When the wreckage washes up

This Vanity Fair piece about how Tinder is changing dating culture was disturbing, though not all that surprising. (Some offensive content at that link, but that’s kind of the point.)

My first response was to plan on sending my children of both genders into seclusion from about ages 15-35. My second was to want to punch the guys quoted in the article, and give the girls a hug.

My third, most rational response was a sense of mild encouragement. The wreckage of the sexual revolution is beginning to wash up on the shore. As the Tinder generation ages, the whole sex-without-intimacy thing will, for many, become deeply unsatisfying. It will also leave them with incredible baggage as they attempt to build marriages and families (still pretty popular among the upper-middle class). Some of them will show up in our churches, carrying this baggage. This is an opportunity. What will we do?

I was a church kid in the 90’s. “True Love Waits” was pretty much the extent of our Christian teaching on sexuality. I was fortunate to get that at home as well as at church, and don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful for it. It protected me from a lot of (certainly not all) sexual sin and brokenness. But it’s no longer enough. And as we look at where we are now, in the church as well as in the world, we can see that it was never enough.

It’s not enough to assume biblical sexual ethics. To the extent that most people even know them, they reject them.

It’s not enough to tell people what not to do, because most people have already done a lot of what’s on that list.

It’s certainly not enough to say “Told you so!” when people show up at our churches with sexual baggage.

Here’s where my sense of mild encouragement comes in. The church has Good News for the sexually broken. Not just “here’s what you should do” or “here’s what you should have done,” but good news for where they are. Suffering the effects of their own sin, others’ sin, or quite likely both. Wondering if there is hope for their marriage, or their singleness, or their struggle with temptation of various kinds. Wondering if they are irreparably screwed up, damaged goods.

We have good news for these people because we are these people. We have experienced, are experiencing, the grace of God in the face of our brokenness. My sense is that increasingly this will be a felt need among our neighbors. Let’s be the kind of people who step in to the messy places, show compassion, and offer hope.

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-11)

Never, no never, no never.

All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.
(John 6:37)

When Jesus says “I will never cast out”, he uses a double negative. If you want to be fancy (and why wouldn’t you?), it’s οὐ μή ἐκβάλω ἔξω: something like “Not not I will cast out.” In English this is bad grammar; in Greek it’s for emphasis. (Also in Czech, for what that’s worth.) In fact, it’s pretty much the strongest negation available in Greek.

The English phrasing I like the most for this idea is at the end of the hymn “How Firm A Foundation”:

The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose
I will not, I will not desert to its foes!
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.

That’s what Jesus is saying here. He will never, no never, no never cast out the one who comes to him in faith. There is no circumstance under which he will reject those who trust in him. I’m not saved by how well I hold onto Jesus– not so well!– but by how well Jesus holds onto me. And he is, as my daughter’s name means, “God of the oath”– the One who always keeps his promises.

So when I’m at my worst, selfish and self-absorbed, seeking my own little kingdom at the expense of everyone else, there Jesus is: holding onto me. Not casting me out. That’s very good news.

Good News on Good Friday

Yesterday I read Deuteronomy 28, part of which is a long list of curses that will come on Israel if they do not follow God’s law. A selection:

But if you will not obey the voice of the Lord your God or be careful to do all his commandments and his statutes that I command you today, then all these curses shall come upon you and overtake you. Cursed shall you be in the city, and cursed shall you be in the field. Cursed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl. Cursed shall be the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your ground, the increase of your herds and the young of your flock. Cursed shall you be when you come in, and cursed shall you be when you go out…

The Lord will cause you to be defeated before your enemies. You shall go out one way against them and flee seven ways before them…

Because you did not serve the Lord your God with joyfulness and gladness of heart, because of the abundance of all things, therefore you shall serve your enemies whom the Lord will send against you, in hunger and thirst, in nakedness, and lacking everything. And he will put a yoke of iron on your neck until he has destroyed you…

If you are not careful to do all the words of this law that are written in this book, that you may fear this glorious and awesome name, the Lord your God, then the Lord will bring on you and your offspring extraordinary afflictions, afflictions severe and lasting, and sicknesses grievous and lasting.

That’s what makes Paul’s announcement in Galatians 3 such good news:

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.

What a Savior. What a good Friday.

Far as the Curse is Found

“Joy to the World” is a great example of a song we shouldn’t just sing at Christmas. My favorite part is the third verse:

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found.

The curse, you’ll recall, is found very, very far: from barren fields to barren wombs, from broken relationships to broken bones. Divorce, natural disaster, cancer, genocide– all part of the curse. All of creation is groaning.

But it will not always be this way. Aslan is on the move. The King is coming; he will wipe every tear from our eyes; he will make all things new. His blessings will flow just as far as the curse. His glory will cover the earth like the water over the sea.

Joy to the world! Come, Lord Jesus.

Good News

Romans 8:29, 31:

For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son…  What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

If God is “for me” in the process of my becoming holy like Jesus, then despite all evidence to the contrary, despite all contrary influences from within and without, despite my own reluctance and sluggishness and halfheartedness, he will bring it about.

You don’t know what it’s like out here.

People. You have no idea. Charlotte is on the verge of freakin’ collapse. Wachovia got bought out. Wachovia. And I really like Wachovia. Citi I don’t know so much. There’s no gas. I went driving around looking for gas tonight. I found a station with a tanker truck (down by our old house), waited while he unloaded, waited 15 more minutes, then drove back home to get the other car, bring it back and fill it up. That’s pretty much how my evening was spent. Buying gas.

I went to get a beer with Tyler later on tonight, and the first place we tried to go was closed. Our house flooded two weeks ago. Today they were replacing the floors, and they didn’t finish. Half of our living room is a concrete slab, and I’m getting high smelling the glue or whatever.

Congress can’t get their *&^# together. (Actually, as you’ll note in a post from last week, I’m kind of happy about that.) Apparently the whole economy is gonna collapse unless we give Hank Paulson a trillion dollars and a bowl of green M&M’s. Either that or there will be a serious crunch for a while and things will eventually work themselves out. Who knows. Meantime, some of us are trying to raise support to go to the mission field, and it’s like stinkin’ I Am Legend up in here.

You know what’s good news, in all seriousness? Psalm 11:3 asks a question: “If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?” And verse 4 answers it: “The Lord is in his holy temple; the Lord‘s throne is in heaven; his eyes see.” Our economy may indeed collapse. People will almost certainly lose jobs– maybe even some of our friends. We might lose supporters, or take longer to get them. But not one dollar or job or supporter will be lost or gained apart from the will of my Father in heaven.

The Certainty of God’s Plan

After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth, that no wind might blow on earth or sea or against any tree. Then I saw another angel ascending from the rising of the sun, with the seal of the living God, and he called with a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to harm earth and sea, saying, “Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads.”

–Revelation 7:1-3

My campus minister used to say, “You are invincible until God is through with you.” In other words, no force of nature, no scheme of the devil, no other person can thwart the purposes God has for your life. You will not die until he has accomplished everything he intends to accomplish in you, through you.

I was struck by a similar thought as I read this passage this morning. Even nature, even the judgment that God has decreed on the created order, is subservient to his plan to save his people. Nothing will interfere with God’s design to save his elect. The end of all things will not come until every one of his sheep is brought safely into the fold. This is very good news.

More Good News

It’s not my custom to listen to much Christian music. But this morning on a run, for whatever reason, I decided to give a listen to Beams of Heaven: Indelible Grace IV. I like the IG guys– their music isn’t always my favorite, but they find great hymns, aren’t overly produced, and generally avoid the cheese.

So all that to say, my morning started with some great news.

I do not ask to see the way
My feet will have to tread;
But only that my soul may feed
Upon the living Bread.
‘Tis better far that I should walk
By faith close to His side;
I may not know the way I go, But oh, I know my Guide.

(“His Love Can Never Fail“)

Since all that I meet will work for my good,
The bitter is sweet, The medicine food;
Though painful at present, will cease before long,
And then, O! how glorious, The conqueror’s song!

Begone unbelief, The Savior is here
Though cisterns be broken And creatures all fail
The word he has spoken will surely prevail.

(“Begone Unbelief“)

Whate’er I need in Jesus dwells,
And there it dwells for me;
‘Tis Christ my earthen vessel fills
With treasures rich and free

Mercy and truth and righteousness,
And peace, most richly meet
In Jesus Christ, the King of grace,
In Whom I stand complete.

(“Jesus, the Lord, My Savior Is“)

Good News for Me

I’m on a new schedule where I get up stupidly early to run, then come in reasonably early to work and spend some time in the Word before everything comes to life. This morning I had a really good run (approaching 3 miles, if you’re interested), but that meant that by the time I hit the Bible I was in that euphoric-but-very-tired place that comes about an hour later. Due to my probably-sinful dependance on coffee in the mornings, my brain also wasn’t quite working yet. All that resulted in a shiftless, half-asleep, mind-wandering time of attempted Bible reading and prayer.

Imagine my delight, then, to read the following:

But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God,  waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet.  For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. (Hebrews 10:12-14)

Thank God my standing with him depends on the finished work of Jesus. If it depended on mine I’d be in a bad way.

Good News

Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven. –1 Corinthians 15:49

Just as surely as I once had an Adam-like heart, I will have a Christlike heart. Just as surely as I was steeped in sin at birth, I will be steeped in the righteousness of Christ. I’m still struggling and stumbling and falling, but it won’t always be like this. Death will be swallowed up in victory– Christ’s death and resurrection guarantees it. I’m so glad my Savior purchased that for me.