Quote of the Day: February 7th, 2011 February 7, 2011Posted by orualundone in Nature of God, Quote of the Day, Sin.
Tags: Julian of Norwich, meditations, mystic
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My own sin
will not hinder the working
of God’s goodness.
Julian of Norwich
Brief Reflection: White as Snow January 21, 2011Posted by orualundone in Forgiveness, Nature of God, Peace, Sin.
Tags: Isaiah 1:18, like scarlet, New Jersey, snow day
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I haven’t seen bare ground yet this year. Since the big blizzard just after Christmas the ground has been snow covered. Every time it starts to melt, we get another few inches. This would be normal if I lived in Maine or Colorado, but it’s nearly unheard of in New Jersey. We had another 4 inches last night. I’m kind of loving it, although I do wish it would confine itself to times that don’t throw my bike commuting plans into disarray.
The great thing about snow is how clean it makes the world look. It seems so fresh and white and perfect after a new snowfall. Of course it doesn’t stay white for long, especially around here. In less than two days most of it is messed up, slushy, brown or yellow, and entirely disgusting. That’s part of the reason I’ve enjoyed the frequency of the snow fall. It makes everything look clean again before it gets too gross.
But of course, snow doesn’t actually clean anything. It just covers it up so you can’t see it. The dirt and parking lots and sad looking winter grass are still there, they just aren’t visible at the moment. Thankful, that’s not what happens when we get God’s forgiveness for our sins:
“Come now, and let us reason together,”
Says the LORD,
“Though your sins are as scarlet,
They will be as white as snow;
Though they are red like crimson,
They will be like wool.”
The Bible doesn’t say “your sins will be covered over with snow”. Snow just hides things, and only temporarily. Snow melts. No, God tells us he will make our sins as white as the snow. He won’t just hide or ignore our dirty spots. He will make them completely pure and spotless, like the snow fall.
That’s a warming, snow day thought in my book.
Quote of the Day: 1/17/11 January 17, 2011Posted by orualundone in Infinite, Longing, Sin.
Tags: A.W. Tozer, deep calls to deep, the Fall
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The yearning to know what cannot be known, to comprehend the incomprehensible, to touch and taste the unapproachable, arises from the image of God in the nature of man. Deep calleth unto deep, and though polluted and landlocked by the mighty disaster theologians call the Fall, the soul senses its origin and longs to return to its source.
Psalm 103: A Song of Salvation January 17, 2011Posted by orualundone in Compassion, Faith Journey, Grace, Growth, Healing, Heaven, Nature of God, Repentance, Salvation, Sin.
Tags: Bless the Lord, David, Psalm 103, Salvation
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David was a man who knew about God’s grace in an intensely real and personal way. What’s more astounding, is that he lived hundreds of years before Christ and yet possessed an understand of God’s salvation, grace, and redemption in a way that not only transcended the law-based religion of the time but also echoes through ages to speak relevantly to us today, almost 3,000 years later.
We like to think we have it all figured out, that as modern Christians we have a better perspective on Christ, on God, on salvation than previous generations, and certainly better than the primitive Jews of long ago. And yet we often reduce salvation down to a one-dimensional thing, a binary system. Are you in or out? Are you saved or not? Did you ask Jesus into your heart to forgive your sins? If yes, you get a check mark and get to go to heaven. If no, then a big red X and… well, you know.
Pray the prayer, get your free pass and you’re done. Sure, Christian growth is important, but salvation in our current terminology means just that moment when you say the magic words and receive your ticket for the bus to to the better place.
Don’t get me wrong, that moment when we turn to God for the first time and accept him into our hearts and ask him to forgive us is vital. But it’s not the end of salvation. It’s only the first step. This is what David knew that we forget. Salvation is a process. Once we allow God to work in us, we are continually being saved in a way which is never done, never finished or over or stagnant. Look:
Praise the LORD, my soul,
and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s
This psalm, from beginning to end, is a song of praise to God for his salvation, his forgiveness of sins in an all-encompassing way. It is one of the most beautiful and sweeping descriptions of complete forgiveness and grace in all of scripture. And yet, David wanted us to know that God’s forgiveness was only the beginning, not the end, of our salvation. Salvation, in his views, was a process with several steps.
It start with forgiveness, because without that we can’t have access to he who is holy. It always has to start there. But then we move on to healing. Sins leave scars, whether your own sin or someone else’s sin against you. God offers to heal those wounds, and all our other diseases of the heart, be they addictions, or bitternesses, or disappointments.
Then he redeems (or delivers) us from the pit. This is the act of rescuing us from situations that we cannot hope to escape on our own. A pit may be one you’ve dug yourself with your own actions and mistakes, or it may be a situation that has been imposed on you from the outside. It may be a web of lies you’ve spun to hide your mistakes that is now coming unraveled, or a sudden crisis such as a medical emergency or the loss of a job over which you have no control. It can be spiritual, metaphorical, or quite literal. But it is something that we cannot climb out of on our own. We need to be rescued.
Once we are rescued, he “crowns us with love and compassion”. Only when we have been forgiven, healed, and rescued can we truly begin to take on the traits that God himself possesses: love, compassion, forgiveness, and extend them to others. Finally, he satisfies our desires (which are no longer the petty, materialistic desires of a sinful heart but godly desires) with himself, and he makes us new again. He renews us, returns our hearts to a state of youth and innocence, as they were before sin entered the world.
It’s a beautiful progression, and it’s one we will all likely repeat over and over again. This is not Six Steps to a Secure Salvation Experience. This is an endless process for our whole lives until we are finally perfected in him. No matter how mature we are, we will sin again. We will acquire new wounds, fall into new pits. One moment we may think we’re in a state of being totally cleansed and soaring like an eagle, and then something will happen. We’ll slip up. Someone will betray us. And we will tumble back down again, needing more salvation, more healing, more grace. Sometimes we may feel great on some of the counts, no open wounds or blatant sin, but be frustrated and unsatisfied in our desires because we’re not wanting what God wants for us.
This is what I love about God, about salvation. Although it is so simple to come to Christ and accept his salvation, it’s not just one and done. If we allow him to go beyond simple forgiveness, into grace and redemption, salvation becomes a never-ending, constantly unfolding journey that continually takes us deeper and deeper into the heart of God. And we in turn overflow with this kind of saving grace and spill over on others, to become agents of salvation and healing in those around us.
Quote of the Day: December 13th December 13, 2010Posted by orualundone in Purpose, Quote of the Day, Sin.
Tags: Purpose, Rob Bell, Sin, Velvet Elvis
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Your job is the relentless pursuit of who God made you to be. And anything else you do is sin and you need to repent of it.
Purple Loosestrife August 22, 2010Posted by orualundone in Environmentalism, Faith Journey, Sin.
Tags: invasive species, Lythrum salicaria, purple loosestrife
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On my favorite shortcut to Target, I drive past a small open wetland full of cattails and dead trees. It spans both sides of the road and on spring evenings so many peepers call to each other that they can drown out the sound of my radio even with the car windows rolled up. In late summer more than half the plants in the habitat erupt in bloom: spikes of bright purple flowers. “So pretty!” a friend exclaims as we drive past. “I love purple flowers.”
But the beauty is lost on me. My botanical training lets me identify them without even slowing down, as they blur into a lavender haze on the roadside. It is purple loosestrife, a plant native to Asia but utterly and completely foreign to U.S. soil. In its home range it is indeed lovely. It evolved with the ecosystems there and plays its own role in the landscape – neither harmful or destructive. But here it is both.
Without its natural controls and predators, it runs wild in our waterways and wetlands. No animals can eat it. It out-competes the existing plants and eventually completely takes over until it is the only thing that grows. The wildlife leave for lack of food. It chokes the natural waterways and they dry up. Wetlands perish. Soon only a solid stand of the plant on dry(ish) land remains, where once a vibrant wetland ecosystem flourished. It’s flowers may look pretty but it is beyond deadly to the things that rightly grow in the system.
Purple loosestrife, and other invasive plants, invariably make me think of sin. An invasive plant, like a sin, starts with just a few seeds. In plants they may get their chance when a gardener brings a new specimen into the country without thinking about how it might escape, or by hitching a ride in packing material, produce crates, or on the cuff of a hiker’s pants.
With sin, it may be something we allow in intentionally without considering the long-term consequences – just one lie, a little gossip, a quick look. Or it can hitch a ride in on other thoughts or actions, seemingly harmless but opening the door for later sins. Hanging around with people who do wrong, without checking yourself to make sure you are not picking up their attitudes about morality, for example.
Either way, sins and invasive plants take root with the same speed and efficiency. Once established, they reproduce and spread and become nearly impossible to get rid of. As the plants choke the waterway and kill the native plants, the sin begins to take over every area of our lives and it starts to destroy the good things we have.
It begins to fill every aspect, every moment. It takes away from relationships, time with God, happiness, even hobbies and work. Soon all that’s left is the sin; it fills us and our lives become about the sin. Fighting it, hiding it, managing it, indulging it, regretting it. That’s all that remains of a once-vibrant and health life. All from a few seeds, spread carelessly.
Like purple loosestrife, most sin is damaging mainly because it is misplaced. I strongly believe that there is almost nothing that is inherently sinful at it root. Sexual desire is not sinful by nature, and in it’s correct habitat is a beautiful, healthy part of a functioning life. But when it turns to addiction or violence (rape) it can completely destroy oneself and others. Anger is not always bad; but let anger turn to bitterness and it will consume you. Sin is something God created for good that has been twisted into something destructive, harmful, and obsessive.
Finally, the last thing about purple loosestrife and many other invasive plants, is that even if you manage to remove them, the ecosystem will never be quite the same. Some plants literally poison the soil in such a way that it will be years before other things can grow. Purple loosestrife builds up the soil and dries out the land, restricting water flow. Even if it is killed and native plants return, it will not be the same kind of habit it was before. Not quite.
Just like these plants, sin changes us forever. We may be able, through the power of the Holy Spirit, to eventually rid it from our lives but the scars that it leaves will always remain. God may restore us fully, may make us better than before in many ways, but we will never be the same after we have let sin take over our lives so completely. We may be able to rejoice in a new life with God, free from that sin, but we will never be able to go back to that old life before the sin, no matter how much we might want to.
Often, to get rid of an invasive plant, the entire area must be laid to waste completely – uprooted and burned, and then replanted with the right kinds of native plants so that there will be no chance for the invader to gain a foothold again. And sometimes, once sin has gotten too deeply into our lives, God must devastate our lives entirely and start again, planting his seeds in to us to grow a new life so filled with him that there is no room for anything else to take root.