Saturday, November 24, 2012

How Do Sump Pumps and Sacrifice Work?

Sidney Herald religion column published September 16, 2012

Last year at our farm at Wildrose, we reached the peak in a long period of historically high precipitation. Sloughs ran over. Fields were saturated. Few crops were planted. By July, nearly all my neighbors were talking about seepage into their basements. They were going on about their sump pumps.

My basement didn’t have seepage yet. While I was sympathetic about my neighbors’ problems, I was not interested in the solution. Sure, I was vaguely curious how one could put something electric in water without electrocution or fire, but I was not interested in how sump pumps work.

Then it happened. Water started seeping into our basement. It welled up from deep within the house. If not stopped, it would flood the floor and rise. It would make the foundation crack and settle. It would ruin everything with rot and mold.

Once I had the problem and knew I was in trouble, I wanted to know more about it and the solution.

It is like that with sin and salvation. As long as sin is only our neighbor’s problem, we have less interest in the problem and the solution. Once we have the problem and know we are in trouble, we want to know more about sin and its solution, the sacrifice of Christ. Just as questions about how a sump pump works become vital when our own basement is flooding, so questions about how sacrifice works become vital when our own soul is seeping from within, flooding, cracking, settling, rotting, and molding.

There are questions about how sacrifice works. It does not work for a person to make a sacrifice to himself. If Jesus is the sacrifice for our sin, to whom did he make his sacrifice?

Sacrifice results in death. When Jesus was dead and buried, who presented his sacrifice?

How did Jesus rise again to life for our justification?

As with nearly everything vital to our faith, again, the answer is the Trinity.

Hebrews 9:14 says, “How much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.” The Father, the Son, and the Spirit all work together in the sacrifice. Jesus, the Son, sacrifices himself for us. His sacrifice is to God, the Father. His sacrifice is presented through the Spirit. Without the Trinity, sacrifice would not work.

The Father and the Spirit together raised Christ from the dead. Galatians 1:1, Romans 8:11, Ephesians 1:17, 20. No Trinity, no resurrection. The dead do not raise themselves.

Apostle Paul says, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” The Christian confession, the confession of the sacrifice that saves us from sin, is a confession of the Trinity. It is a confession that the Father raised Jesus from the dead for our justification.


Saturday, November 17, 2012

How Well Loved Are You?

Sidney Herald religion column published August 19, 2012
“Mom always liked you best.”
That was the signature line of the comedy act, the Smothers Brothers. In an interview by PBS, Tommy Smothers recalled how it started. He was the younger, dumber brother. Dick was the older, smarter brother. Dick, as usual, was running Tommy down. He did it so convincingly that the audience stopped thinking it was only an act.
The audience started to hiss and boo Dick. Tommy said, “He’d do this one litany, about five or six lines in a row. ‘You’re stupid. You’re dumb. You’re not a man. You’ve never done anything right. You’re a failure. You’ll never amount to anything.’” Tommy answered, “Yeah, and mom liked you best.” The audience fell apart.
Why was that funny? Why did that relieve the tension that was running so high against Dick? The audience had a pent up desire to see Tommy win, to top Dick, to play trump. Unexpectedly, he did. Suddenly, in a bitter way, the brother who was supposed to be a failure was a smashing success.
Tommy won the argument with one, simple statement. The dumber brother showed that in one important way, he was smarter. Unpack the line, “Mom liked you best,” and it says, if you’re so smart, why do you think you can hurt me with all those rotten things you are saying, when I already have been hurt as badly as anyone can be? Does it get any worse than my mother not loving me as well? I am down so far, how did you think you could put me down any farther?
Life does that to us. It tells us we are not loved as well as others. As bad as that is when it involves our mothers, it is worse when we feel that way about our Heavenly Father. The Devil, the world, and our own fallen thinking try to take away our assurance of how well the Father loves us.
As with nearly every problem in our faith, the Trinity is the answer. Because of the Trinity, we can receive assurance of how well loved we are.
Jesus said to his Father, “You sent me and loved them even as you loved me.” John 17:23. The Only Begotten Son of the Father says the Father loves us, his adopted sons, exactly as He loves the Only Begotten. The love in the Trinity between the Father and the Son is the same love that the Father gives to us. We are loved as well as Jesus is.
The Only Begotten Son tells us He, too, loves us exactly as the Father loves him. “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you.” John 15:9.
The Spirit also brings us the same love. “You have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.” Roman 8:15-16.
Through the blood of Christ, we receive Trinitarian love.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Is Love a Lie?

Sidney Herald religion column published July 21, 2012

What is more common than talk of love? The word is overused. So much love is false. Billy Joel sang truth in “A Matter of Trust”:

Some love is just a lie of the heart
The cold remains of what began with a passionate start

Some love is just a lie of the soul
A constant struggle for the ultimate state of control

Some love is just a lie of the mind
It’s make believe until it’s only a matter of time
With all the lies of love, with all the wounds, betrayals, cruelties, deceptions, and abandonments, we still hope for true love, love eternal, love divine.

But, without the Trinity, love is abolished.

Before creation of heaven and earth, there was only God. There were no creatures, angels or humans. Suppose there were not three persons in God. Suppose there was only one. Where was the love? It never was.

We might imagine a god who, though only one person, still loved. The love of such a god must have been self-love. That person had only himself to love. Love’s nature would be so altered that it is no longer what we desire. Love would become hellish. Bishop Kallistos Ware says “Self-love is hell; self-love signifies the end of all joy and all meaning. Hell is not other people; hell is myself, cut off from others in self-centeredness.”

In the Trinity, even before creation, there was love. There was the Father and Son. The Father loved his Son and the Son loved his Father. That was family. That was home. The Son had a home in his Father and the Father had a home in his Son. The Trinity is love’s eternal home.

Even richer, there was the Holy Spirit. The Father, the Son, and the Spirit all loved each other eternally. Before a blade of grass ever felt the dew of morning, before a tree heard a bird song – before Adam saw Eve – love already was true, divine, and eternal between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Jesus said to his Father, “You loved me before the foundation of the world.” John 17:24

Such love was full of glories and wonders, pleasures and comforts. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit were one in the heavenliness of heaven.

What happiness to never need to wonder what the other person said behind one’s back, to never wonder what was meant by a comment, to never be unsure of the attitude behind a look of the eye, for an expression of the face to never be a riddle or mask, to trust, to believe all things, to bear all things, to hope all things, for there to be no wrongs or record of wrongs, no envy, no rivalry, no rudeness, no gossip, for every moment and every blink of consciousness to be all kindness and faith perfectly.

Through the blood of Christ, the Trinity invites us into a love like theirs, the love that is no lie.