The Unnatural Lifestyle — Naturally Reasoned

That which is most natural — in its purest, originally created sense — is precisely that which honors and worships the Creator as God alone. As the Apostle Paul began his theological treatise to the Church in Rome, isn’t it interesting that the Old Testament is not his initial or explicit point of reference? Rather, he argues from the natural revelation of God — declaring that mankind had always had all that was necessary to honor and worship its Creator. But humanity rejected God as He had revealed Himself to them in nature — choosing their own foolish wisdom, denying the glory of the Creator and worshipping mere creatures, denying the truth about God in favor of a lie. Because they rejected the naturally clear revelation of God, in His wrath He gave them up to the unnatural … “to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.” (Ro. 1:26-27) And not only this, but all manner of ungodliness and wickedness.

Here we stand, thousands of years hence — the benefactors of the manifold revelation of God, not only in nature, but in Scripture and the incarnate, crucified, and resurrected Christ and His Church and the Holy Spirit … and the rejection of God as He reveals Himself continues and increases ever more pervasively and perversely. The world has fallen so far away from the goodness and glory in which it was created that the plague of deception can no longer even be recognized by many if not most. That which is truly and rightly natural, as God intended, is so far from where creation is today. This is clearly evidenced by behavior that is against or contrary to nature, including sexual perversion such as homosexuality. Not only is such behavior prevalent, the efforts to celebrate and normalize such seem to prevail increasingly.

If the unnatural lifestyle is what you have chosen, repent and confess your sins to God Who is faithful and just to forgive you and cleanse you — making you His own in Christ and filling you with His Spirit of Love.

Christian brothers and sisters, the call remains today as it was to the early Church — stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught (2 Th. 2:15); stand fast through faith (Ro. 11:20); stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God (Co. 4:12); hold firm to the trustworthy Word (Ti. 1:9); hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory (Ja. 2:1); hold fast to the hope set before us (He. 6:18); hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He Who promised is faithful (He. 10:23).

God’s promise to Joshua is ours today — “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (He. 13:5). Jesus assurance stands eternal — “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

Rightly Responding to SCOTUS, et al

Does sin break your heart? Does it make you angry? When you look around you and see undeniable, unmistakable evidence … when you look within — if you dare … and you must. Do you react to those emotions? Do you merely allow that reaction to demonstrate — to reveal more of that which is broken within you? Or, do you choose to surrender that reaction to the will of the Spirit of God — of Holy Love? Do you choose to respond — making the sacrifice of yourself an offering — an act of worship to the One Who alone is Lord and God?

As I reflect on the state of our nation and the most recent SCOTUS decision, I find myself going through this process. I hear and read declarations of victory and celebration that homosexuals may now wed one another legally. Decades ago, there were similar declarations of victory and celebration that women could choose to murder their unborn children legally. My indignation builds as evil is called good and good is called evil (Is. 5:20-21). How can we rightly respond in Holy Love?

The mix of sadness and anger I feel are both an immediate and lingering reaction. Most heartbreaking of all is to see this deception increasing amongst those who claim the name of Christ. Both marriage and life are sacred gifts from God, our Creator — not to be tampered with at the whims of the proud, rebellious, and ignorant. I cannot remain silent in the face of such blatant perversion and devaluing of the sacred. Neither Jesus nor any of the prophets or apostles — who were all His personally ordained spokespeople from Genesis to Revelation — were in any way silent about sin.

So a few things must be declared here and now. We have not been given a ministry of condemnation — condemnation is already upon the sinner by their own words and deeds (Matt. 12:37; Mark 16:16; John 3:18). Continuing in sin is not the required or righteous response (John 8:11; Rom. 6:1). Men and women in all their wisdom may seek to rationalize their way out of acknowledging the sin of which they should confess and repent; yet the wisdom of all the men and women of all time remains but foolishness before the Almighty (1 Cor. 1:20-25). As the end of the age draws near, God’s response to those to those who refuse to love the Truth, but choose to love pleasure, will be to turn them over to their own desires and delusion (Rom. 1:28-32; 2 Thess. 2:9-12; 2 Tim. 3:1-5).

God forbid that we should not proclaim that forgiveness and freedom from condemnation is for all who will confess and repent and receive the cleansing of the precious blood of Jesus Christ. But for those who rebel and refuse and persist in sin, judgment is certain and unavoidable. (Heb. 10:26-31)

What could be more unloving — indeed, more hateful — than to know Truth and keep silent?! With all diligence, may we do everything that is within our power to obey God rather than man, faithfully following His highest command to Love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength; and our neighbor as ourself. And pray for God’s mercy and grace as we compassionately love and forgive those who hatefully and spitefully use us. This is the true outflow of the Holy Love with which we were first loved by Him.

Let us therefore walk worthy of our Lord — in Holy Love!

Sola Sancta Caritas | Only Holy Love

When I received notice of this eBook release recently, it particularly caught my attention — Sola Sancta Caritas (Only Holy Love), by Joseph Dongell.  It is but a sketch; and yet, this is perhaps one of the most critical statements on Holiness for the church today. I won’t do the injustice of summarizing this rich material — suffice it to say, this message resonates profoundly with the conversation in which God has been leading me. Dongell has put into words an understanding of Holiness that is entirely and beautifully Scriptural and one that the Wesley brothers articulated with great richness and depth in sermon and song. Herein you will find the words perhaps for the first time to rightly describe sanctification as the perfect and perfecting work of Holy Love.

My upbringing in the Holiness Movement was much like that of the author; but my Christian walk languished for many years — distracted theologically and defeated by sin. it was only a few short years ago that I came to recognize an overwhelming demonstration of God’s Love as He pursued and brought me to repentance — therein I began living anew in His blessed peace and joy. Very specifically, the emphasis of the Spirit on me and in me has been that the Love of God is the most essential element — yes, the very essence of the Christian life and of God Himself. The divine mystery is this thing we call love … yet mere mortal words in any language can never capture all that means. It is nothing that we could ever conjure up or exert ourselves to effect even were we to harness all the energies of the universe. We must look to Jesus, the incarnation of the Divine, to see and hear and know and be filled. The greatest commandments are Love. (Mark 12:30-31) The new command that is the oldest command is Love. (John 13:34) And we love because we have been so loved. (1 John 4:19) But it is in no way of ourselves — it is only in the fullness and anointing and cleansing of the Spirit of Love that we are enabled to obey the law of Love. Love is the Progenitor of all that is good — upon us, in us, through us, and from us.

So it was that I read Sola Sancta Caritas this morning — I found I could do little else but cry out in worship of my Lord and God.

My God, the anguish of my sin;
I plead, save me from this burden.
The wretch within torments me so;
‘Tis only You can make me whole.

Oh, Holy Love, come fill me now;
Make new in me this fervent vow.
I will not cease my all to give,
Till in my soul I know You live.

Power over the innate urge;
Tis You alone my soul can purge.
Power to serve both friend and foe;
Such perfect will I long to know.

Oh, Holy Love, come fill me now;
Make new in me this fervent vow.
I will not cease my all to give,
Till in my soul I know You live.

God’s wrath perfectly satisfied;
In Love let me be sanctified.
The crushing weight of longing need;
I taste and know I may be freed.

Oh, Holy Love, You fill me now;
Making sure this fervent vow.
I will not cease my all to give,
Now in my soul I know You live!

Sweet Spirit of Love that in me dwells;
Of this Good News I must all tell!
Be saved and cleansed by perfect Love
From earth below to Heaven above!

From the Morass to the Madness

The face-palm, head-scratching, bewildering events just continue, becoming ever more common and confounding. A man can self-identify as a woman and have it celebrated — yet a white woman can self-identify as a black woman and be castigated by the same crowd. A variety of leaders, journalists, media hosts, and celebrities can spew blather and lies — but only occasionally admit to having misspoken. Christians can be sued, fined, and ruined financially for choosing to not participate in the sacramental celebration of immorality — yet would a devout Jew or Muslim be sued, fined, and ruined financially for choosing to not participate in a celebration that conflicted with any of their food laws or holy days? And this barely scratches the surface!

How is it that truth and reason and justice seem to be increasingly absent from society? Quite literally — a plague of madness seems to be epidemic!

As perplexing as this may seem, it is perfectly logical.

Over the past century, society, by its actions, has progressively rejected God — denying and ignoring Him with ingratitude, dishonor, and disobedience. Over the past few decades, society, by its words, has more aggressively and purposefully removed God from the public forum.

Any clues yet? We simply cannot be surprised by this morass!

God is light (John 8:12; 1 John 1:5), wisdom (Dan. 2:20; Rom. 11:33), truth (Isa. 65:16; John 14:6), justice (Deut. 32:4), love (Ps. 136:2; 1 John 4:7-8), peace (Isa. 9:6; Phil. 4:7-9; 1 Thess. 5:23), and more! And His Spirit is not to be grieved or quenched! (Eph. 4:30; 1 Thess. 4:19) Everything good is from God. (James 1:17)

No society can think to dispose of God and retain anything that is of Him. But for the grace and mercy of God, all that will remain will be darkness, foolishness, deceit, corruption, exploitation, hatred, strife, chaos, and worse.

Nominal Christianity should be well-understood as dead and defunct as it ever was. Jesus is purging and proving His Body — His Bride … the waste will be burned away and only the tried and pure gold will remain. He who is light will expose the darkness.

Pray and welcome the work of the Holy Spirit of the Lord Jesus. He will search the heart and convict and grant repentance and cleanse us from all unrighteousness — if we will but be faithful and confess and receive His repentance. Then, in the midst of a world starkly reflecting God’s absence, as Christians we will shine forth in the image of our Father’s Son, Jesus our Lord and King!

Oh, that we may walk worthy!

Suffering Forgiveness

that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.”
(Phil 3:10-11)

Have you ever considered the sufferings of Christ? How may we share His sufferings? We know that in the Incarnation Jesus laid aside His glory willingly, not clinging to it. Yet, even more than that, He willingly gave Himself into the hands of His enemies — both the readily apparent and the not so apparent.

Jesus suffered the deprivation of all the comforts of His glory — having not even a place to lay His head. He suffered the hatred of the religious leaders of His own chosen people. He suffered the rejection of His own family and neighbors. He suffered the abandonment of followers who were easily distracted and dissuaded. He suffered the misunderstandings and weakness and selfishness and inattentiveness of His disciples — even the betrayal of and denial by His very own. He suffered the false accusations and injustice and mocking and condemnation … and then the horrific brutality of the Roman system that scourged Him into a bloody pulp and nailed Him to a cross to suffocate in agony. All of this, yes, Jesus suffered.

Let’s go a step farther — God the Father suffered the immeasurably exquisite anguish of watching … beholding … knowing it could all be stopped with a word … a breath. Indeed, ever since the fall, God has beheld as His creation turned against Him and upon itself in selfishness, pride, hatred, and vile wickedness — humankind, the very pinnacle of God’s creation, leading the charge to its own destruction. And then He beheld as His only Son took all the sin of all creation upon Himself — the pure becoming impurity — the lamb becoming the scapegoat.

But perhaps there is a suffering we underestimate — one that we may be unfamiliar with and possibly cannot bear to face.

Father, forgive them …” (Luke 23:34)

The suffering of forgiveness … to forgive is to relinquish my rights — to be humbled — to let loose of my claim on just satisfaction for some loss or grievance — to give mercy in response to ruthless injustice — to give honor in response to humiliation — to give love in response to hate. You see, the deeper the wound — the more grievous and offensive the sin — the more spiteful and heinous the actions and words of the perpetrator — the deeper the suffering of the victim who chooses to forgive. This is a suffering that can be crushing — feeling like one’s very soul is being torn apart. In this process, more and more of self dies as it is surrendered in obedience to the Cross. And what is that obedience to the Cross? In a very powerful sense, it is compassion — quite literally, to suffer with. And we may not suffer with Christ unless we will forgive as He did. To look upon the Cross with pity may stir up the most powerful feelings; but, unless we move beyond pity to compassion, there is no action and without action there is no obedience … there is no being … there is no “becoming like Him in His death.”

There is only one motivation to move beyond pity to compassion — forgiveness itself. Jesus illustrated this for us in the parable of the unjust servant who, although he was forgiven by the king for his debt that was the equivalent of 200,000 years labor, refused to forgive the debt of another that was the equivalent of a day’s wage. No wonder Jesus said, “if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father in Heaven forgive your trespasses.” (Matt. 6:15) When Jesus said, “he who is forgiven little, loves little” (Luke 7:47) I’m inclined to believe that He wasn’t speaking only of the quantitative measure of forgiveness so much as the recognition of the weight and consequence of forgiveness.

This forgiveness is for the meek, not the weak. It demands response, not reaction. A reaction is nothing more than that which naturally occurs when a stimulus is applied. A response is quite literally an offering (Latin: re– “back” + sponde “drink offering” ) — indeed, it is something poured out as an act of worship. Jesus describes the response of the Christian to wrongdoing in selfless and intentionally active terminology. “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.” (Luke 6:27-28) Harboring unforgiveness or failing to seek reconciliation preempts any ability of the Holy Spirit to enable you to love and bless and pray. (Matt. 5:23-24) Forgiveness is essential to any reconciliation. God did not wait, but freely offered forgiveness — reconciling us to Himself through the Cross while we were still sinners and enemies. (Rom. 5:8-10)

Only as we come to fully know the forgiveness we receive as our own through Christ can we truly, completely forgive. Conversely as well — only as we truly forgive as we have been forgiven can we begin to grasp the fullness and power of the forgiveness we receive from God our Father. As we truly forgive, our self will continually be put to death — and therein, by the power of the Holy Spirit, we will be raised to new life with and in Christ and come to “know the power of His resurrection.” That which is resurrected in us is indeed new life — life overflowing with joy and peace that even death cannot conquer.

Then we can proclaim with Paul, “to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Phil 1:21)

Jesus, my risen Lord, makes living worth dying for and dying worth living for!

Innately Desiring Sin

Such a cacophony of voices crowds the world theater — all vying for the mind and heart and soul of mankind — espousing innumerable versions of every possible rationale for redefining sin as anything but sin — excusing, practicing, normalizing, and even celebrating it (Rom. 1:26-32) — often in the name of diversity and inclusion. This is not new (Isa. 5:20-21); yet the selfish demands of scoffers (2 Pet. 3:2-3; Jude 17-18) are increasingly brazen and amplified by manifold media.

Innate attraction or desire is germane to a discussion of Holy living only from the perspective of that which may need to be overcome by the power of the indwelling Spirit of God. So a man or woman is born with innate desires that God has declared to be sinful — innateness in no way alters or diminishes sinfulness; if anything, it’s to be expected (Jer. 17:9-10). Unequivocally, sin is to be repented of and its desires put to death, not entertained and practiced (John 8:11; Rom. 6; 8:13; Gal. 6:7-8).

Whether an LGBTQ individual appears to be living a happy, peaceful life or perhaps even what appears to be a Christian lifestyle, as some claim, by whatever standard may be chosen, is entirely irrelevant. Any individual choosing to willfully continue in sinful behavior is tragically deceived, woefully ignorant, and/or arrogantly rebellious. Quite literally, this is pandemonium — the oppression of many demons seeking the utter destruction of all that God created good and all that Jesus came to redeem. Sickeningly, far too many who bear the name of Christ are among the deceived and some willingly so. Yes, this is spiritual warfare (Eph. 6:12).

If you do not know Jesus, the Son of God, as your Lord and Almighty God as your Father, repent — confess your sins — receive forgiveness — be made clean and whole by the Spirit and the Word.

Christian brothers and sisters — pray without ceasing! Stand courageously and contend for the faith! Love not the world, but do the will of God!

Father God, have mercy!
Lord Jesus, have mercy!
Holy Spirit, convict with power!
Come quickly, Lord Jesus, come!