is more on expressing love to one another than to those less fortunate.  Our gifts are an exchange, late 1300’s, “act of reciprocal giving and receiving”, from the Latin ex- “out” and cambire “barter”.  Cambire is supposed to be of Celtic origin, the PIE *kemb- “to bend”, developing in the sense of altering the current state, then specifically changing something by putting something else in its place.

At Christmas especially, the packages under the tree are almost always wrapped, so as to be a surprise.  Unexpectedly, this word used to mean only “a taking unawares; unexpected attack or capture”.  The roots are sur- “over” and prendre “to take, grasp, seize”.  It might be ironic that though we think of thinly cloaked gifts as surprises, at Christmas they are not always unforeseen or unexpected; who hasn’t made a Christmas wish list?  In fact, it is perhaps a disadvantage of our custom: that gifts come to be expected, or even demanded, by the recipients.

When the word wrap appeared in English around AD 1300, it meant “to wind, cover, conceal, bind up, swaddle”.  I think we do this to increase the ornamental feeling of festivity, not as a symbol of the baby Jesus being similarly wrapped before being placed in a manger.

Swaddle seems to come from a word meaning a slice or strip.

Ribbon, which often adorns our gifts, might have a similar historic meaning, if it is related to band, “a flat strip” and “something that binds”, a rejoining of two divergent threads of Middle English, distinguished at one point by different spellings, band referring to joining together and bande to a strip or even a stripe (where it likely morphed into ribane, a stripe in a material).  The original root of band is, PIE *bendh- “to bind”.

Something else we use to hold things together when we’re wrapping them?  Tape.  My cousin says, “tape, lots of tape.”  This Old English tæppe is a “narrow strip of cloth used for tying or measuring”.  It could be formed from the Latin for “cloth, carpet”, tapete, or it might be related to the Middle Low German tapen, “to pull, pluck, tear”.

(These words are so fun, the way they communicate the action by which the thing got to be – or the state that inspired and enabled an action.  What was life like for the people who named a strip of fabric tape?  Well, maybe they were pulling on cloth {reminiscent of one of my favorite Christmas movies, “Little Women”, where the ladies of the house spend time tearing old sheets into strips to be used as bandages for those soldiers wounded in the American Civil War}.  Why would they do that?  To have something with which to bind things together.  It’s a different world from our manufacturing-driven lifestyles, where tape and ribbon and string are purchased in packages off of shelves.  They’re things made originally for their purposes, not improvised from something else.  It’s like a history lesson in a word!)

The other reason we think of gifts during the holiday season in which we remember God’s entry into our world in human flesh is because His birth was honored by gifts from wise visitors from the East.  These men recognized that Jesus was born to be the King, the long-prophesied King of the everlasting kingdom.  And though this God-King could have turned stones into bread, and summoned armies of angels, He chose to experience poverty.  Though He experienced the lowliness of being born to a poor mother and living as a refugee, a stranger, in Egypt, he was honored by costly gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh when a very young boy.

Such is the nature not only of love, to give sacrificially, but also of worship.  How remiss would any of us be, to overlook the presence of the Highest King?  Not only is His worth expressed by Kings giving Him treasures; it is demonstrated by the “sacrifice of praise” every person can offer:  The Christmas carols sing that the wise men have “come to pay Him homage,” Old French “allegiance or respect for one’s feudal lord”, from Latin homo, “man”.  Or in “What Child Is This?” we are bid to “haste, haste, to bring Him laud”, also Old French, “praise, extol” from Latin laus, “praise, fame, glory”.  A cognate, or brother-word in Old English was leoð, “song, poem, hymn”.  He is worthy of the richest treasures.  We owe Him everything we have, everything that is.  We also owe Him our allegiance, our praise, our songs.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

Many thanks and credit to the resources of www.Etymonline.com and www.Dictionary.Reference.com in compiling these definitions and histories.  Also to www.BlueLetterBible.org for Scriptures.

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For the past couple of years, God has been slowly teaching me about mercy.  I have all these questions.  Some days I have cried out to Him, not knowing enough truth to decide what to trust Him for.  Who are You?  How do You work towards us when we fail?  How long is Your long-suffering?  What do You still accomplish through us when we hold back from You?  

I think that the reason I have struggled so much with these things is that the answers are not the same for every person, every time.

This is something I discovered last week when I pondered Isaiah 59:2.  It is not new with me, to be uneasy about this verse and the way I have learned to use it.  Allow me to quote it:

But your iniquities have separated you from your God, 

and your sins have hidden His face from you, 

so that He will not hear.”  

Growing up, I memorized this verse to use in presenting the gospel.  But, is that a right division of the word of God?

Firstly, the verse is in an Old Testament prophecy to the nation of Israel.  By extension, since it says “your God,” we might apply it to those who claim YHWH as their God, namely Christians.  But it seems rather far-fetched to apply it to all humans, particularly to speak it to those whose very condition is having rejected God as their God.

The prophecy itself is directed not as an eternal promise or principle towards God’s chosen people, but as a message to them at a certain time.  In context, the passage reads: “Behold, the LORD’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; nor His ear heavy, that it cannot hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear. For your hands are defiled with blood, and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken lies, your tongue has muttered perversity. No one calls for justice, nor does any plead for truth. They trust in empty words and speak lies; they conceive evil and bring forth iniquity.”  God is able to save, but in this case, He is not willing.  Israel’s sins did not constrain God; they provoked Him, and this was His response.

God’s use of the terms “separated” and “hidden” and “not hear” apparently do not prevent Him from knowing the situation, from speaking to them, or acting on their behalf (see Isaiah 59:16-21).  This does parallel the situation with the unsaved, for “when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.”  The terms, however, suggest a serious, but less desperate situation.  Israel’s national sins caused a covenant-based relational rift in their help from God.  The individual’s state of sin leaves him an enemy, justly deserving of God’s wrath, and unable to accomplish anything good, doomed – apart from the grace of God – to suffer punishment for his rebellion through ongoing eternal spiritual death in hell.

Though in a sense we may say that our sin-nature and our sinful acts have separated us from God, the Bible’s language of salvation and the gospel does not use that picture, of separation.  The New Testament frequently refers to salvation as as being changed from enemies by Jesus’ death on the cross and by His resurrection to reconciliation with God.  The Bible says that we were dead in our sins, but that God makes us alive, gives us eternal life as spiritually born children of God.  I favor these metaphors to that of “separation”.  In part, they speak much more dramatically to our salvation being useful immediately, and not merely to keeping us out of hell after we die.

In addition, when we are preaching the gospel, we are telling people to “call on the name of the Lord” to be saved.  The good news we are sharing is that because of Jesus’ work, God will hear that prayer.

Returning to God dealing with those who are His, does He always treat their sin with a cold shoulder?  In Ezekiel, God addressed similar sins by saying that when Israel would seek Him, He would answer them (and it would be a fearful thing)!  Hebrews says that God deals with those He loves as sons, chastening them to produce the peaceable fruit of righteousness.  He is a merciful God who, without excusing doubt and disobedience, continues to reveal Himself, to teach, to work through us.  He often pursues us to bring us to full repentance, to have peace and intimacy with us when we are fully yielded to Him.  But He may do good, un-thwarted by our turning aside to our own ways.

But I do not believe that God is obligated to show mercy in this way.  He may refuse to heed our prayers, as David acknowledged:  “If I regard iniquity in my heart, The Lord will not hear.”  So it makes sense to me to ask Him to be merciful, if He will allow us to pray this way.

I praise God for the times that He has elected to have mercy on me, and I continue to cry out to Him, begging Him to be merciful towards me and towards those I love.

To God be all glory, 

Lisa of Longbourn

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I’ve been learning a lot, since June, about spiritual warfare.  God told me to focus on learning about it and practicing it.  The other day I wrote down a list of what I’ve learned to do when I recognize attacks.  I thought it might help you out.  Or you might help me out by adding to it or correcting anywhere I’ve overstepped.

 

Responses To & Wards Against Spiritual Attacks:

 

Prayer

Obviously there are so many kinds of prayer.  First of all, I can simply ask God for what I want or need.  Jesus truly says, “Ask and you shall receive.”  I want to try to live that, to find out the fullness of what it means.  Talking to God keeps me close to Him, keeps my perspective pointed His way.  I pray Scripture sometimes, as God leads (Ephesians 6:10-20 if I can’t think of anything else).  I call out for help from the God who is mighty enough to deliver me from my enemies.  He is a shield, a help, a comfort, a refuge.  And He can guide me to the purposes He has for me – the things His enemy is trying to distract me from.  He can show me how to move past the ambush.

 

Thanks

So many of the spiritual attacks come in the form of doubting God’s word and character.  Thanks remembers who God is and what He has done and what He has promised.  It names them like a claiming for my collection.

 

Praise

Praise takes thanks a step further.  It shouts to the world that my God is good.  I feel like it’s less defensive and more offensive in this spiritual battle, a tactic that has the enemy of God wishing he could avoid bringing the subject up.

 

Rest

God created rest.  It’s just a fact.  He made us to need it.  Rest is related so intimately with waiting and trust.  It is an outward submission to the fact that while I do nothing, He is able to work.  He doesn’t need me; I need Him.  And so I still my body and even sleep sometimes, committing my concerns to my good Father.

 

Enjoying Good Gifts

If one of the lies is that God isn’t good, it gains power when I refuse to take the good that God gives.  He uses these gifts to refresh us and to speak to us of His love.  We have to be receiving from God.  If we are dependent on Him, it doesn’t mean that we just let Him do everything.  It doesn’t mean that we only take from Him the things we perceive as useful for the battle.  We take everything He gives.  In the midst of sorrow, if He gives laughter, we take that too.  We remember that the battle isn’t a punishment; it’s a privilege.  So I don’t act like a child pouting in time-out; I taste chocolate and dance in the yard and I thank God for His wisdom!

 

Encouragement

I’m so glad that God didn’t make us to fight these spiritual battles alone.  I heard a preacher say once that God called the Church to spiritual warfare – more than He called individuals.  I haven’t figured out what that means or if I agree entirely, but I do know that the members of the body of Christ have been given gifts to build each other up for the ministries God has prepared for us.  I love it when my friends tell me they are in this with me, when they remind me of truth, when they admonish me to persevere.  Sometimes I even beg them for it.

 

Prayer Together

This one has been coming up in my thoughts a lot lately, and I feel conviction that I’m not very good at making it happen.  I believe that when we recognize spiritual warfare, we should come together to petition God together for strength, guidance, and victory.  For whatever reason, I think we’re supposed to be doing this in groups and not just alone.

 

People

Sometimes I get to be around people who aren’t aware of the battle in my life, and even that can be a bulwark against spiritual attack.  It is good to be around humans.  We minister to each other.  We are made in the image of God, objects of His love, and instruments of His righteousness.  It is good to be reminded that God is at work in lives, in situations completely unrelated to my battles.  He grows people.  He answers prayers.  He wins.

 

Speaking/Writing/Remembering Truth

When I’m in the midst of the weightiest attacks, sometimes the only things to cling to are prayer and truth.  I can start small, naming the truth I see about me: “That is a window.  Today is Thursday.”  And then I can tell myself, journal, or tell others truths I know about God.  I can remember things He did in the Bible.  I can remember what He did for me yesterday, last month, last year, or when He saved me the day I turned six.  One very important thing to remember is that God freely gave His Son to pay for my sins.  Paul springboards from that truth to asking, “Will He not with Him also freely give us all things?”  It doesn’t make sense for God to give us His most precious possession and then to hold little things back just to be mean!  The final type of truth that I focus on is who I am in Christ: “I am chosen.  I am sealed.  I am empowered.  I am loved.”

 

Fasting and Self-Denial

Mostly my experience with fasting is experimentation.  I ask God whether to fast.  I don’t understand all of how it works or why God made fasting to have power in spiritual warfare, but Jesus said it, so I believe it.  Maybe it has something to do with recognizing my dependence on God for the sustaining of my life.  I think there is something to be said for self-denial, for practicing being led by something other than the impulses of what my body or mind want.  Plus, since the body is pretty good at sending those impulses, I can use them as a reminder to focus on God and to pray.

 

Obedience

The Bible warns me to take heed lest I am also tempted, when I’m pro-actively engaged in the spiritual battle.  So I regularly evaluate whether I’m being obedient.  How have I failed to do what I know God wants me to?  I put on the breastplate of righteousness, believing that pursuing good works God has called me to puts me in the places where He can readily use me to intercede for others.  When I am obedient, I am not so distracted with repenting – and I am not fighting to regain the foothold I had given over to the Devil.  But I also remember that my God is merciful.  When I fall, I cry out to Him and He forgives.  His grace strengthens me for obedience; it isn’t something I do apart from Him and then bring myself before Him well-armored in my own good works and strength.  Unless the Lord guards the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.  I have to let it be Him working in me.

 

Reading and Hearing Truth

I want my mind to be saturated with truth so much that it can’t even hear the lies of the Devil.  I want to be so confident in the truth that deceits are easily identified and turned back.  So I read the Bible, read books about factual things, listen to Christian lectures or good Christian music.

 

Work

Rest is important, but so is staying busy.  The last thing I need is down time when my prayers are exhausted and I’m bored and the temptation comes to chase after my own pleasure.  Work is therapeutic.  It is a taking-back from the chaos, a living out of the dominion God called the first Man and Woman to.  In a way, that’s the same thing happening in spiritual warfare.

 

Calling On Jesus’ Name

This one is potent.  If I feel strongly oppressed, I need to speak Jesus’ name aloud, to claim the authority of the King of Kings to fight this battle for me.  It’s also pretty potent before God.  If I’m confident enough that my prayer is for Jesus’ sake, for the bearing fruit in His kingdom, I present my supplications in Jesus’ name.  And Jesus promised that whatever we ask the Father in His name, we can have confidence that we have from Him.  This is another form of acknowledging the truth of God’s promises.

 

Rebuking Demons

Sometimes I need to take seriously that there are personal creatures scheming against me and that they do not have authority to oppose me, because I am a chosen ambassador of God in the world.  I openly resist the Devil, and trust that the Bible is true when it says “He will flee from you.”  I don’t know how long it lasts, or exactly how this works, but I try it because it is taught in Scripture.

 

Prayer For Others

The spiritual battle does not just affect individuals, so I pray for others potentially involved to be guarded against the schemes, temptations, and opposition of our spiritual enemy.  I pray for them to put on and take up the armor of God, being strengthened with His might.  I pray for them to be vigilant.  I pray that God would hedge their families, their health, their jobs, their travel – and anything else that seems relevant or that God leads me to pray for them.  I pray that they will be in right standing with God, repentant of sins and practicing righteousness.  Intercession is one more thing that I think the spiritual warfare is opposing in the first place, so to go forward doing it seems to me a good idea in resisting the attacks.

 

Attention to God’s Works

Like remembering what God has done in the past, and being around people in whom God is active at present, I can look around me right now and observe the wise and powerful works of God.  These things don’t have to be spiritual, though sometimes they are.  I gain encouragement watching God change the seasons, open up wildflowers, bring a bee buzzing by.  I watch Him move the hearts of “kings.”  This isn’t quite the same as praise or thanks, because it precedes them.  First I slow down and give heed to what God is doing – I set out looking for it.

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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My favorite Bible story these days is about Saul of Tarsus.  He’s the villain of the story. And the hero, though rather a passive one.

 

The Christian Church is just getting started.  People are learning to pray together and preach the gospel boldly and see some miracles happen.  But Saul has been trained to be a Pharisee, and they know the rules, and the gospel of Jesus Christ is not so big on rules.  Plus Jesus claimed to be God, something Saul didn’t approve of.  He knew the chief priests were on his side, so he decided to do something about it.  Executing Stephen for blasphemy had seemed to him to be a huge success; now the Christians were on the run, and with a bit more pressure, the whole blasphemous sect might be a thing of the past.  After acquiring official sanction from the Jewish leaders, he started hunting down the Christians.

 

But I think he knew better.  He’d studied the Scriptures.  He’d probably been around enough to at least hear of – if not personally witness some of Jesus’ miracles.  There was part of him that wanted God to be pleased with him.  He really believed in God.  A testimony like Stephen’s as he was dying doesn’t go without effect.  So he was zealous, and he was pushing forward in something that seemed godly to him, something he thought would be especially pleasing to God, something that, unfortunately for Saul, wasn’t God’s idea.  I suspect that there was some pretty intense spiritual warfare assembled, to discourage Saul from the calling God had yet to communicate to him.

 

And my favorite part is coming up here.  God was merciful to Saul.  Not only merciful; He had big plans for Saul.  Even Saul tracking down God’s elect to imprison them or worse wasn’t enough to keep God from accomplishing the ministry He intended through Saul.  In the Bible we see God doing lots of different things to people displeasing Him.  Sometimes He sends them prophets.  Sometimes He just has the earth open up and swallow them.  Or they die more natural deaths.  He spoke personally to Moses about His displeasure.  A lot of people in rebellion against God just continue on their wicked path, accumulating judgment for themselves.  Here we see that God took some drastic measures to bring Saul to Himself.

 

Saul is on the road between cities.  He has a few companions to help him with the Christian round-up.  But a light stops them in their path.  A loud noise frightens all of them.  Saul is literally blinded by the light, but he hears words.  “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?  It is hard for you to kick against the goads!”  Basically the God of the universe is speaking to him from heaven, and he’s using his name.  That’s pretty special.  Then he asks him a question – one of the gentlest things He could do.  It also implies that maybe if Saul had stopped to think about it before, he could have figured out that he was persecuting the Son of God.  Finally one of my favorite lines, “It is hard for you to kick against the goads.”  From what I can tell, God had been prodding Saul in one direction, and by chasing down Christians, by resisting the gospel of Jesus Christ, he had been resisting that guidance.  But God still nails him on it!  There seems to be so much firm tenderness in that sentence, that I just can’t get over it!

 

And the end of the story is that Saul was convinced.  (I don’t know what it would have taken if being blinded by a heavenly flash and hearing the voice of God out loud didn’t work to wake Saul up!)  A few days later God persuades one of His other vessels, the prophet Ananias, to heal Saul’s blindness and to see that he receives the Holy Spirit.  Thus begins the ministry of the Apostle Paul (his Greek name he soon started to go by).

 

Isn’t that a fantastic story?

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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Christians have hope.  We know that we are loved: created by God, died-for by Jesus Christ.  When we placed our trust in Jesus, our sins were forgiven.  In Christ we are a new creation, freed from guilt and condemnation.  God made our spirits alive so that we could now have fellowship with Him.  Our lives have purposes: to honor God and to walk in the good works He prepared for us.  After this life, we will spend eternity alive again with our Savior, delivered from sin and pain and death.

 

There are those who do not have this hope.  They feel the void from rejecting the love of God.  But God is still offering.  He offers forgiveness, fellowship, purpose, and eternal life.  Then God commissioned us to spread the good news of this offer.

 

People who lack this hope face serious consequences.  Every day they live in rebellion against God, multiplying their sins against Him.  This wickedness has consequences now and forever.  When life is hard, they want to give up.  Many do, and take their own lives.  And as they pass from this life, they enter an eternity of punishment for their sins.

 

Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.” – James 5:19-20

 

Men, why are you doing these things?  We also are men with the same nature as you, and preach to you that you should turn from these useless things to the living God, who made heaven, the earth, the sea, and all things that are in them.” – Acts 14:15

 

It is unloving to do nothing as these people continue in sin and hopelessness.  To endorse or honor their sin is the least loving thing you could do.  It offers them no way out, and demonstrates your own lack of faith in the God whose character and glory are being betrayed.  But love must be our motive in speaking to the unsaved: love for them, and love for God.

 

But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.” – 1 Peter 3:15

 

Let your gentleness be known to all men; the Lord is at hand.” – Philippians 4:5

 

So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.  Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.” – James 1:19-21

 

And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.” – 2 Timothy 2:24-26

 

Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time.  Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.” – Colossians 4:5-6

 

Humility and grace go together.  Humility recognizes that we also would stand guilty before God, but for the merciful sacrifice of Jesus on the cross in our place.  We have received God’s grace, and know that for the lost to receive God’s grace as well is their only hope.

 

But I am writing today primarily to admonish you all to take a stand against the “unfruitful works of darkness” which are the causes for the “wrath of God [coming] on the sons of disobedience.”  We as followers of Jesus Christ need to take a stand in two ways: first, in our own lives, to strive for holiness even as He who called us is holy; second, in our witness to others.  Christians do not need to compromise with the enemies of God in order to offer hope.  There is no hope offered when we tolerate the sins separating men from their God.

 

And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them.  For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret.  But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light.  Therefore He says: ‘Awake, you who sleep, Arise from the dead, And Christ will give you light.’  See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.  Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” – Ephesians 5:11-17

 

Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.  Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience, in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them.” – Colossians 3:5-7

 

But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks.  For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.  Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.  Therefore do not be partakers with them.” – Ephesians 5:3-7

 

Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.  And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” – 1 Corinthians 6:9-11

 

Finally, as you may have guessed by my title, I am addressing a specific situation in which many Christians are being tempted to honor sin or endorse lifestyles of rebellion against God.  The names we have for these lifestyles today are not found in the Bible.  But the Bible is clear in its reproach against what is today called Homosexuality, also “Gay”, “Lesbian,” “Bi-sexual,” and “Trans-gender.”

 

As you can read above, in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, being “effeminate” is a sin against God for which exclusion from the Kingdom of God is just.  (Thank God for His grace, by which even such sins may be forgiven and overcome!)  Also in that list is fornication, which generally covers every sexual sin.  God intended sex for the context of marriage between man and woman.  Everything else rejects God’s design and inserts our pretentious wisdom.  (We should repudiate all sin, along with homosexuality, as shown by the various lists in the Bible.)

 

In the Old Testament political laws for the nation of Israel, homosexuality was a perverse sin punishable by death.  This political law is not in effect today.  The USA has no such law.  However, the Mosaic Law’s condemnation of that behavior represents God’s perfect moral righteousness.  To God, such conduct is an abomination.

 

Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination… For whosoever shall commit any of these abominations, even the souls that commit them shall be cut off from among their people.” – Leviticus 18:22, 29

 

If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.” – Leviticus 20:13

 

Lest you be unconvinced that all forms of homosexuality are still abominations to God and sins against Him, read what Paul wrote to the Romans (in the New Testament, after Jesus had risen from the dead):

 

Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever.  Amen.

“For this reason God gave them up to vile passions.  For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature.  Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.

“And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.” – Romans 1:24-32

 

Over the past decade or so, the world has been told that a person’s “sexual orientation” is something he or she was born with.  I agree that people may be “born that way,” but only in this sense: that all men were born with a sin nature, spiritually dead and enslaved to the Devil.  (See Ephesians 2.)  Romans 1:26 tells us that humans practicing homosexuality have rejected “nature.”  What they are doing is unnatural.  Think, as a Christian, what it means to claim that a person was born with a sexual orientation that is an abomination to God; it means God created them that way!  Would He do such a thing?  He teaches in the Bible that He did not!

 

This passage in Romans also warns that there are material and spiritual consequences, in the present life, for a lifestyle of homosexuality.  Other teachers have exposited the list of consequences in this section of Scripture, and speculated as to the manifest consequences we see today.  You can read God’s list for yourself, and follow up further if you desire.

 

Finally, the last phrase of Romans 1:24-32 rebukes those who “approve of those who practice them.”  Do not be one of those people.  Do not honor those who have so rebelled against God.  Mourn those who died without repenting.  Weep for the destructive toll this sin is taking on our country.  And preach hope to them, the hope that comes from submitting to God, who alone ordains salvation and righteousness.

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

 

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Why would God make a world that He knew would be corrupted by sin?  If God truly created people, as evangelicals are so fond of saying, so that He could be in a love relationship with them, and if that is why He gave them free will, so they could choose Him or reject Him… then why didn’t God destroy mankind immediately after they rejected Him, and start again?  Why not keep flipping the coin until it turns up heads?

Ok.  Love isn’t like that, you say.  God already loved mankind, and so devised a way to rescue them from the consequences of their rebellion.  He planned to demonstrate His love to them.  Unpersuaded by creation, perhaps people would choose to love God because of His merciful sacrifice of His Son.  So.  Why did God let any more people come into the world?  Why, knowing that there would be millions of men and women who still reject His grace and refuse to love Him, would He allow those men and women to exist – or if free will is still a possibility with the sin nature, why not eliminate them immediately after their first devastating choice (thereby preserving the rest of the world from much of the wickedness it has actually suffered)?

People are quite often posing God-impugning questions to Calvinists.  They see our God as a cruel puppeteer, causing suffering for no good reason.  Such a God cannot be loved, for He forces those who love Him to love Him, and those who hate Him to hate Him.  Then He judges the haters by sending them to hell for His choice.  And He judges His Son for God’s choice in causing the redeemed to sin in the first place and need redemption.

Calvinists, because they believe in a God who is above their judgment, rarely pose to Arminians what are equally troublesome questions – questions that, to the created vessel accustomed to think the world was created so that God could shower love on him, also indict their God.  I wish for the Arminians to realize their contradiction not because it defeats them, but because it directs them to a view of God that brings Him worship, and a view of self that creates humility.

Another complaint leveled against the God of the sovereignists (tired of using “Calvinist” so I coined a new word) is the question of whether, when a person gets sick, it is an intentional act of God.  Is God so cruel as to cause pain and death and tragedy just because He likes some of the outcomes, somewhere down the line (it brings people closer to Him, teaches people patience or compassion…)?  But is it not more cruel to imagine a God who has the power to prevent pain, but doesn’t use it?

The God of the Arminian “sovereignly” chose to exalt man’s will above His intervention.  In the beginning, He stood back and let man choose to eat the forbidden fruit.  As a result, there is death and pain and toil, sadness and continued wickedness.  But, we know, because it has been recorded in the Bible, that God still sometimes uses His power to intervene, to prevent or alleviate suffering.  He heals the blind and the lame.  Jesus brought dead children back to life so that their parents would weep no more.  If God can and sometimes does stop the natural, deserved suffering – why not do it all the time?  God lets a child be born with AIDS, knowing only that, being all-powerful, He will work everything for good for those who love Him.  That is a God who has no better motive than that He wants us to experience the consequences of our free will.  He is the God who is still waiting for men to love Him.  He isn’t even continuing to try to buy their love.  He made His final offer: Jesus on a cross.  If God was really trying to persuade us to love Him, wouldn’t He be more successful if He held back more of this pain and death stuff that makes life so hard?

Look.  You may not like my God’s motives for causing suffering.  You may not like that the damnation of millions brings God glory.  That’s a position I can understand.  But stop pretending that some invented God can escape those same accusations or worse.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

PS: I really like the Wikipedia article on Arminianism.  It’s well-written, concise, interesting, and seems fair.

PPS: See also my Tough Questions for Calvinists

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I have always struggled with the word “propitiation.”  In Awana’s elementary-school books was included 1 John 4:10, an excellent verse I don’t regret memorizing.  All of my friends at the time struggled with the pronunciation of the dauntingly long word.  A few years’ practice rendered us able to speak the word, and Awana supplied a definition sufficient for rudimentary comprehension.  I believe their paraphrase was “the payment Christ made for my sins.”  At about the same time, I attended my parents’ Sunday morning Bible study at which the teacher was discussing the concept of propitiation.  He described it as “the mercy-seat of Christ, through which man has access to God.”  To a fifth grader the two definitions were not nearly similar enough to be joined.  I understand the word has to do with redemption, with sacrifice and salvation.  For years that has had to get me by.

The word comes up, you know, a grating little piece of ignorance: a something I cannot understand no matter how hard I try or what sources I reference.  Searching for the Greek word in Strong’s Concordance is not all that helpful, adding nothing to my understanding of the English word.  So I read the verses that say “propitiation,” pretend to understand while wondering why I don’t.

And last week it happened.  I wasn’t even reading very closely.  A page was open, and my eyes lit on the word “propitiate,” the verb form of “propitiation.”  All at once I saw the root word, sitting right there, disguised by the ‘y’ converted to an ‘i’: pity.  A series of clicks could be heard in my brain as the meanings fell into place.  Pity is strongly associated with mercy.  Add the prefix, “pro,” and you have something that advances or makes the way for active mercy, for pity. The substitutionary suffering Christ endured for my sin was what made forgiveness possible before a just God.  Jesus is the living way by which we enter the holy of holies, where the mercy seat used to be in the Temple.

(It just so happens that, when I went to look up the etymology of propitiate and of pity, the dictionarians have not noted a connection, but associate the word “pity” more with “piety,” or duty than with “propitiate.”  Nevertheless, I feel I have much better grasped the meaning of propitiation, and still wonder whether the two words share roots.)

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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