I Did It My Way

Last week Brother James used the prodigal son as his theme. He noted that the young man made some bad choices, and those came with consequences. This came on the heels of me seeing a Tik Tok in which a young woman made the bold claim that God is pro-choice. She said that God supports and applauds us for making decisions as he has designed us to make them. Why else would God have put the tree of good and evil in the garden?

Let’s take a step back here. God indeed has given us the ability to chose. Speaking theologically, God being omnibenevolent (all kind and all loving) would not subject us to slavery, even the slavery of His will. Thus we were made “free moral agents” or beings with the ability to act according to our own will. That does not mean, however, that He likes it when we disobey him. No matter “pro-choice” issue you want to discuss, there is a moral right or wrong to it. And we can (and often do) make the wrong choices.

Let’s examine Adam in the garden. In Genesis 2: 16-17, God clearly said: “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” In Chapter 3, Eve and then Adam do eat from the tree. If all choices are applauded by God, then why once they received the knowledge of good and evil did they feel ashamed? In fact, they having eaten tried to hide themselves from God, and then even lie about it and try to pass the blame on: Adam blaming God and Eve, and Eve blaming the serpent.

A chapter later we see Cain and Abel making offerings to God. Abel’s was acceptable (I won’t deviate to a theological discussion on it here), and Cain’s fell short. Because of this Cain becomes angry. Here again we see a divine intervention and warning. No not divine control, as Cain is a free moral agent. God tells him to be careful, and to not let sin take control of him. The end result is that Cain gives into the sinful urges and kills his brother. This resulted in punishment. Why punish him if his choice to be angry and kill was just as valid as accepting that his brother had done better?

In Numbers 22 we find the prophet Balaam, being called by the king of Moab to come and curse the Children of Israel. Balaam inquires of God about what he should do, and God says, “Do not go with them. You must not put a curse on those people, because they are blessed (verse 12).” Balaam then tells the king’s messengers that he won’t do it. The king then sends even more impressive messengers offering him riches it he will do the king’s bidding. Balaam, rather that accepting that God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow, goes back to God to ask Him again if he can go with them. God responds that Balaam needs to do what God has told him. Balaam then heads to Moab. It is only by the wits of his donkey that he is spared from punishment by an angel. The reason for the potential punishment, Balaam is told is that “your path is a reckless one before me.”

David, the man after God’s own heart was not exempt. In 2 Samuel 11, we find the king falling in lust for another man’s wife, a bad choice. He then acts on the lust and sleeps with her, and she becomes pregnant (bad choice number 2, and a big consequence). Bad choices number one and two lead to a cover up (bad choice three), which involves murder (“free moral choice” four). In the following chapter the prophet Nathan comes to David and lays out a story of rich and powerful man who has wronged and robbed a poor man. On hearing the tale: “David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, “As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this must die! He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity (2 Sam 12: 5-6).” Why should David be so upset with the free choice made by the rich man? Surely all choices should be celebrated. The real kicker is when Nathan tells the king, “You are the man.”

With apologises to Frank Sinatra – he got it wrong. It isn’t about doing it your way. The biblical accounts we have looked at make that clear. But nevertheless we continue to do it our way and fail. Fortunately, that isn’t where it ends. If it were we would be paying eternal consequences for our actions.

We are all sinners and have fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23f). And the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). Yet, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). The consequences of our bad choices has been paid by another’s choice to be punished in our stead.

When I next speak I hope to follow up on this message with the theme “Doing it Thy way.”


Padre

Sermon for 22 Jan 23

Integrity


“I have my integrity to consider,” Liam said defensively.

“We aren’t asking you to compromise your integrity. All we want is for you to let us through the door.”

“But I was told not to let anyone in this way, and if I let you in just because you are my friends, I would be shirking my sworn duty.

“Liam, you aren’t guarding the Royal Mint, you are an usher at the cinema.”

“Duty is duty,” Liam responded.

Liam was found a hour later stiped to his underwear, gagged, and with his hands and feet bound by duck tape. He did, however, still have his integrity.


Padre

Your Inner Compass

Still waters run deep,

So it is said

Your thoughts are your own,

Deep inside your head

Others cannot know

If your words match your point of view

For your outward expressions

May not be true

It is here that integrity becomes a thing

For honest conversation reward does bring

For while others you may think you fool

It diminishes the soul

Which self-destructive and ultimately cruel


Padre

Impaired Not Defeated

It might be an impairment you have had since your birth

But it’s not the sole factor in determining your contributions or worth

It can be that childhood injury after which things were never the same

Or arrive with the menopause bringing fog to the brain

It can stem from that fall while out walking the dog

Or damage to your lungs from breathing city smog

It might manifest in a blink of an eye

Or through wear and tear as the years creep by

But it is not the impairment that you does disable

But unadjusted conditions around you and the attitude of people that label


Padre

Inner Us

When faced with the day to day

We get use to doing things in a certain way

But at times when new trials arise

New approaches we must devise

And when the struggles are particularly great

Or tremendous struggles on our plate

It is then that we find the stuff

That is at our core and makes us – us

For if in our true strengths we do trust

Pressures will never our lives bust


Padre

Good

Knight, Middle Ages, Armor, Shield, Horse, War, Templar
Pixabay

Being against evil doesn’t make you good. Tonight I was against it and then I was evil myself. I could feel it coming just like a tide… I just want to destroy them. But when you start taking pleasure in it you are awfully close to the thing you’re fighting.
–Islands in the Stream (started in 1950 but published in 1970) Ernest Hemingway

Be good for goodness’ sake

Don’t be defined by what you’re not

Your friend is one that loves you

A mutual enemy makes you friends not

Be good for goodness’ sake

Don’t on a band wagon sit

For virtue is not signalled

It is what is lived!


Padre

dVerse

A Voice for the Voiceless

person in scarf holding white disposable cup
Jose Ramirez at Unsplash

I have spent the last few days engaged as a delegate at a national union conference. There has been a lot of discussion on the support necessary for those in need. Austerity has eroded the livlihood, and life choices of many. Child poverty in the UK is an unfortunate reality despite the wealth of the nation and that the nation’s richest individuals have grown even wealthier during the Covid crisis. Fairness was a recurring theme in discussions, as CEO pay goes up, and yet more working people have slipped into poverty. Women’s and minority rights were also focused on. It is time for those in majority, or at least in influence, to step up for those who are voiceless, or at least stiffled. Abuse and harassment of women and girls should be called out by men not just “feminist” women. Racism – “institutional” and “systemic” also should be challenged by those of privilege.

These modern sounding “liberal” principles are, however, in fact biblical. Proverbs 31: 8-9 calls for us to “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.”

The scriptures are clear that we with a voice have not just an opportunity, but a duty to defend and speak for those without voice. When we see injustice we need to call it out. This isn’t just “political,” but day to day real life in its nature. “Locker room talk,” race sensitive jokes, and any other form of diminishing the human dignity of anyone should be stood up against.

At Sychar’s well, respect and a kindness done

To the Samaritan woman under midday sun

And to the Syrophoenician, Jesus gave “crumbs”

Human dignity clearly won

The poor may be with us to the end

The Apostles to them the Jerusalem Seven they did send

We too must for the unfortunate speak

And ways to serve them we should seek


 

Padre

 

By Greed And Lies Forlorn: Acts Poem 5

The Death of Ananias by Raphael – Public Domain

Blessings shared as was the church’s way

But one couple by greed and vanity was swayed

They made claims of great service done

But their deception became clear and they were undone

Ananias and Sapphira were their names

And in their lies the Spirit they defamed

Holding back was not their sin

For it was in their control what was given

But for deceit they did pay

For they claimed greater sacrifice than they actually made

To lie to men is easily done,

But to do so to God is a gamble that can’t be won

And thus discovered they breathed their last

A lesson in lying’s folly – that’s still unsurpassed


Padre

February’s Poem 5 from Acts 5