Serial Blogger

Excuses -- Prologue by Michael Nichols

Think back to the last time you were in an uncomfortable position. I remember almost a year ago learning to dance for the first time. It was... very... very... ahhh! The tall, lanky guy that I am wasn't going to have it. I would much rather have gone skydiving with a rubber balloon as a parachute. Oh, did I mention that the one who taught me how to dance was absolutely gorgeous? Well, now you know, and that has always been somewhat intimidating to me, so I was baffled when it happened.

If you know me, you know that I never expect good things to happen. Well, guess what! That was a fantastic experience. I didn't know how to dance, but she taught me well enough, and I didn't step on her toes -- not once! It was so much fun to learn and to do. My comfort zone had been invaded, but she pulled me out of it, broadened it. If she hadn't been so persistent, though, I never would have dared to try. I'm glad, now, that she did.

Unlike my previous statement, though, parachuting with a rubber balloon is nothing like dancing -- not even slightly -- but I was that prepared to escape the situation as quickly as I could. I would have said I had a peg leg if it weren't obvious how fat of a lie it would be. I try not to make it a habit to lie, either, but I can't say I never do, and when I do, I can always say I regretted it fully, which is the power of the excuse.

This polymorphic beast has been around since the beginning of time. It was within Adam and Eve along with their guilt when they went into hiding from God, and it is with us today when we are presented with uncomfortable situations of varying gravity. Let me be clear -- excuses and reasons are two very different things, and in the end, only one will keep you alive.

NEXT -- PART 1: THE INVISIBLE CRUTCH

Rationality -- Part 3: Defiance by Michael Nichols

Our society teaches us to look on the bright side of things, to believe that things are going to get better, and to do what we can to change our world to fit our desires, or at the very least to pacify ourselves through both good and evil methods. I tend to disagree: there isn't always a bright side, and things will not always improve, and you cannot always inspire improvement, nor can you ignore it away. Maybe I'm cynical for thinking this, but I don't think I'm cynical: I'm just crazy, but rest assured that I have method to my madness.

The Bright Side

No, everything does not have a bright side, but that doesn't mean to give up hope. We always tend to think of the scenarios we live through as the thing to have bright and dark sides, but this is not the truth. All temporary situations have a dark side, but it is your life that is the bright side. It was no coincidence that Jesus said, "You are the light of the world" (see Matthew 5). He wasn't kidding or understating it. Your life is radiant in a way you cannot see or even attempt to imagine, but you cannot hope to stop it or avoid it. Now let's go somewhere with this thought.

You were born to parents. The fact of your conception was a miracle, yes, and that affected your parents from the moment you happened. Whether they wanted you or not, you are a part of their life and a story they will remember through their death. If you were given up for adoption, that was also a part of their story, not just yours. If you were kept, what they did with you, how they grew you, how and how well they love(d) you is also a part of their story, something that they will carry to their grave. They have no choice even if they wished they could choose otherwise. You happened, and you changed someone's world, cast a light on a part of their life that they had not before seen, pulled pieces within them to the outside to be seen and held.

Some parents lose their children. I have seen the effects of it, though I have not witnessed the occurrence. It changes a person forever, and that isn't their choice either. Like an exploding star, a great light is cast on everything around, then the light ends, and the cold comes... but like a gas giant, the energy that emanates from this explosion can ignite deeper fires, transforming that gas giant into a star itself.

So no matter where you came from, what you do, how far you go, and how you go, you shine. Not only do you shine, but those around you shine, and we shine together! But just like the sun, some of our light is beneficial, and some of it is harmful, and too much of it can be devastating.

But then this light is always shining outward, into darkness. It was meant to fade, and the fade has a reason (see part 2).

Before I get us both lost in the metaphor, I'll just put it in plain English. You effect people whether you believe it or not, whether you like it or not. You came to people at your beginning, and you will leave people eventually, which is the hard part.

Improvement and Our Role In It

Let's go back to the whole idea of losing a child... you can't really undo that. Death happens for a reason, even though most deaths have now become disconnected from reason (see part 2, again). No, it is not good, and no, it was not originally meant to happen. God never called death "good" because death isn't something He created (see Genesis 1-3), and it's not something that can be fixed or stopped in this world (see 1 Corinthians 15).

You cannot force a tyrant to be a better person though you can force him from his throne. You cannot satisfy the hunger of a thief though you can imprison him where he cannot satisfy his cravings. You cannot make the depressed soul happy though you surround him with good and speak good into his life. It isn't up to you to make changes for people who do not see the value and therefore do not want the change, nor can they always see the merit of change in their lives or in their eyes. Sometimes, a person believes their way too hard to believe otherwise without direct intervention, and even then they do not always change because they desire things that will not satisfy them in the very end!

Pacification

Not only can we not force change, but we cannot, we cannot, we cannot make them go away by giving them what we want, and the same goes for us. No matter how many things we do to try to make the pain subside, it never really leaves. No matter how many ways we reason with ourselves, that doesn't changed the reality of your life. No matter what substances we ingest to try to eliminate the pain, it always comes back because you always sober up. That's just how our bodies work: they were made to reject poison. The irony of addictions, though, is that they come so subtly that we see them only as desires, but we don't recognize them as enslavement. This is the true nature of poison: the inability to function or discern reality; and if you cannot discern reality, you cannot defy reality.

Defiance

Can we ignore reality away? No. Can we change reality? No, hence its name. Can we deny the bleakness of reality? We can try, but in the end we always wake up. Can we defy it, though? Absolutely. Defiance isn't change, ignorance, or denial. Defiance is something completely different. Defiance says...

I know what happened. I know what is happening. I know what will probably happen. The thing is: I don't care. I won't stop. I won't give up. I will say what is on my mind. I will stand for what I believe. I won't let go of whom I love. I won't back down. I won't crumble. I won't give into the false deities of you or me. I won't give into the unreal expectations of this world, my culture, my workplace, myself. I am not perfect, but I am in love, and I will  not give it up. I will defend it. I will protect it. If you have a problem with it, then do something about it. Exile me. Reject me. Persecute me. Isolate me. Rob me. Do what you want with me because if that is the life that you have planned for me, I want no part of it. My hope is not in this world. My hope is not in myself. My hope is in the love of Jesus and the place He has prepared for me even though I don't deserve it, and that is what I want to be a part of. I am afraid, but I am too in love to listen to fear.

... Defiance says that. Defiance doesn't give up or give in. Defiance doesn't stop loving his enemies because they don't love him back. Defiance cannot die. Defiance know that evil is born to end. Defiance was crucified. Defiance rose again. Defiance teaches others how to be defiant. It doesn't ignore the truth, fight the truth, or deny the darkness. It defeats the darkness. It lives. It takes the chances it is given because it knows that chances in this life are fleeting, chances to tell people what they mean to you, let them know the impact they've had, and chances to be an impact, to give though it hasn't always received.

Defiance defies. That's is about as simple as it gets...

... And it's worth it.

Rationality -- Part 2: Dealing by Michael Nichols

No matter how much we try to downplay the depth of our torment, no matter how many times we deny it, no matter how deeply we bury it, no matter how many doors in which we lock it, these things do not just disappear. It's like trying to quell an echo -- no matter how many things you use to dampen it, it will never fully die... but we were not made to destroy darkness. We were not made for endings but for beginnings.

"In the beginning, God created [everything]... good," says Genesis 1 in short. That's how it all began before the fall. Did you know that the guilty three (Adam, Eve, and the serpent) were the first ones to rationalize. The first thing that Adam and Eve did (but the same is not said of the serpent, you will notice) is hide. They were ashamed of their state, but they didn't want God to see them when they heard Him coming. When they finally met and explained that they hid because they were naked, He knew what had happened, but He asked anyway: "Have you eat from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?" Instead of giving an straight answer, which would have been, "Yes," they beat around the bush. They blamed each other. They refused to take personal responsibility despite the fact that bearing the image of God implies the ability to choose.

But they were just trying to protect themselves, right? True, but until then, they needed no protection. They were with God! Whom then did they have to fear? The serpent? No, because he was put under the dominion of man by the sovereignty of God. It was man who was to rule the serpent and later to crush his head (Jesus at His crucifixion and resurrection) -- on a side note, what if Adam and Eve had crushed his head to begin with? -- but that dominion was relinquished to an angel in the guise of an animal, which is ironic because scripture says that one day "we shall judge angels" (1 Corinthians 6:3).

But why would we try to protect ourselves if we weren't guilty? -- of course in our now-corrupt world, the worldly-innocent do have to protect themselves from those who let their evil escape, but that is a different topic altogether. Obviously we knew we deserved it, but being absorbed with the fear which comes with the knowledge of good and evil, we forgot that God warned us of the consequences of that knowledge to begin with, which means that He was trying to protect us! He never changes, so why would His love in any way be shattered by our finite actions?

This is a huge example of the way we try to rationalize our way out of painful things -- really the most painful thing: guilt and separation from the Lord of all and the greatest friend that anyone can have (yes, you can have Him). The kicker is that it always works the same way, since we are now all guilty of wrongdoings (and yes, it is true), even if we are not the ones presently doing those wrong things or have done anything to directly or indirectly invoke these wrong things being done to us. We have and will all experience the sting of evil before, until, and when we die, and we will all try to make sense of them... but things don't always have to make sense to be true. A baby that tries to eat his toes -- don't deny it, you have done it at some point, hehehe -- well, it doesn't really make much sense, but it happens! As they grow, they fail to assimilate the concept of "sharing," even though they know that quantities are limited, and will continue to grow and realize that life is short and fleeting -- so why horde it? -- but even fully grown adults cannot grasp this simple principle! And all of these things blow back on others...

... But the problem with rationality is that it fails to deal with the reality that not everything that happens is rational! It cannot be diminished, destroyed, or dealt with using our rationality because its rationality is to diminish, destroy, and deal. You can't fight fire with fire without feeding yourself to the same monster you say you want to escape, so what can we do?

----

Next: Rationality -- Part 3: Defiance

Rationality -- Part 1: Diminishment by Michael Nichols

Only a flesh wound. Only a scratch. Only a splinter. Just a little headache. It's nothing. Don't mind me. It doesn't matter.

The things we say to other people tell them how we want them to think of us when we think that they think something about us that we wish they didn't. We lie. We don't want them to see the depth of our hurt. After all, we wish we didn't see it ourselves, but what can you do about that? -- well, we will get to that part later.

Sometimes, it's a big deal and we underreact. Sometimes, it's a small deal and we underreact. A million mixtures of problem size and personal reaction can be made, all depending upon you and how you have learned to deal with things. But the universal reality is that we wish everything to be different. Human beings are good at seeing flaws.

We are also well versed in the art of hiding. Exhibit A: the silent ones, the quiet ones. Don't make a sound. Don't disturb the peace. Don't tip the balance any more than it already has been. Even if you don't like what is happening, don't make it known because that will complicate things. You will have to deal with your problems, work, express, be vulnerable, all of which is taxing to the soul. It takes away from your energy. You become tired, hungry, sore, worn out, stretched thin. In this way, we attempt to trick the world into thinking that we are stronger than we think we are, but this is not the truth. Eventually, pressure makes a soul erupt like a long-dormant volcano.

Exhibit B: the rebel. We look at the pretty part of it, the ray of hope within the shadows of dismay. No situation is as bleak as it may seem, and we refuse to let the darker side of things take control of our minds. Distance is remedied by digital communications, telephony, letters, and road trips. Rebels look past the distance itself and see how it can be circumvented. In the end, distance is just a dictator to be overthrown.

Exhibit C: the empathic. They understand that the intent of the situation was not to cause pain. It was unintentional, accidental, though not beyond understanding.

Exhibit D: the improviser. They understand the changing nature of the world, and they can go with it. They are completely capable of playing the cards they are dealt, living in the unforeseen.

Exhibit E: the historian. It's not like unfortunate things haven't happened before. The world has been corrupted, and we suffer the consequences of that. When bad things happen, it's the world that screwed you over, not necessarily the person.

Exhibit F: the prophet. Given that the world is corrupt, it can be expected that it will come between you and the things your heart desires. We can usually only live in spite of that.

Exhibit G: the fatalist. It sucks, and things will never improve. We are doomed to misery.

Exhibit I: the willingly ignorant. It's not really happening. It can't happen. It won't happen. Deny. Deny. Deny.

We can try to diminish the blow in so many different ways. That doesn't stop it from coming. That doesn't make it stop happening. That doesn't undo what has happened.

Fortunately, this is not the point. We weren't meant to stop it.

So, now what?

----

Part 2: Dealing

Rationality -- Prologue by Michael Nichols

Your world just shattered like a glass floor beneath the weight of the world that you dropped because you could not carry it alone. The only way you could have carried it this far is if someone shared the load with you. You could not have forced them to help you because they had the weight of their own world to carry. The kindness of their heart is the only thing that could have possibly persuaded them to do this with you. Surely, if they were kind enough to do that for you, you would try to do the same for them. Somewhere along the way, however, you became separated. Maybe you know how. Maybe you know why. That part doesn't really matter. At the end of the day, how or why don't matter. How and why are questions of mechanics and motive. How and why don't change anything. At the end of the day, something else keeps you awake at night. It isn't your understanding of what happened, nor is it your understanding of the purpose behind the event, nor is it your understanding of what triggered the event, be it separation, be it collision, be it good, be it harm. It isn't the cirumstances surrounding the event that plunge their claw into the tissue of your mind and soul.

Rationality. That is weapon of the beast that haunts us. Is rationality bad? No, but it can only go so far, and this is where it begins.

Forgiveness -- Part 4 by Michael Nichols

So what does it mean? This almost paradox of forgiveness can wrack your brain at first. We know we don't deserve it, but we know it's good to have, so how can we have it? Well, let's start from the start. The origins of Christianity are  interesting to say the least. We were prophesied about ages ago. Paul talks about this in Romans 9-11. It's odd to take in given that our culture is so vastly different from the Hebrew culture, but if you know just a little about the religion of Judaism, you can start to see the picture a little bit more clearly.

Hebrew faith was established on a sacrificial system. There was a law for just about everything. It's interesting to see, though, that even though there was a law, that was just a part of the text that the Hebrews followed. There was also something called "the prophets," which are certain Hebrew texts that do a couple of things: 1) speak to the culture at that time about something God was going to do with them at that time and 2) speak to anyone who happened to read that text about something to come in the future. I'm thinking about the latter rather than the former.

Firstly, I think about how Jesus said that He didn't come to "destroy the law, but to fulfill it." So that meant that there was something that the Hebrews were missing. Paul doesn't really talk about how Jesus fulfills "the law" here, but he does mention some things that "the prophets" said, namely about the true identity of "Israel" in the greater purpose of salvation.

The Old Testament (everything the Hebrews wrote before the birth of Jesus) is filled to the maximum with stories of how the descendants of Abraham strayed from the Lord then followed Him, then strayed then followed again. It's not an unfamiliar pattern. We've all been guilty of that at some point and would be lying if we denied it. We should not, however, expect any less as a consequence of this pattern than a redirection of attention.

This is what God did with Israel. Did He ignore them, forsake them, condemn them? No way, but He certainly didn't force them into subservience! He more or less just... expanded. Israel went through periods of idolatry and rigid law. Inevitably the latter won, and they devoted themselves to righteousness by the law. After all, the law is what they had. It stood firm through the desert, through the idolatry. It had been faithful, but had they been faithful? No. They had been legal, and it became a problem.

A person can only go so far by their own means. Sure, effort is great! The scriptures say that God is a fan of us trying to be more like Him, but this effect is not achieved by works alone. Eventually, everyone gets tired. Everyone has their breaking point, their Achilles heel, that one thing that will bring them down no matter what, but God is stronger that your strongest weakness -- pretty sure that's a quote, but I'm not sure who said it first.

After several periods of forced migration by external powers, the idolatry and evil that Israel seemed so keen on began to subside, replaced by a more strict adherence to the law of the land, but it wasn't in the sense that they wanted to obey it, but out of a sense of not repeating history by being "good enough," which is impossible because none of us are perfect, and furthermore drove the nation into a very discriminatory and caste-like mode of religion, which is what happens when man believes he is perfect when he is not, when he exalts himself to a state of mind that is higher than his state of heart. By buying into a belief that salvation can be earned, they made these words relevant:

Moses writes this about the righteousness that is by the law: “The person who does these things will live by them.” But the righteousness that is by faith says: “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) “or ‘Who will descend into the deep?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim: If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. 11 As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” 12 For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, 13 for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

That is how forgiveness takes root. It is there for free. You only have to call on Him. It may be difficult at first, but if there is anyone out there and still with us whom we can trust, it's Jesus. Make an effort to trust, and trust Him with your efforts. Abraham had no tangible basis by which to listen to the voice that told him to search for a land that was promised to him for generations upon generations, yet he did it because he trusted. The promise that he was given was a promise of something greater. Not only was that promise fulfilled, but it continues to be fulfilled and one day will be completed when we reach the "promised land" of heaven. Through the Spirit which dwells in us by faith, our efforts are given new life. We're never going to perfect, but we will always be forgiven, and we will always be growing, led by the best of the best, the king of kings.

It was in God's plan all along for salvation to be for more than just one culture. "Israel" isn't just a country or a heritage or a culture or a religion: Israel is a choice, a faith, forgiveness, grace. It was meant for everyone, but the only way for Israel to turn back to the way of living by faith and not by self-righteousness was to see the offer of grace and forgiveness come to others. It was Paul's wish as well that they would come back to the way of faith, and the only way that it could happen is through envy. The kicker there is that nobody -- and I mean NOBODY -- is required to envy because grace is a free gift from a God who doesn't speak the language of discrimination against color, heritage, gender -- NOTHING.

That's the beauty of it. We're all in this together. This world and its promises are not permanent, and that can be seen in our governments, in our cultures, in our choices, in our coinage, and in our caskets. If you have a chance to make someone's day better, do it. If someone needs defending, do it. Love. Love. Love. Love like Jesus loved. Knowing how fleeting life is, why not give it away? Why not share it? There is so much love inside a heart, be it buried, be it on the surface, be it both. It was meant to leave the body, and that's why I feel like a shaken soda bottle when I'm not singing, when I'm not with my friends, when I'm not working, when I'm not making new friends, when I'm not going to new places, learning new things, learning from old things... I'm simply saying that EVERYTHING is a chance to love the way Jesus loved and tell someone about the love He has for us -- and yes, He still has it because my God is NOT dead: He is 100% ALIVE. I don't know if you, readers, trust Jesus or even believe Jesus, and making you believe isn't in my modus operundi, but I encourage you regardless of your faith to take this in and ask yourself, "Who is Jesus, how does this all work, and is this worth believing?" You won't be disappointed. :)

 

Thanks for reading, again. Like I've said before, I'm no theologian, but I am human, and I can only say what I've seen and heard. If there is anything I haven't made clear, or if you have questions about what I believe, why it's so important to me, feel free to comment or email, and do the same if you simply have something to say. I always welcome both old and new friends. Until next time. :)

Forgiveness -- Part 3 by Michael Nichols

NOTE: this part is written in context of Romans 8 and Ephesians 6.

The moving on from sin by the power of forgiveness is like wind in your sails, which is funny when you consider the origin of the word "Spirit," meaning breath or wind depending upon the context. I don't think it was an accident that the Spirit is called "the Spirit." Authors (hint: God) usually choose appropriate words to describe characters, so when the word for "Spirit" is also used for breath or wind, I think that should mean something (of course without reading too much into it). Yet again, because of that, I don't think that it was an accident that Paul moves on from the topic of grace and the struggle of the mind to do good with the desire of the flesh to sin to the topic of life in the Spirit for no good reason. Back then, ships with sails were a means of transit across seas. It got you from A to B, and without the wind... well, we would have a lot of rowing to do.

Trying to move on from sin while still living by the impulses of the flesh is just like that -- like rowing across the Mediterranean Sea in all its vastness whilst being boarded by pirates with black teeth and a hollow code of ethics. The journey from A to B becomes a little more treacherous than it originally seemed, but the whole point of Jesus was to break us free from those pirates, those fleshly impulses, confused iterations of what God had originally intended to be good. Pirates either kill or imprison/enslave their captors, that is, if they don't defect to ally themselves with the pirates, but how can we accept enslavement, and how can we side with someone who wants to take everything we have? The whole point of the Spirit is freedom from what seeks to enslave us, to fight, to escape. I say "what" because it is not the people whom we should most fear but the things they hold inside, lethal poisons. Without weaponry, they cannot harm us. Our battle isn't against literal flesh, but it is against the dark system, against evil which, in and of itself, is almost paranormal, supernatural, and most definitely spiritual -- it's just that the vicar of darkness is the flesh. Therefore, the combat against sin is one that we fight in the realm of the Spirit. We cannot fight flesh conventional means. Substances, pills, rituals, can never substitute for the movement of the Holy Spirit. The idea that "iron sharpens iron" works for the flesh as well in that the more fleshly attention is given to the flesh, the more it thrives. Even if a little wine calms you down, even if a pill mellows you out, it is no substitute for letting the Spirit of the Lord lift you up from the ground to whence you were thrown. Don't misunderstand -- I'm not condemning pills or alcohol. I'm simply saying that they can have an overriding affect on the mind, which is hazardous.

So what then? Does the flesh have a hold on us? If we live in the Spirit, what happens next? Are you standing on the edge of it all, or are you letting yourself fall into grace? It can be so easy to live in the flesh because the flesh is primarily where we feel, but there is so much more to feel, think, see, experience, give, when walking in the Spirit, when we cease standing on the edge of decision and cross into forgiveness and grace, let ourselves set sail, grab a big gust of wind, and go where He leads us, be it into battle or into rest. Don't live in fear of the things that once scarred you.

When you start following the guidance of the Spirit, your history changes immediately. History isn't kept to begrudge the people who scarred you in your past but rather to remind you of the constancy and victory of God against your foes, even when you yourself are among them. Did the events change? No, but you begin to see them in a better light. You've come this far. God has delivered you, and as long as His Spirit surrounds you, you do not have to rely on your flesh to survive because true life is not in the flesh. The flesh is just a voice, but you are more than flesh and bone. You are spirit, and God is a spirit. Everything you experience affects your body, but in the end your body dies, and all you have left is what happened to your spirit. It is in the spirit we have protection and victory through Jesus' name, and NOTHING can take that away -- not distance, not people, not time  -- NOTHING. We are never forsaken. We are never alone. All praise and thanks be to God.

Forgiveness -- Part 2 by Michael Nichols

The nitty-gritty of Romans truly starts in Chapter 6, where Paul poses a few very interesting questions:

  • "[If more grace comes to those who have been in more sin,] shall we continue sinning so that grace may increase?"
  • "Shall we sin because we are not under the law, but under grace?"
  • "[If the law makes us aware of sin to the extent that we give into sin,] is the law sinful?"
  • "[If that giving into sin bring us death when the law was meant for life,] did that which is good, then, become death to [him]?"

Now, I'm neither a theologian nor a Bible scholar by any stretch of the imagination. I'm just some guy reading this and seeing certain things pop out at me. I don't know much about the structure of the Roman church, or anything about where it went from there. I do, however, know that Paul seems to be throwing out a ton of questions to them, which leads me to ask, "Why? Were these questions relevant to them in some way?"

These questions seem to have a sort of progression, a sequence of figuring out how this "grace" thing actually works. Humor me for just a moment. If you were figuring out that there was a way to escape the threat of death, would you take it? I mean, it's really a rhetorical question, if you think about it. Of course you would. The whole premise of sin is that it brings destruction wherever it goes. The victims hurt, and eventually, that hurt ripples back to the criminal, even if it takes a long time. In answering that first question of whether we should continue sinning to bring about more grace, he answered, and I paraphrase this, basically, "Heck to the no," explaining to his audience that when they were baptized, it was a way of showing that they had died to sin. How does someone who is dead continue living in the body he was in? Is it even possible? He explains that we are not under the law, but under grace, which is when he asks his second question (see list), and swiftly says, "No way!" yet again! He comes back to drive the that, not only are dead to sin, but that sin itself is a murderer, and ends up killing us anyway, so why should we be a slave to it? We are now free to live, unafraid of what sin once did to us because it no longer had a hold on us, but we have a hold on it through Jesus!

Then, it gets even weirder. So the law was made to show us what is good, right? But in doing so, the law also shows us what is wrong, everything we should do... and that's when we start to question it. Our failure to believe in our own inevitable demise gives us the wiggle room to chase things we shouldn't. We don't like to believe in limitations. We like to think that we can handle anything and everything life throws at us, and that was true before the fall because we had it made. We weren't alone, separated from each other and God. Everything was unified, unbroken, complete. God rested from His work because it was done. He didn't need to do anything else in the slightest. It was over. Then, when we were told to avert death by not eating the "forbidden fruit," that was when sin crept in through Satan in the serpent -- wow, that's some alliteration for ya. In the same way, temptations creep into our thoughts daily. We imagine passing boundaries that aren't ours to cross. So it isn't really the law itself that is evil, but it is our own nature of pushing the envelope that brings us to places of hurt and loss.

That is the whole purpose of death to sin. If we choose to die to it, we then cannot die from it. It's not like we have no choice. That was the whole purpose of Jesus' death and resurrection, and also what makes the aforementioned imagery of baptism (buried with Christ, raised to new life) so vivid. Because of that, we now have a choice. We are no longer slaves! We have been liberated! The door is open wide to run through, but He's not going to drag us through it. Light always shines from a distance. It has to radiate in order to get to where it's going. Light can lead, but it is not in it's nature to forcefully pull things to itself (which is why this isn't a perfect analogy, because God DOES pull us to Him, but not in a forced way).

So the point of forgiveness (grace) isn't really to ignore the past or that the nature of sin itself is to tear things apart or to place blame on the law, which is what I inferred from how Paul spoke to the Romans. The point is not to ignore it, but to kill it when we die to ourselves and are resurrected by the power of Jesus' resurrection -- it's a chance to leave the past behind and start fresh, and that chance is always there for all of us.

The parasite we call sin can only feed on the living flesh, but the resurrection we receive here on earth, unlike the one to come, is one in the Spirit. That's where the war begins. I'll talk about in PART 3.

In the mean time, watch this video by Meredith Andrews!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t-KX3WIMq0Y

Forgiveness -- Part 1 by Michael Nichols

Four posts ago, I said some stuff about the power of Christ's forgiveness, promising to go somewhere with that, so given that I'd prefer to be a man who follows through when he speaks, let's begin. :) I'm sure I've touched on the topic before, but I've never really delved into it much. Well, I guess it reflects upon how much I think about it on the day-to-day. It's not like I can really ever forget forgiveness. My biggest issue is probably the active clinging to it.

If you ever have the chance or interest, read Romans 6. Matter of fact, read the entire letter. It's basically all about the concept of forgiveness and how it ties in through the ages. Paul goes as far back as showing how forgiveness was promised both to Israel and to the Gentiles. He also breaks down the interaction between sin, the law, and grace (which we can call "forgiveness" for the purposes of this post).

Synopsis:

  • CHAPTER 1: the fall of man to his own lusts
  • CHAPTER 2: believers who judge each other for their failures, and the introduction of law
  • CHAPTER 3: the introduction of righteousness through faith
  • CHAPTER 4: the example of Abraham's righteousness through faith
  • CHAPTER 5: peace, and new life through Christ opposing death through Adam
  • CHAPTER 6: the beginning of the grace-versus-sin conflict

I'll stop there because that's where the problems start to come, where Paul begins challenging the Romans through their way of thinking. He begins to give a clear description of how exactly it is that grace works, what that means for sin, and goes on about it for several chapters.

Before I end this post, though, let me set the stage for the next one. So far, Paul has reiterated to the Romans what they already knew about the fall of man to sin, using that to call out some people that the Romans were dealing with at the time, people who were being judgmental about the same sins they themselves were committing (probably not the whole of the community, but anyway). It's from there that he shows them what to do about it. He goes through the way that the law was introduced with the intent of it being for the heart, but explains how we tend to think of it as something we hide behind, using it as a shell to hide our evil nature behind, and that this nature is universal. We have all been corrupted by selfish ambitions. Through faith, though, we are drawn back to Him. It's nothing to gloat about because it doesn't automatically make us righteous, but it counts for something in God's eyes. Faith is the thing that keeps us hanging onto Him. Paul explains how Abraham was given a chance demonstrate it by offering his son, the one God promised. His faith that God would not make him give up his son, and his faithfulness to come to the brink of the offering, prepared to do whatever God asked, was counted as righteousness, and God sent an angel to stop the sacrifice before it was completed -- I'm sure Abraham was grateful. It's by this same sort of faith that the power of sin and death is broken in us, as though Jesus' death on the cross and resurrection rippled forward through time to break them.

Sounds great, right?

Simple enough, right?

Right.

But it can be hard to wrap one's head around it -- I really mean it can be hard for me to wrap my head around it, especially given the fact that I am human, just like every other human, and I sin and have my issues just as every other human. Sometimes, we can fall short in our understanding, and sometimes, we can try to take advantage of grace in a bad way, not that this is possible, but that isn't really the point. There are so many facets to grace that we often fall short of understanding, accepting, and giving, I think that's what Paul might have been getting at when he spoke with the Romans, and maybe that's what God is trying to impress on me all these centuries later.

But that was just the first less-than-half of the letter. There's so much more to it. I'm getting to it, but I'm gonna break this up into several blog posts, so if you're interested, stay tuned. I think it's pretty cool, and worth the read -- Romans, I mean. :P