An Unlikely Friend

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 6:23 NLT

I spent my lunch yesterday talking with Calvin, the bartender at the Sushi restaurant across the street from my office. Looking at us from the outside, one might consider us an unlikely pair of friends — he is a young, extremely tall, athletic black man wearing his waiter’s attire, and I am an older, very short, portly, white gentleman wearing dress pants and shirt with a sweater vest from The Masters. But here we were listening to hip hop music, talking about Rap City’s the Bassment “back in the day”, talking about bettering ourselves daily, and how important it is for us both to lead our families through avoiding some of our own mistakes and knowing that one big mistake isn’t “the end”. It is wonderful how much we truly have in common where it really matters!

I mention Calvin in reference to this verse because he is a father who genuinely loves his kids (you can see it in his eyes when he talks about them). And he wants them to not make foolish mistakes that will cost them their best life.

And this is God’s perspective on sin, my friend. Even with sin that is pleasurable to us for a season, He knows that it comes with a higher cost than anything it offers in return. He isn’t “arbitrarily making rules” to enforce upon his subjects so they will “obey Him” — like some harsh slave owner with an eager whip in hand watchful for an opportunity to use it. Choice comes with consequences — that is the very definition of choice — we choose and we get what we choose.

“Sin” is just a fancy, religious word for choosing what is not best — making a foolish decision. So the consequence of a life of “sin” is a “death” of things like opportunity and purpose. People will always argue amongst themselves over the list of “rules” — but “sin” isn’t just a checklist of 7 laws of Noah, or 10 commandments on stone, or 613 Levitical commandments.

And there is a contrast that happens as we begin to understand this free gift of God and as we get to know Jesus Christ (who is quite different from us, yet also like us) as a friend. His friendship, a closeness with Him, accepting His offer of a relationship (which we will do repeatedly not just once) is a free gift that will lead us and guide us away from the foolish decisions and into the wise decisions — away from costly consequences and into beneficial consequences — away from death and into fullest life.

And all that I’ve mentioned up to this point, even an atheist can understand and see the clear benefit upon cultures and societies of the core teachings and example of Jesus Christ, while they note the horrors and atrocities of wars and atrocities committed under the disguise of “religion”. We can see throughout history the wisdom of a community/nation full of people making wise choices versus the cost and foolishness of a community/nation full of people making foolish decisions. It seems easy to hide our individual “sin”, but when foolishness runs rampant, it is clearly a cancer killing us and not a party to just be enjoyed. And this visible truth reveals evidence of something greater and beyond just this physical life that we can see and touch and taste and smell. We are promised a life eternal — something after — something even greater — with all kinds of evidence that these promises are true.

If a man chooses Christ instead of sin — on this side He has chosen benefit and blessing and peace as His consequences. And I’m not talking about guaranteed health wealth and prosperity (those can actually be “sin” if we give up what is best in trade for them). But if a man chooses sin in this life, there will be those consequences and cost in this life.

If you have “sin” in your life that you know is costing you unnecessarily — I’m not here to guilt you into shame over your “wickedness” or being “evil”. As a father myself, that perspective when dealing with my daughter just isn’t particularly useful or helpful if I want her to learn and change her habits. But acknowledging “foolishness” and how the best might be “stolen from her” by poor choices is valuable. God isn’t surprised by your “sin”, you aren’t so especially wicked or evil or foolish — because all of us have fallen short and given up opportunity and purpose at times in this life.

But He offers us a reminder, a hand reached out in love, an example in His life, a guide in His Word, and a teacher in the Holy Spirit — to lead us not just through this life, but to prepare us for our forever home!

Is Christ your friend?

Would you like Him to be, but you aren’t sure how?

He promises that if you genuinely seek Him that you will find Him.

Time in His Word, praising and worshiping Him alongside other believers, and intimate time with Him in prayer are key.

And once you have seen that He is a trustworthy friend and a Good Father, believe Him, accept His promises, confess your belief, and share the reason for your hope through baptism and a life of loving and serving others and sharing what treasure you have found.

Does God and creator of the heavens and earth seem to be an unlikely friend to “someone like me”? I know, right? Nevertheless, He is. Truly, He is.

If you have any questions or would like help, please feel free to comment below or contact me.

Seeking

Glory in His holy name; Let the hearts of those who seek and require the Lord [as their most essential need] rejoice.
Psalms 105:3 AMP

This morning as my wife read our morning devotional aloud, and Mia and I listened — my waking mind wandered and struggled to maintain focus. As she finished and it was time for me to pray, I realized that I wasn’t sure that I had really comprehended everything that was spoken. But lyrics from a song immediately came to mind that seemed to fit so well with the parts that I had heard — and I prayed about how God is worthy always. I prayed about when our circumstances are challenging, or when we need to let go of things like fear, anxiety, anger, unforgiveness, bitterness, temptations, or sin that poisons our spirit ands hinders our worship– and that anyone can easily see how those things cause hurt in the world — that time worshipping changes that. When we desire to be with the Lord and spend time with Him, He changes us in that intimate time together.

My mom shared with me yesterday how she starts each day with prayer and how some mornings it comes easy and is quick, and some mornings it is more challenging or long, but that it is always good. I shared with her that I’ve had the same experience and that I sometimes mistake “needing more time with Him” with being “my fault” or “something I’ve done” as the reason for the difference. While that can be the case, that my own self can hinder the process of prayer and worship — who is greater, and who is the solution when I need healing? JESUS!

Speaking with mom on the topic, I was reminded of a video that my pastor Mark Pangel shared of a prophet speaking “there is no wasted time, there is no wasted effort” and given instruction “clean the house” and “the lost coin will be found”. And we talked about how our limited perspective just doesn’t see things right.

https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=10221320729860998&id=1030524632

It’s like people who foolishly say “Israel wouldn’t have had to walk through the wilderness for 40 years if they had just obeyed God” and stop there. While the facts of their statement might check out when measured by the law — and their exegesis may check all the boxes — they might have missed the whole point of God’s sovereign will and His purpose to walk close and intimate with them, and that He purposed, designed, planned and allowed that time for a specific reason.

Knowledge is easy for smart people, and rules and laws, and cause and effect makes sense to them — but wisdom is something greater than just accumulated knowledge — and wisdom begins with the fear of God.

I encourage you to watch and consider this wonderful video “He confounds the wise”:

Sometimes God has to break me out of the pattern of “just” reading comprehension, of “just” good hermeneutics, of “just” application, of “just” knowledge, of “just” understanding — to intimate time soaking in His presence.

Whether we need a quick shower to get on our way, or whether He has a long soak in the tub in store for us — whether our prayer and worship to start the morning ends up peacefully finished in our allotted timeslot — or whether it lasts through our morning commute and we must sit in our parked car for an extended time before entering our day’s responsibilities — our time is not wasted, our effort is not wasted. He is working in us to desire and to do His good pleasure, to bring His Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven, to turn graves into gardens, to turn mourning into dancing, to trade ashes for beauty. Amen.

“Graves into Gardens” is a song performed by American contemporary worship band Elevation Worship and American contemporary Christian singer-songwriter Brandon Lake which was released as the second single from their eighth live album of the same name, Graves into Gardens (2020), on August 7, 2020. The song was written by Brandon Lake, Chris Brown, Steven Furtick and Tiffany Hammer.

We sing this song because we have known the power of taking time to seek the Lord, desiring to know Him better. We’ve experienced coming freely into His presence and letting our hearts rejoice in Him regardless of the circumstances around us at the time because HE IS WORTHY OF PRAISE. when we ate standing upon the Holy Ground of genuine praise and worship, and we breathe in the rarefied air of His holiness, refusing our cars and concerns to rest in awe and wonder of the His glory, His presence envelops us like a big, spiritual hug, permeating us through and through — and He turns graves into gardens, turns mourning into dancing, gives beauty for ashes.

Thank you, Jesus!