Sunday, July 3, 2016

An Old Story (The Good Samaritan) in a Modern Context

Jesus said, “A gang-banger was going down the road on the south side of Chicago. Some rival gang members surrounded him, tore off his clothes, and beat him. Then they left him lying there on the ground almost dead.
 “It happened that a pastor was going down that road. When he saw the gang-banger, he did not stop to help him. He walked away.  Next, an Evangelical came near. He saw the hurt gang-banger, but he went around him. He would not stop to help him either. He just walked away.
 “Then a gay man traveled down that road. He came to the place where the hurt gang-banger was lying. He saw the man and felt very sorry for him. The gay man went to him and treated his wounds. Then he covered the man’s wounds with cloth. The gay man had a car. He put the hurt man on in his car, and he took him to the hospital. There he made certain the man received the best care.  The next day, the gay man took out his wallet and paid his medical bill. He said to the nurse, ‘Give the best care to this hurt man and send his bills to my address. I will pay them.’”

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Marriage Covenant

Marriage is based on commitment. It is a commitment to love, to sacrifice and to stay together regardless of the circumstances. A commitment is a human promise to another human. The problem with human commitments is the humans break commitments. We can't do as Jesus said and let our "yes" be "yes" and "no" be "no." Yet a marriage should and can last forever because Jesus also said, "What God has joined together, let no man separate." (Mark 10:9) So how can we stay together and keep love alive? The answer for my wife and me is a covenant with God. We were married not when we signed a marriage licence, but when we signed a covenant before God. When we signed that covenant we expected and trusted that God would keep the covenant. We put our trust in God's hands. We put our marriage in God's hands. We asked our friends and family to sign as well and in doing so asked them to support our marriage and pray for us. The covenant hangs on our wall and is the most important document in the house. We both believe that it is impossible for us to divorce and for our love to die.

We have been blessed that others have used our covenant for their marriage. We welcome the use by anyone.

 Our Marriage Covenant
I, Robert, promise before God to be a faithful husband to Rubilyn. I will love her as Christ loves the church. I will be a servant leader putting her needs and desires ahead of my own. I will sacrifice my time and very life for her and our family.
I, Rubilyn, promise before God to be a faithful wife to Robert. I will respect him as my loving servant leader. I will put his needs and desires ahead of my own. I promise to be as well organized, trustworthy, and hard-working as the capable women described in Proverbs 31:10-31. I will care for him and the children entrusted to me and always love and defend him as his supportive companion.
We, Rubilyn and Robert, commit before God to strive for oneness. We pray that we may be one as the Father, Son and Spirit are one. By God’s grace we will become one in body, mind, heart and spirit. We vow to be honest and open in our communication. We will be submissive to each other even to the point of adopting the other’s will and desire as our own. We vow that our family will pray, read God’s word, attend church services and serve our God. We vow to seek God’s will and desire for our life and marriage. To God our loving Father we make this covenant agreement with Him and each other.
Rubilyn                    &                    Robert

Before God our loving Father we are witnesses to this covenant agreement and commit to pray for and support the marriage of Rubilyn and Robert.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Robin Williams May Not Be In Heaven

When a celebrity dies a strange phenomenon happens. I feel like I've lost a friend. I've never known the person, but having seen them on television and movies, I feel like I did know them. My heart feels sad. I feel the loss. I find myself reading about the person's life and deepen my sense of grief. When Robin Williams committed suicide, I was deeply affected. I had a real friend commit suicide in my very own home. I was reminded of that fact when I saw that Robin Williams also died of suicide. I not only felt the loss for Robin Williams but my feelings of loss for my friend resurfaced.

With my friends suicide, I learned that depression is a disease much like cancer is a disease and that it is a deadly disease. When my friend died, I took comfort in Romans 8:38-39: "For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come,  nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." My friend was a Christian. He believed that Jesus died for him and that he was forgiven of all his wrongs. I know his death did not separate him from the love of God.

By worldly standards, Robin Williams seemed to be a good man. He toured with the USO and gave his time to entertain troops. He was considered a second Bob Hope. Robin Williams visited his friend Christopher Reeves when Reeves was despairing of life. Williams raised money for the homeless through Comic Relief. He supported many other charities including The Christopher and Dana Reeves Foundation and St. Jude Hospital.

Good deeds do not earn us a place in heaven. As good and kind and Robin Williams may have been, non of his deeds earns him a place in heaven. None of us can earn our way to heaven. We have all done wrong. We all fail to love God and other human beings perfectly. There is only one way to heaven. Because we all fail to live up to God's perfect standard of love, we are all condemned. God does not desire to condemn us. He wants us to be with him forever. God provided a way for us not be condemned. He sent his son to live the perfect life we could not live. He sent his son to be condemned and to die, so that we could be saved from condemnation and death. The only way to be with God after our body dies is to believe that his son, Jesus died for us. We must recognize that we failed God and failed to love him and others as God commands. We acknowledge to God that we have failed. We belief that Jesus' death can redeem us from our failure. We commit to God that with his help, we will become more loving like Jesus. We surrender to God so that he can begin and complete the process of making us more loving like Jesus. When we accept Jesus as the only one who can redeem us, we are reconciled to God. Then, like my friend who committed suicide, we are reconciled to God and will never be separated from God's love again.

Did Robin Williams believe in Jesus? Was he reconciled to God? Did God set him free? Only God knows. According to "Williams' father was Episcopalian and his mother was a devout Christian Scientist. Though Williams is not very religious today, he considers the possibility that his mother's faith and its idea of 'mind over matter' helped him kick his drug and alcohol addictions."He often joked about religion, but he did go into recovery for his additions. If the 12 step program was part of his recovery, there's a chance he surrendered to God as part of his recovery. According to, Williams did hear the gospel from Dr. Ted Baehr and Baehr states "Williams had, at one point, 'accepted Jesus Christ' in one of the recovery programs, Baehr said, 'but he never found the transformation that Jesus brings.'" So there is hope that Robin Williams is in heaven. I certainly hope so.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014


What does commitment mean? I think for many people, commitment means that I'll remain as long as my needs are met and I'm happy. If we are not happy with a job, we leave. If we are not happy in a marriage because our needs are not being met, we leave. There was a time in our history where we were loyal to a company for life. There was a time in our history when we were married for life even though you faced hard times. You went through hard times together. You stayed with the other even if you no longer felt loved or felt happy. My grandmothers were married to drunks. They were afraid, abused and often not happy, but they were committed. 

When we realized that companies were not loyal to us, we realized we no longer needed to remain committed to the company. When we realized we could leave abusive situations, we did. At some point in our history, our own needs and our own happiness become more important than our commitment. Commitment became conditional.

It is not good to stay committed in an abusive situation. While I admire my grandmothers' courage, I'm sad that they endured abuse. I think in our past, we fell into a trap of legalism. We remained committed because it was morally right to do so. We endured abuse, neglect and not being loved because it was wrong to break our commitments. Society and religion told us it was wrong. We felt pride in keeping commitments and too afraid to break them. We would feel ashamed of ourselves if we divorced. People who did divorce were looked down upon by society and the church. 

Now we've swung the opposite direction. Commitments are conditional. Society and sometimes even the church encourages us to leave when things get tough or we are not happy. Sometimes the church fights against the messages of society but in a legalistic way still promoting pride or shame as the motive to stay committed. 

To leave a situation because we are not happy or our needs are not being met is selfish. Marriage is not an institution which is designed to have our needs met and to make us happy. Marriage is a covenant relationship between two people and God. It is a means for growth to become more like Jesus, to become less selfish, more giving, more loving and a better person who truly is an image of the Creator. 

We must learn that God's love for us is unconditional. He is committed to us and our well being. We are not capable of keeping our commitments. We are not capable of loving unconditionally. We are not capable of obeying God's law of love. Jesus kept his commitment to us. He loves us unconditionally. He kept God's law of love perfectly because we cannot. He died for us because we deserved death yet God did not desire that we perish. He redeemed us and reconciled us to him even though we abandoned him to seek our own pleasure and happiness apart from him. We sought our own pleasure and happiness but failed to achieve it because we had abandoned the very source of love, pleasure and happiness. God asks us to recommit ourselves to him knowing we can't keep it on our own. Even though we will continue to break our commitment to God, he will not break his to us. We can be assured that nothing will ever separate us from God's love ever again. 

Our commitments to each other must flow from God's commitment to us. Our love for each other must depend on God's love for us. Apart from him, we cannot keep our commitments. Apart from him, we cannot love unconditionally.

If we are motivated by fear or shame, we will not love and keep our commitments. We may be coerced into keeping our commitments out of fear or shame. We may remain loyal because we are enslaved by fear, but we will not grow in love. Commitment itself does not enslave us. Commitment frees us when we depend on God to keep the commitment. Fear, shame, regret, selfishness, and pride enslave us.

My wife and I signed a covenant when we were married. In doing so, we committed ourselves to God and each other regardless of circumstances. When we signed it, we knew we were NOT capable of keeping the covenant and our commitment. We signed it knowing God IS capable of keeping out covenant and commitment. We signed it in faith trusting God to keep it. We believe our love came from God who is love. We believe God grows our love. I love my wife more now than when I signed our covenant. Our love is strong because our God is strong. We have no fear of divorce because we trust our God. We feel very secure and very free. We are not chained by commitment. We are free. We are bound by love and by God who loves us. That bond cannot be broken because God is faithful. 

What is commitment? In our marriage, commitment is a faithful covenant with God and each other bound by the love God has given us. For us, commitment is for life. We are not bound by a legalistic determination to stay together. We do not live in fear of shame. We are not afraid of breaking our commitment. We are not enslaved by a promise. We are bound by love forever. 

Monday, August 4, 2014

Legalism or Grace

I read a blog written by a woman who regretted that she kept her virginity until she was married. She made a purity pledge at age 10 and kept that pledge. After she married, she felt pain and shame loosing her virginity. She stated that if she would do it over, she would not have made and kept the pledge. She based this on the pain and shame she now felt. Sadly, her problem is legalism and doesn't realize it. She never truly understood the gospel. She only understood moral legalism. She kept her virginity out of pride and shame. She was proud of keeping it and ashamed to loose it. Her motivation was to look good to others it was not gratitude for saving grace.

Christian churches today in America are determined to keep a moral law and to have our children keep a moral law. On the surface, this is good. However, the way we teach keeping the law is often shame based and not grace based. What needs to be taught is the gospel. Children and adults need to be taught that Jesus unconditionally loves them, that he lived a righteous life because we cannot and that he died because we deserve death. Once we accept that he died for us, we will still be saved by grace even if we "loose our virginity." Once we realize that we are saved, we are motivated by love and gratitude to keep the moral law. We tend to teach it backwards. We teach keep the moral law at all cost, change all bad behaviors and then be saved by accepting Jesus. What we need to be taught is that we are all sinners because we break the moral law and nothing in our power can make us keep the moral law. We need a savior because we are incapable of being righteous. God offers us grace to pardon us from our sins. Once we receive his grace, we are also given the power to change. The holy spirit will convict us of sin and behavior that needs to change. He will give us power not to change the behavior but rather change who we are on the inside which will also result in changes in behavior.

I just had a little baby girl. She is 3 months old. It is not my hope that she will make a purity pledge and keep it with all her might. It is my hope that she will enter into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ and allow him to change her from the inside. If she makes a purity pledge, I want her to rely on the holy spirit to keep it. If she fails, I want her to know that she is forgiven and still loved.

We also need to be careful not to teach only grace without teaching moral law. If we don't know the law, we won't know sin. If we don't know sin, we won't know that we need a savior. We need to be taught what is sin and that we are law breakers incapable of being law keepers. What we can't be taught is the law and that we are responsible to keep the law in our own power. We can't keep the law in our own power. We need to be saved and given the power to keep the law. John Bunyan is created with saying

Run, John, run, the law commands, 
But gives us neither feet nor hands. 
Far better news the gospel brings: 
It bids us fly and gives us wings.

The law show us sin but gives us no ability to keep it. Grace gives us forgiveness which gives us both motivation and ability to love. We motivated by gratitude for grace. We obey the law of love with love. We don't follow just a moral code, we live by a higher principle of love. When we and others fail we give and receive grace. 

I will teach her morality and I will punish my daughter when she is immoral, but I will also teach her grace. I will always let her know that Jesus died for her so she could be forgiven of her moral failure. I want her to know she was born a sinner and is a sinner so that she will know she needs a savior.