Saturday, November 04, 2006

Roses and Thorns

Before sitting down at my computer this morning, I took a brief stroll in my backyard and looked at our beautiful rose bushes. It will soon be time to cut them back for the winter months, but meanwhile, I love that fact that here in California they are still blooming!

When I gather the roses for the vase in my kitchen, I love seeing the beauty and smelling the fragrance of them. Even though I'm usually careful, there are those moments where the thorns get me. As I slough off those thorns, a few tend to prick right through my garden gloves. Sometimes they draw blood too.

My thoughts drifted back to the Haggard scandal. Just think how devastated you would be if you were a loyal member of this pastor's congregation. Think about how terrible his wife and children must feel and the anguish that this scandal will cause in their lives. No matter what happens, their lives will probably be changed forever. Such are the thorns of this life when we let sin get a grip on us.

We all must realize that as saved Christian people, we still have that sinful, thorny, nature lurking beneath that beautiful rose of grace, mercy and forgiveness which we received through the redemptive work of salvation at the cross of Christ. He took that crown of thorns upon his head, took the horrid whipping and beating, and was nailed to the cross to die 9 hours later so that he could rescue us from the penalty that we all deserve from the thorns of sin upon our individual souls. It is only through the sanctification process (like the removal of thorns from the rose stem) that the power of any future sin in our lives is made desolate. We are a work in progress, people. We are being sanctified day by day in preparation for our eternal home in heaven where there will be no more evil, sin and death.

So, when a brother (or sister) in Christ is found guilty of a very public scandal of sin, we need to remember what Jesus did as he ministered to the adulterous woman. We need to realize that we all are sinners in need of the Savior. We need to drop our stones and rocks and realize that "by the grace of God, there go I." Just like Jesus, we cannot, and should not condone the person's sin, but we must leave the condemnation for any sin up to God.

Jesus asked the adulterous woman, "where are you accusers?" She answered that they were all gone. ALL OF THEM LEFT that place where they originally gathered for the purpose of taking it upon themselves to condemn her and stone her to death. But Jesus turned their intentions upside down with those brilliant words when he said, "He who is without sin may cast the first stone at her."

When we examine this further, we realize that Jesus did not sidestep the law back then. He actually upheld it!! Now stay with me on this. Jesus gave them permission to stone her if they would admit that they were without sin themselves. However, we all know what inevitably happened. Each person's conscience told them that they could never say they were sinless! Jesus tells us so much in this incident, but one of the most significant, glaring truths that we learn is that there are no "good" people because all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God!

Jesus also asked, "Why do you call me good?" when someone called him a "good teacher." He followed up with, "no one is good but God." Why did he participate in this verbal exchange in that way? He was identifying himself with God the Father! His question had the rhetorical affect that exemplified the fact that Jesus had come from the Father..."I and the Father are one."

Jesus brilliantly showed that no one is good but God! Jesus Christ, the sinless Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world died for us all. Those who accept his sacrifice for our sin, and become born again in Christ are redeemed through his righteousness...not our righteousness. When we reach the point where we realize Isaiah's profound words in Isaish 64:6 are absolutely true, it is then that we realize upon Whom our reconciliation with God the Father relies!! It relies totally on Jesus Christ!

Isa 64:6 But we are all as an unclean [thing], and all our righteousnesses [are] as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.

Can't recall the groups name (Update: The song is Who Am I by Casting Crowns...thanks ebfswan for sharing that!) but as a popular Christian song's lyrics tell us:


Not because of who I am, but because of what You've done.

Not because of what I've done, but because of Who You are!


I am a flower quickly fading
Here today and gone tomorrow
A wave tossed in the ocean
A vapor in the wind

Still you, hear me when I'm calling
Lord you catch me when I'm falling
You taught me who I am
I am Yours!

***

We are His! He is with us through everythingl...roses, thorns & all!

12 comments:

GMpilot said...

I've never seen a rose that didn't have thorns, Christine. It's part of what makes a rose a rose. You would have me believe that it's possible to be without thorns. But every time you reveal your own thorns, you retreat to your old mantra "Christians aren't perfect..."

Well, neither are the rest of us. But most of us don't rely on a sandal-wearing superhero to accept responsibility for what we did ourselves.

Haggard first denied ever knowing Jones. Then he admitted that yes, he did buy crystal meth from him, and yes, he got a massage from him, but...well, I needn't continue.
I didn't know you back in '96, but I imagine you excoriated Clinton no end for his indiscretion. So why are you bending over backwards to not criticize Haggard? Why isn't the sense of betrayal the same?

Now about your polemic:

"Jesus also asked, "Why do you call me good?" when someone called him a "good teacher." He followed up with, "no one is good but God." Why did he participate in this verbal exchange in that way? He was identifying himself with God the Father! His question had the rhetorical affect that exemplified the fact that Jesus had come from the Father...'I and the Father are one.'"

Well, that's why he was called "good", right? If Jesus was God, then he was good!
I'm probably missing something here, but I'm sure you'll find a convoluted way to explain it...

Don't worry. Every now and then, we all need a reminder of the arrogance of power. This man, who hobnobbed with presidents, traveled worldwide, and was the spiritual leader of tens of millions of believers, simply showed he had feet of clay.
Clearly, like all such men, he had a solid belief that he'd never be found out, but he, of all people, should have remembered Num 32:23.

If we are, as you say, a "work in progress", then Haggard may eventually return in "a new Edition, revised and updated by the Author" (Franklin). Or, the Author may toss the manuscript and begin a fresh one. I don't know...and you don't either.

Meanwhile, if you love smelling roses, watch out for the thorns. You know they're there; if you get pricked by one, it's your own fault.

Have a good day.

Jaded&Opinionated said...

Why is it that when someone like Haggard, Swaggert, Bakker et. al., do something insideous, we're to think of them as a brother or sister in Christ? Is it not possible that these are the very people we've been warned about, those who would come as false prophets and teachers? Isn't it possible that these people have been brought to their knees in scandal, revealing their true nature as evil-doers, as is described in 2 Peter?

I'm all for giving the benefit of the doubt, but honestly, anyone who comes to power over so many, with such vast wealth at his or her disposal, is questionable in my book. I seem to recall something about a camel having more of a chance of getting through the eye of a needle than a rich man getting into heaven.

Sometimes, the people who do bad things really are bad people. We've been warned over and over about them, yet everyone seems shocked when they fall.

Christinewjc said...

With the family tonight...just briefly checking in.

I wonder. Is any Christian going to come along and truly get what my post was all about?

Sheesh!

GMpilot said...

Any Christian who really "gets it" doesn't need someone like Haggard.
Ever thought of that?

Christinewjc said...

GM - You don't get it. That's quite obvious. Especially when you said:

"You would have me believe that it's possible to be without thorns. But every time you reveal your own thorns, you retreat to your old mantra "Christians aren't perfect..."


Well, neither are the rest of us. But most of us don't rely on a sandal-wearing superhero to accept responsibility for what we did ourselves."


You are missing a lot here. But no need to bother explaining something to someone who won't accept it, anyway. Been there. Done that..too many times with you...

Ever thought of that?

Stephen said...

What saddens me is how Haggard seems like he is going to be thrown to the wolves. A man once held in high esteem, discarded because of weakness. It's this notion that we should all be perfect that is so frustrating and it's the paradox of Christianity: we believe in perfection yet we know we are imperfect, this is the inherent hypocrisy of the Christian condition: we acknowledge and receive forgiveness in our own failures but we're quick to point fingers.

The general consensus among gay Christians I have spoken to is we're hurt and dismayed that he would exhibit such hypocrisy by being openly anti-gay but secretly living an (apparently) adulterous gay lifestyle. Haggard actually wasn't all that bad for gay people. He apparently used to evangelize in gay bars and invited a gay choir to sing at his church. Despite his conservative leanings, and the fact that he openly supported laws to curtail our freedoms, he wasn't half as homophonic as some.

We feel greatly for him and his family at his violent and damaging "outing". It's really a very nasty thing to have happen and we wouldn't have wished this on him. However, truth is better than lies, light is better than darkness. Now that the light of truth is shining in his life, he will be able to heal.

We don't condemn him, because who are we to judge? If he is indeed gay or bi, we welcome him and hope we will be able to help him through these difficult times. He's not alone. I know many gay pastors who are deathly scared that their congregation will condemn them for their sexuality. Haggard has the added complexity of being married and buying drugs which most people don't have though.

ebsfwan said...

The song is Who Am I
by Casting Crowns.

I think the reason why certain posters seem to take an element of joy in this scandal is because all too often these so called leaders have made a career out of hurting people in the name of God and there is an element of satisfaction in their hypocrisy being revealed.

I personally thought your post was rather appropriate this time. :)

GMpilot said...

Christine: ”You are missing a lot here. But no need to bother explaining something to someone who won't accept it, anyway. Been there. Done that..too many times with you...

Ever thought of
that?”

It’s not my fault if you don’t have the strength to go the distance with me.

In case you haven’t noticed, you’re not the only one who’s “been there, done that”. We’ve been sparring for many months, and you remain as committed to your belief as I do to my unbelief. I can live with that. I don’t think you can.

So I’ll remove the onus of having you answer. You may snub me as usual.

”Isa 64:6 But we are all as an unclean [thing], and all our righteousnesses [are] as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.”

You cite this passage to illustrate your point that the blood of Jesus was necessary to reconcile men with God. Well, chew on this:

Rom 14:14 I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that [there is] nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him [it is] unclean.

Now that sounds pretty clear; uncleanliness is in the eye of the beholder. If Paul is right (and I know you love to quote Paul), then Haggard should not have been expelled from his own church. If you can find justice in Jephthah’s murder of his daughter, or in the torments of Job, why do you not find any in another man of God being brought low? Why isn’t the congregation singing praises to God for deliverance from this wolf in shepherd’s clothing? Why no assurances that God is in control?
Simple: because none of you really believe it. If you did, there wouldn’t be the dismay I’ve seen on this blog and many other pages. None of that “I pray it isn’t true!” you bleated earlier. Because Haggard is (was?) a brother in Christ, you all wished him well; but after he was dismissed today, even his congregation dropped him like a radioactive microphone.
What all this will do for your “Gay Agenda” remains to be seen.

Jaded&Opinionated said...

Christine, your metaphor was not lost on me, nor on anyone else who's posted here, as far as I can tell. I just think we all have different things to add to the debate. Haggard is the thorn among the roses which are his family and congregation. His actions have devastated many innocent people who truly believed in him. Therein lies the problem for me...

Men of that nature have many people who believe in THEM. When someone rises to power in a church with thousands of congregants, or over associations with tens of millions of believers, many look to the MAN as the source of good. Many seek his advice, his counsel, his opinion, his blessings, because he leads the faithful to believe that he, himself, has a special ear to God. But, he's just a man who sins like the rest of us. We should never place our faith in men, even those who appear to be the most holy among us.

Like I said before, we have been warned many times about people like this.

"2 Pet 2:1-2 But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of."

"Mat 24:4 And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many."

"Mark 13:22 For false Christs and false prophets shall rise, and shall show signs and wonders, to seduce, if it were possible, even the elect."

"2 Tim 3:1-5 This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away."

We need to understand as Christians that sometimes, people are plain old bad....a wolf in sheep's clothing. We need to remember that while our religious leaders have certainly studied more that most of us, they still remain simple men and women, no greater than anyone else. People often make the mistake of looking for guidance from a pastor without searching for the answer from God. If we keep in mind that a pastor, priest, Christian counselor etc., may have more insight than we do, but that they are human, we might be affected less by scandals like this.

Just my opinion.

Stephen said...

GmPilot:

I, for one, know that God is in control.

I, for one, praise God continually for breaking us down and building us up. I am glad Haggard is getting a chance to deal with this properly, in the open, rather than in secret.

Perhaps you were turned away from Christine's version of Christianity, but not all of us Christians are of her persuasion.

Love

Stephen

GMpilot said...

"I, for one, know that God is in control."

I will not argue with you, stephen. I just don't agree with that.

"Perhaps you were turned away from Christine's version of Christianity, but not all of us Christians are of her persuasion."

I know; I've meant many such people. But I hold that they are kind and loving despite their Christianity, not because of it.

The best way to defend marriage is to have a good marriage. But what do some Christians do? They have bullied legislators into drafting a law to make some people outlaws forever. Forbidding same-sex marriage allows them to be always damned as immoral, hedonistic heathens, you see. Even mentally deficient people are allowed to marry, but there's no discrimination against them.

That's just the tip of the iceberg. Evangelicals, waving a Bible in one hand and civil laws in the other, have shown that they cannot be trusted with power. At least in this society we have legal recourse; but how does one subpoena God?

No, stephen; you're not Christine, so obviously this doesn't apply to you.

GMpilot said...

Oops...I meant, "I've met many such people". Sorry 'bout that.