Friday, January 21, 2011

Faith for Foggy Days

The winter of 2010 is one for the record books ~ bringing a white Christmas to many places that normally only dream of snow; it's blustery cold continuing to dump snow and ice for weeks. Many schools have been forced to call extra Snow Days and cancel classes.

Where I live, winter brings the Tule Fog (pronounced too-lee). Tule Fog is a thick ground fog that settles in California's Great Central Valley, named after the tule grass wetlands (tulares) of the Central Valley. When the fog "hits the deck" (as they say in weather talk) the schools call s Foggy Day Schedule, delaying the start of the school day until the fog lifts enough for the buses to safely make their rounds to pick up their precious cargo. There are winters when we do not see the sun for weeks!

I remember when our children were school age, we could almost predict if a Foggy Day Schedule would be called as we could not see the house directly across the street. Yes, Tule Fog is that bad. I have driven at night in Tule Fog and needed my window down just to see at least three yellow dotted lines ahead of me, to keep my car in my lane and on the road!

Today it is very foggy outside once again. As I watched the list of Foggy Day Schedules grow on the morning news, I thought about times in my life when my path seems foggy. Times when I can not see very far ahead because the stuff of life blocks my view. Times when I am not certain I am still on the road.

These are the times when my faith grows. Those days or weeks when I cannot see the purpose, I do not feel the joy, I am unsure if I am where I should be, and life just seems like a fog. At times like this, the words in of Hebrews 11:6, become, in essence, my yellow dotted lines ~
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
The foggy days of life are when my faith is stretched to not trust in what is seen or felt, but on what is hoped for and what is known to be true. I have walked enough foggy roads in life to know that my faith in God is not a product of His willingness to clear out the fog or to create the life which I desire. No, my faith is rooted in my belief that His will cannot take me where His grace cannot keep me. It is a faith that knows, even in the Foggy Day Schedules of life, He will illuminate for me a path through the fog, to fulfill His purposes.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Acceptable Sins

I find it interesting when I hear individuals in the faith community discuss sin. It is usually not every sin that is discussed. Just certain ones. Case in point ...

We have a dear friend who recently married. He lives quite far from here so we were not able to attend the wedding. I mention that because if we had been present at the wedding, we most likely would have noticed the baby bump under the bride's wedding attire. Last week, we received a message from him, confessing his sin of having sex with his fiance before marriage, and announcing that he would soon be a father. He noted that he withheld this information from us because he was ashamed to share it with us, that we may think less of him.

Did he sin? Definitely ~ and I can give you chapter and verse ~ Galatians 5:19. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, ...

Is he forgiven? Absolutely ~ by God and by us. And our love for him is not diminished by his sin. Quite honestly, in our eyes, our friend is not defined by his sin of immorality but by his heart of contrition.

Here is what I find interesting. There is a comma at the end of the verse I quoted above. The comma says that the list keeps going into verses 20 and 21. Here is the complete list of sins noted in Galatians 5:19-21 ~ works of the flesh, as Paul calls them.
Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these.
In Christ, there is no hierarchy of sin. Whether it is babies conceived out of wedlock, angry words spoken at a spouse, an unwillingness to forgive that leads to divisions and estrangement, a heart of jealousy, or materialism (ie, idolatry). These are all works of the flesh. Missing the mark. Unholy behaviors. Sin.

Paul adds to that list in 2 Cor. 12:20 ~ quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder.

Why are we so biased toward one sin and not the others? Is it any less sinful to talk about the young couple who obviously had to get married than it is to conceive a child out of wedlock?

In the eyes of a holy God, there are no acceptable sins. Even our biases increase the strife and division among us. Jesus tells us in Matthew 7 ~
Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, Let me take the speck out of your eye, when there is the log in your own eye ... first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.
Living in a redemptive community means we are not deceived into thinking that there are acceptable sins. Redeeming the future begins with the humbling and hard work of logging ~ getting my own heart and life in line with what God desires.