Debt Forgiveness and Complete Amnesty

Two major political issues in the United States are consumer debt and immigration. These topics are often polarizing, with opposing views lining up via their political affiliation. Republicans generally want tighter border control, while some democrats call for complete amnesty. Democrats often support a large scale redistribution of wealth that Republicans oppose with a passion.

The conservative view places a high value on work ethic, smart spending, and paying your dues. Laws are in place and must be followed and consequences for breaking the law must be adhered to. If you are illegally in this country, deportation is justice. If you are in debt from which you can never escape, it is your own fault…you made your bed, you must sleep in it.

The liberal view places a high value on equality and welfare of all. The system as is, benefits the wealthy while taking advantage of the poor. Therefor, laws must be enacted to protect the poor and give them equal access to a good standard of living. People in debt are often in debt because they had no opportunity to prosper or because they were subject to “predatory lenders.” Those in this country illegally should be given the same rights as others. We should not deport these people, but welcome them.

I give these generalized, by no means all encompassing, views to show the polarity we have.

Now, entertain me for a moment while I lay out a scenario. Average indebted households have $15,863 in credit card debt, $156,584 in mortgage debt, and $33,090 in student loan debt. Many will never pay off the debt, no matter how hard they work. Imagine if all debtors, seeing their borrowers as slaves to the debt, offered total forgiveness. All debt paid in full.

Imagine we looked at those that were not born in this country, those that did not come to this country through legal means, and we forgave them of their transgressions and instead of deporting, welcomed them as full citizens of our nation. Any debt they incurred on society, by breaking various laws to get, forgiven.

Depending on your political affiliation, the proposal sounds either appealing or appalling. But this is not a political post nor is my blog designed to be political in nature. I use politics to point out significance of our forgiveness in Christ.

We were indebted to God, a debt which we could never repay. As conservatives would point out, it was our own fault…although even Adam tried to shun responsibility and blame it all on Eve. There are consequences of breaking God’s law, eternal separation from God, death, and hell. That is the bed we made. Some would accuse God of creating a law that was unfair. Or claim that the burden of punishment was too much…as Cain did after he murdered Abel.

Some worked feverishly to live up to the law of Moses, only to become more aware of their bondage to sin. The debt was insurmountable. God, our debtor, offers complete forgiveness to those who call upon the name of his Son, Jesus. Hard work wouldn’t cut it. A handout was needed.

Furthermore, God offers amnesty. We do not deserve to be in his presence. God’s word says, “I will call them ‘my people; who are not my people.” (Ro 9:25; Ho 2:23) and “Once you were not a people, now you are the people of God. Once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” (1 Pe 2:10)

I imagine the ancestors of Republicans trying to earn their way into God’s favor and the ancestors of Democrats trying to blame other people, or complain about the unfairness of it all. I am glad that the kingdom of heaven is not a democracy made up of angelic liberals and angelic conservatives debating our fate!

God gave us complete debt forgiveness and complete amnesty.

I know we cannot force debt forgiveness or amnesty, I’m not even sure if those would be appropriate. I do think the topics should be talked about honestly and open-mindedly. Too often we simply jump to the side we see our political party on. If we want our political standing to match our religious convictions…we cannot pick and choose the topics to which that applies. We want our country to support a biblical definition of marriage, but not biblical views of feeding the poor…of forgiveness…

God forgave us while we were still sinners, we are his people because we have received mercy. Let our lives reflect His love and mercy in every way.

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Leaked Photos and Exposed Lies

There is something about a secret that sparks interest. When asked if we can keep a secret, we say “yes”, but are really thinking “tell me, tell me, tell me!” Upon hearing the secret, we secretly begin to think of the people we could tell the secret to. We run down a list of people in our minds and think “who will keep this a secret?” “Who is trustworthy?” We see this play out again and again in everyday life. Situations in which we have no vested interest become intriguing.

Tabloids and entertainment blogs expose the secrets of celebrities and the masses flock to eat up every morsel of gossip. Then leaked photos happen. Phone content exposing nude photos of celebrities appear all over the internet. The masses feed on it. People either ridicule the celebrities or the hackers. Some people get angry over the blatant violation of personal privacy while others rush to the internet to gawk at the photos. Many do both. While publicly condemning the actions of hackers, they secretly support it. We are entertained by the failings of others…yet we fail daily.

We act like we can keep secrets and deceive those around us without ever facing the consequences of our actions. Common sense and life experiences tell us otherwise. God’s word makes it clear that as believers we are to walk in the light. Light exposes all secrets.

Luke 8:17 “For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.”

Ephesians 5:13 “But everything exposed by light becomes visible,” 

We must let go of the notion of privacy before God. We must know that all we do is visible to God, and at any moment can become visible to whole world. That moment will happen when everything is exposed. If you are a follower of Christ, you are aware of your own sin. You hide it thinking, even praying, that it not be disclosed. But there is nothing concealed that will not be  brought out into the open.

An uncomfortable thought to end on. Imagine your life was hacked. The secrets of your heart were leaked for the whole world to see. Everything exposed. What would be said about you? How would it reflect Christ in you? Would it reflect Christ at all, or would it reflect the selfishness of a depraved heart?

The Most Basic Need

Maslow’s hierarchy places physical needs at the base level. We cannot even assess higher needs if we fail to meet our basic needs. Food is a basic need.

The devil tempted Jesus by appealing to this basic need. “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become bread.” Jesus answered, “It is written: Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” Mt 4:3-4

By answering this way, Jesus alerts us to a need more basic than food. We need God more than we need food. More than we need water. More than we need shelter.

We do need food, shelter and water, but we need the provider of these things more. He is the bread of life, the water from which we will never thirst, and our refuge and fortress.

Most of us have the basics of food and shelter. With the basic needs covered, we pray for the higher needs to be met. We pray for love, fulfillment and meaning. We pray for things to work out according to our desires. We need love, fulfillment, meaning, but we need the provider more.

We often look at God like a supermarket. We walk into his presence with a list of what we need while taking for granted the fact that we, sinful man, are even allowed to be in his presence. God is more personal than a supermarket. In fact, that’s a horrible analogy for God. God is all knowing and God is love. In his love, God knows what we need better than we do.

The hardest part of prayer is realizing our relationship with God is more important than our personal needs, no matter how significant those needs are. No matter how heartfelt our desires are, we are to desire God first.

What if our need for hunger is greater than our need for food? What if our need for pain is greater than our need for healing? What if we need to be broken? Brokenness strips away pride. Brokenness reveals our inabilities. Brokenness reveals our need for God…our most basic need of all.

To The Parent in Seminary

Imagine you travel back in time to the 1950’s. You find yourself on a street in Anytown, USA, admiring the perfectly mowed lawns. Suddenly you notice the sweet aroma of apple pie. You follow that smell to a house with white vinyl siding and a gray shingled roof. The window to the kitchen is open and there is a fresh baked apple pie in the window sill. Inside you see a woman with her hair in a bun and an apron around her waist. She has been working in the kitchen for hours, yet is smiling and perfectly clean. Not even one speck is on her apron.

About this time, a shiny black Studebaker pulls into the driveway. The woman doesn’t notice the car, for she has begun setting the dinner table. The man walks up to the front door, opens it, and declares, “Honey, I’m home!” Hearing this, the already smiling woman smiles even more. She hugs her husband and leads him to the table where a deliciously prepared meal awaits him.

Sticking her head out the kitchen window, the woman yells in a loud yet motherly tone, “Boys, your father is home. It’s time for dinner!” You turn around and see two young boys running with excitement toward the house. The boys had been playing in the yard so quietly that, until this moment, you didn’t even know they were there.

The family gathers around the table. The husband and father looks at his watch. It is exactly 6pm – dinnertime. Every hair on every head is in place. The boys, even though they have been playing outside have washed their hands and are well-dressed and clean. The family bows their heads in prayer.

You think to yourself, “What time does my family eat dinner? What did we eat for dinner last night? Did we eat dinner last night? I know it didn’t look as delicious as that! Would they care if I took a piece of pie?”

You break from your thoughts to listen to the dinner conversation. The Head of the household seems to be announcing his plans for summer vacation. He planned the entire vacation on his drive home. Both kids think the vacation sounds swell. The wife warmly accepts the plan for a summer camping trip and asks how she can help in preparation. The father’s monologue is only interrupted by the polite sounds of “excuse me” and “pass the potatoes, please.”

After dinner and dessert, the kids take a bath and retire to their shared bedroom. In their room, both boys kneel and pray before getting into bed. While Mom is cleaning up the dishes, Dad reads a bedtime story and tucks them in. The children fall fast asleep without fighting or whining. This sleep will last all night, and not once will either child run into the parents’ room.

You turn back to your own thoughts, “My wife doesn’t let me make our vacation plans. Does she not respect me? Isn’t she supposed to respect me? My kids are always fussy at bedtime. Did they even have a bath last night? Last week? Month? I’m sure my wife bathed them while I was studying. But if she doesn’t respect me enough to agree to my vacation plans, how do I know she bathes the kids?” You have spent enough time studying that you recognize the logical fallacies of your thought progression. You really wish you had taken a piece of that apple pie.

Now, stop imagining you are in another place in time. You are back in your present reality. You are a seminary student with a family. You have heard many times “If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?” (1Ti 3:4-5). You compare your family to the family you just saw and feel inadequate. You doubt that God can use you unless your family meets this gold standard, after all, according to the older folks in your family, when their kids were growing up… [insert unattainable expectation here].

The glimpse of life you imagined was the iconic stereotype of the traditional family. Nostalgia has placed this stereotype as the ideal of a happy family. The traditional family may be as American as apple pie, but does it accurately depict the roles of Christian parents?

In recent years, the term “traditional family values” has become synonymous with Christian values. It is important that we distinguish between the two. If we simply accept the traditional family as our ideal, and we strive for that ideal, we make an idol of it.

Christian values existed long before the creation of “traditional family” roles. We learn those values from Christ himself. We have the Bible to teach and train us. We have the Spirit to guide and convict us. We have a Father whom loves us as dear children. His love for us, should guide us in our love of our children.

So rid yourself of cultural expectations and nostalgic, rarely accurate, memories of how things used to be. Use your Bible exposition skills to study this topic in detail. Do not get so wrapped up in individual verses that you miss the overarching theme of family that is presented throughout the Bible. Before turning to your favorite verses on family order, step back and take off your intellectual hat. Put it on the shelf beside the twenty-five books you have to read this semester. You can put it back on in a moment, but for now just focus on who God is, and who you are.

You are a beloved child of God. How do you know that? How has God demonstrated that love in your life? As a child of God, you have been empowered to love. Because he loved you first, you can love those around you. Does your child, or children, know that you love them? How have you demonstrated your love in their life? Does your love for them lead them to love others?

If you are a parent and seminary student, you are, without doubt, very busy. God is a lot busier than you are. When you speak to God, he does not send you away because he is busy. You are unable to understand God, yet you have a personal relationship with Him. He shares his plan with you in small doses. Even though you can’t comprehend much, he teaches you what you can grasp.

Your kids do not understand what you are doing. They do not understand the languages you study. They do not understand the theology you are learning. They probably don’t even understand why you are in school. School is for kids isn’t it? They may feel like you have disrupted their entire life. You likely have.

Show them the love that God shows you. Share with them as God shares with you. They may not understand your coursework, but you can model obedience to God. You can do everything as if you are doing it for the Lord. Your children will know you, and because they know you, they are likely to believe the conviction you possess.

Jesus said we must become like children to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. (Mt 18:3) Look for the things you can learn from your children. When you are amazed, staring at your kids with unconditional love, know that the love you have for them is nothing compared to the love God has for his children. Do your kids run to you when you get home? Do they want to be around you? Are they so crazy about you that, that it drives you crazy?

Do you approach your heavenly Father with that same level of excitement? Jesus said we must become like little children; maybe we should start by having child-like excitement while in his presence.

With that same excitement, we should be eager to do whatever God asks us to do. We do have roles and responsibilities as Christian parents. It is true that a leader in the Church “…must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?)” (1Ti 3:4-5).

A central theme throughout the Bible is the education of our children. The knowledge of God must be communicated to each new generation. You have the responsibility to fix God’s word “…in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up” (Dt 11:18-21).

The entire book of Proverbs reads as advice from a father to a son. Children are to heed the instruction of their father and mother. When a child disobeys he must be disciplined. We are to discipline the ones we love. Discipline is not punishment. Discipline is corrective action. The word is closely related to “disciple”. A disciple is a student, or a person who follows a certain teaching. We have a commission to make disciples, meaning we are to lead others to follow Jesus. Our children, by birth, are our disciples. They learn from us and follow our examples. We must be imitators of Christ, in word and deed, so that by following us, our children follow Jesus. (Eph 5:1)

Paul writes to Timothy “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Ti 3:14-15).

Timothy “became convinced” because he knew those from whom he learned. He knew his mother and grandmother. He knew that their life reflected what they believed. Our beliefs will either be validated or discredited by what our children observe in us.

We must manage our household well if we wish to be a leader in God’s church. (1Ti 1:4-5) Hold firm to the word of God throughout your journey. You will have successful days and you will have failures. Do not pay too much attention to gossip and negativity. Remember that “…man looks at the outward appearance of things while the Lord looks at the heart.” (1Sa 16:7)

A parent could be authoritarian in style and force the children to obey, but this type of leadership does not reflect the love of God. Forcing children to obey in an authoritarian home often has negative consequences. The outward appearance would show a well-behaved child. The heart of the child, which God sees, would be wounded. The lasting effect would be hindrance. We are not to hinder children from coming to Jesus. Be not a hindrance, but rather a cause for your children to believe in the glory of God.

There are many verses to study concerning responsibilities of Christian parents. You can study all of them. You can learn to read the verses in the original languages. You can study and write a very insightful exegetical. If, in doing so, you place your study ahead of your children, you have completely missed the application of Scripture to your life. Rather, be a doer of God’s word and a light for your children. Guide them in the way they should go and count each day as a blessing and each child as a gift from God.

Fourth of July

The birth of our nation will be celebrated with fireworks and hotdogs, beer and burgers. It is a day to be grateful of the liberties we have, even if those liberties seem fleeting. In the words of Lee Greenwood, I am proud to be an American. I am also concerned…not with our country, but with us. I’m afraid we boast in our nation, but not in our Lord. I am also concerned that we equate the USA with Christianity.

We must not let nostalgia zap our joy. I often hear that this nation needs to turn back to God, back to the religion of our founding fathers. But our founding fathers, most of them, did not believe in orthodox Christianity. Many of them denied the Trinity. Thomas Jefferson created the “Jefferson Bible” in which he removed anything which he thought was added to the original text. Most notably, he removed the virgin birth and the resurrection. The story of Jesus ends with him being placed in the tomb.

The religious tone of the founding fathers, more often than not, focused on morality and proper living. According to many of them, Jesus only set an example for us. A weak view of Jesus and a weak view of atonement, led to generations of religious legalism…still existing today. To be a Christian was to follow a list of dos and don’ts…or at least appear to do so.

I pray this nation never goes back to the faith of our founding fathers. I pray, instead, that faithful followers of Christ will find peace in Christ alone. Recognize that even though we live on Earth, in a country that we love, we are ultimately citizens of God’s Kingdom and only ambassadors here.

I consider myself blessed to be living in the United States. Living here is truly a gift from God. I will celebrate our nation’s independence, but I will never forget my complete dependence on God. I strive to boast in Him alone.

Are you boasting in Christ? Are you more proud of you temporary residence than your eternal home? When Christ is our focus joy is always present. We rejoice, not because we look back at how good we think things once were, but because we look ahead, with certainty, at how great things will be.

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