Forgiving vs. Excusing

I think there is a grave problem rampant among Christians today, and I don't think that most of us even realize it. I know for a fact that I have been guilty of this problem, and it has only recently come to my attention.

To what am I referring? I am referring to the fact we are often looking for God to excuse our sin rather than forgive it. Think back to your recent times of confession. You might have said the "right words" but what was the motive of your heart? When you confessed your sins to God, did you also mention several reasons as to why it happened? 

"God, I'm sorry I lusted after that woman jogging, but I just couldn't help it. She ran right in front of me!"
 "God, I'm sorry that I blew up at my co-worker. He just made me so mad. I can't take his crap anymore!" 

Are you beginning to see what I mean? Listen to what C.S. Lewis has to say about this.

I find that when I think I am asking God to forgive me I am often in reality (unless I watch myself quite carefully) asking Him to do something quite different. I am asking Him not to forgive me but to excuse me. But there is all the difference in the world between forgiving and excusing. Forgiveness says 'Yes, you have done this thing, but I accept your apology, I will never hold it against you and everything between us two will be exactly as it was before.' But excusing says 'I see that you couldn't help it or didn't mean it, you weren't really to blame.' If one was not really to blame then there is nothing to forgive…

If you had a perfect excuse you would not need forgiveness: if the whole of your action needs forgiveness then there was no excuse for it. But the trouble is that what we call 'asking God's forgiveness' very often really consists in asking God to accept our excuses. What leads us into this mistake is the fact that there usually is some amount of excuse, some 'extenuating circumstances'. We are so very anxious to point these out to God (and to ourselves) that we are apt to forget the really important thing; that is, the bit left over, the bit which the excuses don't cover, the bit which is inexcusable but not, thank God, unforgivable. And if we forget this we shall go away imagining that we have repented and been forgiven when all that has really happened is that we have satisfied ourselves with our own excuses. 

The next time you go to God in confession, I pray that you will be mindful of what you are doing. Are you seeking forgiveness or are you merely seeking to satisfy yourself with your own excuses?

Great Prayers of the Past: St. Patrick

St_patricks  Well, since it is St. Patty's day, I thought it would be appropriate to break out an old segment which I haven't done in a while on this blog: Great Prayers of the Past. You can see previous ones by clicking here.

Before we get to one of his prayers that I wish to feature in this post, here are a few things about St. Patrick that you may not know. 

First of all, he wasn't a beer drinking leprechaun like my image here suggests. Okay, you probably knew that one already, but this next one may come as a shock, so you need to prepare yourself… Are you sitting down? He wasn't even Irish. I know that comes as a shock for most of you, but it's true. St. Patrick was a Romano-Briton. In other words, he was British. The last thing you may not know about him is that he was a missionary. You see, here's what happend. When he was 16, he was captured by Irish raiders and taken back to Ireland as a slave. That's right, he was a slave. He remained a slave for 6 years until he somehow managed to escape and return to his home. Sometime after he returned home, he became a Christian and was later ordained as a bishop. It was then that he decided to return to the very people who had enslaved him, this time as a missionary. This guy had a serious love for Jesus, and some serious balls.

I have a huge amount of respect for this man, and knowing who he was and what he did provides some context to the prayer below. Perhaps it was prayers like this that gave him the courage to preach Christ to the very people who had enslaved him. You can also see his passion that every aspect of him preach Christ to the lost.

Christ, be with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ where I lie, Christ where I sit, Christ where I arise,
Christ in the heart of every one who thinks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

Salvation is of the Lord,
Salvation is of the Christ.
May your salvation, O Lord, be ever with us.

- St. Patrick

Divine Transcendence

Several weeks ago, I wrote a series of blogs entitled "Naked and Hiding" about the fear of God. I almost hate to revisit that theme after doing a whole series on it, but I'm going to anyway!

Recently I've been reading through (again) A.W. Tozer's "Knowledge of the Holy." His chapter on divine transcendence has provided some insight for me on why "christian" people no longer fear God as the once did. Perhaps it is because we misunderstand the transcendence of God. You see, all of us would admit that God is transcendent, but when we say that what we mean is that he is the highest being in a succession of beings. For instance, on our scale we would probably have single-cell organisms on the very bottom, then just above that would be middle school students. As you continue to move up the scale you would probably have insects, then mammals, etc. Near the top, in our minds, are humans, then maybe angels, then (of course) at the top is God. The problem with this thinking, however, is that it places God on the same scale as us. Of course, he's at the top, but he's placed on the same scale nonetheless. Listen to what Tozer has to say about this.

We must not think of God as highest in ascending order of beings, starting with single cell and going on up from the fish to the bird to the animal to man to angel to cherub to God. This would be to grant God eminence, even pre-eminence but that is not enough; we must grant Him transcendence in the fullest meaning of that word. Forever God stands apart, in light unapproachable. He is as high above an archangel as above a caterpillar, for the gulf that separates the archangel from the caterpillar is but finite, while the gulf between God and the archangel is infinite. The caterpillar and the archangel, though far removed from each other in the scale of created things, are nevertheless one in that they are alike created. They both belong in the category of that-which-is-not-God and are separated from God by infinitude itself.

In order for us to regain an awe-inspired fear of God, we must regain a proper understanding of the transcendence of God. Listen to what Tozer says about the fear of the Lord.

When men no longer fear God, they transgress His laws without hesitation. The fear of consequences is no deterrent when the fear of God is gone. In olden days men of faith were said to "walk in the fear of God" and to "serve the Lord with fear." However intimate their communion with God, however bold their prayers, at the base of their religious life was the conception of God as awesome and dreadful. This idea of God transcendent runs through the whole Bible and gives color and tone to the character of the saints. This fear of God was more than a natural apprehension of danger; it was a nonrational dread, an acute feeling of personal insufficiency in the presence of God the Almighty. 

This week as you spend time with God and when you pray, may you have an appropriate understanding of the gulf that separates you from God. May you have a renewed vision of the transcendence of God. And may you find a renewed awe-inspired fear him when you find yourself in the presence of God the Almighty. 

Share Our Shoes

Our church recently helped S.O.S. (Share Our Shoes) collect and box a TON of shoes to take to Haiti. S.O.S. collects asks for people to take their shoes that are not being used and just taking up space in their closet, and donate to the people of Haiti. Jennifer Pierce, Founder and Director of S.O.S. personally delivered these shoes which numbered over 300,000.

Here is a video of just one of her experiences. Notice the shoe that she holds up to the camera. This is the shoe that she just removed from that little girl's feet. 

Guest Blogger: Uprising: Remix

My wife and resident hottie, Kelly Via, has a blog that she keeps private. So when I saw her most recent post, I asked her to share it here as well so that everyone else could read it, because she makes me sound pretty awesome. Here is her write up on a recent endeavor that Journey Students just started working on.

My husband has a gift for working with students. I love to watch him as he creates relationships and figures out how to best minister to his students. He is definitely not your typical "Youth Pastor," and I think that is one of the most refreshing things about him. He's real. He's genuine. And he seeks out what the students need – and finds relevant ways to minister to those needs. Did I mention that I am his biggest fan?

On Sunday evenings he leads/directs "Uprising," which is a worship service for middle and high school students. Jonathan and his student leaders have been seeking to 'remix' Uprising for a while now, at the students request. They have been praying and seeking out what changes need to be made for months. This past Sunday was the first of several services that will be called "Uprising:Remix." These will be a series of trial services to see what tools, music, topics, atmospheres, etc. will be the best fit to lead our students in worship.

For this first Uprising:Remix we had worship leader (and my bro-in-law) Josh Via come to speak to our students. The atmosphere was simple, coffee shop style. There were no gimmicks. No games. Just Josh, intermixing his {incredible} songs with their explanations and some great words from scripture. And the students…well…to say they loved it would be an understatement

Once again, our God has given my husband the wisdom and clarity to start tweaking things to better reach our students in this ministry that He has given him. I am grateful that Jonathan doesn't just do what "every other" church does to reach students. He goes out on a limb, he dares to do what others do not. He is creative and wise. And in it all, seeks Christ in each decision he dares to make.

Did I mention I am his biggest fan??

Keep Remixing it, Babe!!

-Kelly Via