Monday, December 9, 2013

Wrestling with Grace and Judgment

From Pastor Charity

Psalm 145:20 The Lord watches over all who love him, but all the wicked he will destroy.

These words make us uncomfortable. In a day when Christian culture is trying to shed its judgmental reputation it is difficult to embrace scriptures like this from the Psalms that call for the destruction of the wicked.

Doesn't God want to redeem the wicked? 

The short answer to that question is "Absolutely!" The scriptures tell us that God does not desire for anyone to perish. They also say that God is compassionate and loving toward all he has made. God proclaims himself to Moses as one who forgives sins and maintains his love to the multitudes. 

With all that love and forgiveness and compassion, how could judgment and destruction enter into the equation?

The ideal, of course, would be that everyone responds to this love and grace and mercy with gratitude and a change in the way they interact with God and others (repentance). The reality is much more complex. Not everyone wants God's love. Some are happy to reject his grace and the offer of peace with God and healing from the wounds that come with the mistakes of the past. Others are delighting in reeking destruction in the lives of others. 

Does God still love them?


But he hates the pain that they cause others. 

When we talk about grace and mercy for those who do wrong, there is a whole group of people we leave out of the discussion. Those hurt by the sin of others. God loves them, too.

God's justice is good news for those who have been victimized by others reveling in evil. Hitler was God's creation, and God loved him, and God hated the evil that Hitler rejoiced in perpetrating. For the victims of that evil, the justice of God is good news. For others closer to home and our present reality--those who abuse their power to produce violence and death, rape and murder--God's justice is good news to their victims.

So, are you advocating unforgiveness and a revenge mentality?


God's justice allows us to let go of revenge and trust him to bring about what we could not. No matter what a victim does, the perpetrator never feels remorse. You can't make a murderer feel bad by pointing a gun at them. You can't change the mind of an evil doer by doing evil to them. You might wipe them out, but nothing changes. You are still hurting and they still have not paid for their sin.

I have heard forgiveness compared to cancelling a debt. For small things in our everyday lives this works like a charm. For larger debts that we cannot cancel, God gives us another avenue of release: transferring the debt to his care. We don't have to own the debt and seek repayment, instead we can give it to God and trust that he can bring justice to an impossible situation. He can carry the debt of childhood abuse, of violent assault, of any evil we have experienced that leaves a scar on our souls.

In this way, God's judgment and justice are good news to us as well.

But what if the perpetrator repents? Don't they get off scot-free?

Yes and no.

In order for repentance to occur, a person must agree with God about their sin. That is what confession actually means. It isn't some mundane recitation of actions, it is agreeing with God about the gravity and consequences of sin. For small things, we usually get a little taste of regret. Can you imagine the pain felt at the actual realization of all the consequences and destruction caused by practicing evil? This is really what most victims deeply desire: for the perpetrator to feel what they felt when they were victimized. 

In that scenario, they would receive forgiveness and grace, but the experience would be far from pleasant.

That former evil-doer would never look back on their actions as a joke. They would never laugh at their victim's pain. They would never relish the memories of harming another. 

Because true repentance brings about transformation. 

And that is true for both big and little offenses. Most of us will not murder or rape or abuse others. But we have our own transgressions. Some of those habits cause us distress. Some we joke about. Either way, to be rid of them, we must begin to agree with God about their seriousness. What we do does not only impact our lives. We must begin to agree with God about the impact on others. 

If we are not able to do that on our own, we can ask God to convict our hearts of sin. (He usually answers those prayers rather effectively, so pray only when you are earnest.) With a realization of the sorrow and pain caused by our actions, the tiny blip of pleasure we receive is obliterated. 

Judgment does not cancel grace, it gives it meaning. It would be cheap grace indeed that saved us from nothing, healed us from nothing, and denied the impact of our actions on those around us. Judgment walking hand in hand with grace is a result of God's love for all of his creation.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Monday, February 13, 2012

Weekly Schedule

Our Regular Schedule

Monday- 7pm Men's Group at the Church

Tuesday- 6:30pm Women's Group at the Church (except second Tuesday)
Second Tuesday night of the Month is Elder's Meeting at 7:00
Third Tuesday morning of the Month is Coffee at Amanda's for fellowship at 9:30
Fourth Tuesday morning of the Month is Friends Women Fellowship, missionary society at 9:00

Sunday- 9:30am Sunday School for all ages
10:30am Fellowship Time with Refreshments
10:45am Morning Worship
3:00pm Iglesia Evangelica Amigos

Where we've been, Where we're headed

What a great Advent and Christmas Season!

The month of January was spent learning how we can connect with, pray for, support and go visit our missionaries!

Starting in February, we are trucking through the Gospel of Mark. It's going to be a quick trip, hitting all the good stuff by Easter. Come join us at 10:45am Sundays for Worship, or come early for Fellowship & Coffee at 10:30 or make a morning of it with Sunday School at 9:30!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Advent Reflections

Sunday November 27th was the first day of Advent, a time of reflection and preparation to celebrate the coming of Christ.
The four Sundays in Advent we will look at different aspects of Incarnation.  I hope these meditations enrich your heart and draw you closer to the One.

Advent 1- Incarnation: God in the flesh
When God delivered the nation of Israel from slavery in Egypt, he entered into a covenant with them at Mount Sinai.  As a part of this covenant, he promised "I will put my dwelling place among you, and I will not reject you, but will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people."(Leviticus 26:11-12)
God did this with his pillar of fire and cloud that led his people through the wilderness.  He did this with the ark of the covenant in the tabernacle and later in the temple.  These things were representations of his unseen presence among them.  But God did not stop there.  

He fulfilled the second part of his promise to walk among his people by coming in the flesh.  John 1:14 says "The Word became flesh and lived for a while among us."

God coming in the flesh gives us confidence that he understands what it is like to stand in our place.  We all hunger for a diving perspective, but God Most High chose to humble himself to see from a human perspective.
The writer of Hebrews says it this way, "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are--yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God's throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." (Hebrews 14:15-16)

We can approach God with confidence, knowing that he understands what we go through: our weakness, pain, struggle, the betrayal of friends, the pressure of work, every emotion and loss.  We no longer have to despair that God is so high and holy that he could never understand.  He became flesh to walk in our shoes and open a way for us to be in complete fellowship with him.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Weekly Schedule

Our Regular Fall Schedule

Monday- 7pm Men's Group at the Church

Tuesday- 6:30pm Women's Group at the Church
Second Tuesday night of the Month is Elder's Meeting at 7:00
Third Tuesday morning of the Month is Coffee at Amanda's for fellowship at 9:30
Fourth Tuesday morning of the Month is Friends Women Fellowship, missionary society at 9:00

Sunday- 9:30am Sunday School for all ages
10:30am Fellowship Time with Refreshments
10:45am Morning Worship
3:00pm Iglesia Evangelica Amigos

Catching up with Romans 9-11

In these chapters, we hear Paul's heart cry out for his people.  Paul is a Jew and has spent his entire life in devotion to his faith and his people.  Accepting that Jesus is Messiah did not change that.  Paul's discussion in this section of Romans shows us his struggle to reconcile the firm belief that the Jews remain God's chosen people, with the reality that so many were rejecting the Messiah that Paul held dear.

Paul asks several questions that must have come from deep in his own soul: has the word of God failed; is God unfair; where did it all go wrong; can it ever be made right?

Paul gives his answers by quoting the Old Testament scriptures, pointing out the inconsistency of God's people in the past, God's sovereignty, and His faithfulness to always preserve a remnant.  Paul doesn't seem to need a resolution to the free-will versus destiny argument.  On one hand he says belief does not "depend on man's desire or effort, but on God's mercy" (Ro 9:16).  Then he turns and says, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved" (Ro 10:13) followed by a discourse on how to call first they must hear; to hear someone must preach; to preach someone must be sent.

We have a difficulty with this kind of tension in the text.  Most of us will grab on to the verses that support our theological perspective on predestination or free-will.  Perhaps the better path is to let go of fear and understand that there are mysteries that we will never understand.

Throughout this discussion, Paul does an amazing job of pointing to hope.  He has hope that God will reserve a remnant.  He has hope that some of his fellow Jews have accepted Jesus as Messiah.  He has hope that God is still holding out his hands to His people, even if they are disobedient.  He points to a day when all the requisite Gentiles will come to faith so that in the end all of Israel will be saved.  His hope is based on the triumphant Grace of God which has never failed to receive His people.

Paul ends this whole section with a prayer:
"Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! 'Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?' 'Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?' For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen." (Ro 11:33-36). 

Because of this prayer, I have hope.  Even if we don't understand all that God is doing, all of his plans for us, we can base our hope on his Grace.  We can stand confidently on the knowledge that nothing is beyond his reach and all belongs to him.  Our praise can flow from that hope and confidence, fueling our lives for love and service.