Glorious Failure

Life is a long series of failures. Here's to failing gloriously!

Tag: religion

Forgiveness: How Can it Be?–Reflections on a Song by Lauren Daigle

“How can it be?” Performed here beautifully by Lauren Daigle is a song I can’t get out of my head. I am compelled by this song.

Why?

Not sure. But in this post I’m going to give it a go. I want to uncover what makes this song so compelling and discover why I am so compelled by it.

Resonance. That’s what it always comes down to. Doesn’t it? I resonate with the message of the song: wonder–wonder at God’s gift of grace. To start with the title, “How can it be” is a question. The title itself calls into question the very possibility of forgiveness. It’s too wonderful to be true. The song’s starting point is the obvious state of our hearts: imperfection and brokenness–what the Bible calls sin. We are dirty, unclean in our sin. Could anything be more obvious about the human condition? To contemplate God then, in His goodness and perfection further contrasts our character with His. The more I contemplate God, my sin becomes more apparent, not less.

Beautiful.

It’s from this starting point the song begins. The title: recognizing our broken and sinful state wonders at the possibility of forgiveness and freedom from slavery to sin. I love that. It begins with disbelief–disbelief that something so wonderful could possibly exist. And if I’m honest with myself, that’s where my heart begins each day, not with belief but with disbelief. To conceive of something so wonderful as freedom–freedom from the slavery to sin and death is almost too wonderful to comprehend. How can that be?

Everyday it seems my heart has to be converted from disbelief to belief. And that is the power of God.

The melody of this song is gorgeous and versatile. Daigle’s unique almost gritty vocal timbre makes her distinct from other Christian artists today. She sounds like the Adele of Christian music. In this studio recording she demonstrates a wide range of vocal control, not just showing off the beautiful versatility of this melody, but also the breath-taking range, control, styling, and dynamics of her vocal chops.

My wife introduced me to this song a few weeks ago. The past week this song has been my heart’s meditation each day. I have yet to get through an encounter of this song without crying and becoming nearly overwhelmed by emotion. God’s grace is powerful. To contemplate it nearly overwhelms me each time. My prayer this morning is that I never get over it.

This morning that’s my prayer for you too. May we never lose our wonder for God and His never-stopping, never-giving up, absolutely crazy, absurd, and outrageous love for us.

The Purpose of the Law

Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned. (1 Timothy 1.5 KJV)

I am in an ongoing discussion with my friends on the purpose of the law. Recently I began reading 1 Timothy and this verse screamed to me from off the page. In it, Paul explains the purpose of the law to his young pastor protégé, Timothy, to begin his letter.

Discussions with my friends can get complicated quickly, not to mention heated! So, what I love about this verse, is that Paul cuts through the complexity and offers us something easy to understand.

According to Paul, the purpose of the law, or “the end of the commandment” is love. The KJV renders that word as “charity.” Love is the purpose of the law. The purpose is a good conscience and faith.

In a conservative Hebrew sense, the law includes hundreds of commands. To consider their implications, hundreds more! This is where the discussion gets complicated. What was God’s purpose for instituting them? Morality? National purity? There are a myriad of reasons, to be sure. But, Paul writing to Timothy explains clearly one purpose for the law: love, a good conscience, and faith. He has a way of cutting through the complexity to give my small mind one thing it can wrap itself around.

The beauty of this verse is the insight offered by the modifiers that describe love, faith, and conscience. This love is “pure”, the conscience is “good”, and the faith is “unfeigned.” When love comes from a pure heart, it is genuine. It seeks the best for others for their own sake. When our conscience is good it is clean. It has integrity. It’s not hiding or harboring secrets, things it fears others will find out. When faith is unfeigned it’s not fake. It’s ingenuous. It’s not malicious or manipulative.

This text does not say that we become loving when we obey the commandments. Romans clears that issue. We know that no one is good and able to obey the commands (3.23). Further, it is not the law that makes us good. “For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God.” The law is the mirror God holds up to us, so we can see ourselves by His standard, marred, broken, and disobedient. But the better hope ushered in by the law, Jesus, does make us perfect through His blood. That is why we have hope.

1 Timothy 1.5 paints a portrait of faith that is genuine. It’s the real deal. It’s trustworthy—the “real McCoy” as my fifth grade teacher would say. When we reach the end of the commandment we love.

Jesus said, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.” (Matthew 5.17) Jesus fulfilled the law, every commandment (Hebrews 4.15). What better portrait have we than Christ loving with a pure heart, a good conscience, and a faith unfeigned?

When we reach the end of the commandment we love. We participate in and with the One who is love. And in so doing, we become more like Christ.

Christian Consumerism

Happy girl shopping

From 123rf.com

Surveys* show a significant percentage of Christians don’t behave consistently with their beliefs. Surprise, surprise, huh? For Christians whose beliefs are in line with Scripture, that discrepancy is generally called sin. So, this is no big surprise.

But, this survey done quite recently, went further. It asked these believers if they had a problem with this inconsistency between their convictions and their actions. A significant percentage said no. They were not bothered by the fact that they did not live according to their beliefs. It’s as if they just don’t care.

I mentioned this to some of my co-workers and we began to wonder. What is a day in the life like, for an individual Christian described by this survey? We know she is faithful enough to go church and calls herself a Christian, but when it comes to things like giving in to self-centeredness, lying, or not keeping promises her actions don’t seem to bother her. According to this survey about half of those folks who struggle with this sin, don’t feel guilty about it.

How could she be okay with that? Self-centeredness and lying are not like making meals, going to work or school, or keeping oneself clean.  The Bible calls lying and self-centeredness sin. And sin is a big deal. Jesus died to deal with that.

The question I come back to, is what about this individual Christian’s experience, allows her to encounter sin, not realize it, or not think it’s a big deal? One possible answer is consumerism.

In a culture where appearance is everything and whoever dies with the most toys wins, then matters of holiness have little to no value, unless they make me look better. When my mind spends most of its time focused on my things: my work, my car, my house, my money, my investments, I just don’t spend any time considering whether I look more like Christ today than I did last week.

The scariest part of consumerism is not that I fear I might face the devil one night on a deserted highway and make the wrong decision to trade my soul for a million dollars, it’s that I’ve already sold it. And I already have my reward.

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*Culturally Captive Christian Study 2010, research commissioned by Probe Ministries and conducted by Barna Group, 2010, 57-63.

For more on this issue, consider a work by a colleague of mine Kerby Anderson.

Paul Rutherford

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