Sunday, February 22, 2009

To Him be All Glory

There is one and only one Name that will ultimately receive all the glory. All the glory given to kings and princes and presidents will be a hollow shadow and will be the embarrassment of eternity when all glory is finally laid at this One’s feet. All praise and all honor and all worship and all glory will be collected from the four corners of the universe and brought into the divine throne room. And at that moment all creatures great and small will be without sound as they watch this event unfold. By the desire of God, all the glory of all the ages past, present, and future will gather at His feet, and all attention will yield itself only to Him…and Him alone.

Oh we have seen great processionals and inaugurations and celebrations, but they are all pitiful whispers when compared with this event. The loftiest imagination of any man cannot even touch the hem of this garment’s glory, and this is not just new territory, this will be a new reality never breached by human expectation. The most moving event ever witnessed by mankind will be as mourning in the light of this spectacle of infinite proportions. It is the coronation of the King of all Kings and the revelation of the Lord of all Lords, openly and powerfully unfolding with a blood bought audience who will only then receive a glimpse into what grace has wrought.

Please, dear saint, do not put down your stakes upon this earth for you are on a journey across a wilderness that should not, must not, become your home. The power of God’s gracious redemption continues to propel us forward, but any joyful sights and sounds we experience here will evaporate upon the very first moment we see Him. He is our destination, not just a place, even the place wherein He dwells. Our thirst can never be quenched here, and in fact the small drinks we have been granted are overflows running backward from the eternal city we seek.

And oh what a city it will be, with the smell of eternity permeating the very amphitheatre of heaven’s glory. The angels of God, the seraphim, the cherubim, the six winged creatures hovering around the throne, and every awesome facet of the place we love to call heaven will bow to Him, the center and Creator of it all. Even the Father voluntarily takes a back seat to this the Son, and the light that illuminates this celestial city proceeds from His very face and overwhelms heaven’s throngs.

It is then and only then that we will realize that we were such fools to ever have given even a part of our hearts to this world and all that is in it, and we will then understand that it was all dung when compared to His eternal and overpowering glory. To say we will be content or fulfilled or even satisfied will be useless human verbiage when spoken in the midst of such surpassing glory, the glory of the Risen Lamb of the Eternal God. And our new hearts will burst within us as we attempt to express the worship due His name and Person.

How can we, the redeemed human representatives of His eternal sacrifice, find it with ourselves to offer unto Him the glory due only to Him? How can we praise enough, how can we shout loud enough, how many tears of gratitude can we shed, how long shall we bow, and with what tongues can we lift up the magnitude of His powerful name? Where can we find the words, not just the words we were granted upon this earth, but where we will find the words that will give Him honor within His very dwellingplace?

Washed in His blood and drenched in His grace, and with the heavenly voices of redemptive praise emanating from the hearts of sinners once dead and now alive, the corridors of heaven will redound with the sounds of worship never imagined before by finite man. We will never grow weary and never tire of praising the Eternal Lion of Judah, and every moment will give birth to another without end and into the never ending ions of eternity we will offer the glory for what He has done and even Who He is. No one can step forward and receive any praise for any act of kindness or even greatness they have done. God will reward the faithful, but those rewards will only reflect again the Giver, not the receiver. Everyone will be transfixed upon Him eternally.

John Wesley will bow before the Christ and reject any praise for the work he did on this earth. Spurgeon will be speechless and without adequate words with which to enunciate his worship. Luther will reject the reformer moniker and speak only of the Redeemer. Calvin will render all his doctrinal academics as folly in the light of the Christ. Edwards, Finney, Whitefield, Moody, Sunday, and Graham will all fall down in a broken expression of selfless awe and worship. Paul and Peter and John will now be grateful saints before His throne and without any expectation of the merits of their own works.

The future for the redeemed is Christ. Eternity for the saved is Him. The complete journey of us pilgrims of redemption is to be with the Finisher of our faith, even the Lord Jesus. So be not shackled with the burdens and affairs of this world, the world to come will be with Him. Our lives are now hid with God in Christ and our existence is eternally tethered to the Lord Jesus. This life is but a vapor, a poor player who struts and frets his hour upon this world’s stage, but the end is the glorious beginning.
And there will be no more pain, no more tears, and nothing evil can abide in the glory of His presence. No more remembrances of heartaches gone by and failed expectations and personal failures, and all the natural shocks that flesh is heir to. No more worries and no more struggles and disappointments; no more frustrations and no more bursted dreams; and no more bad news about wars and death. The eternal breath is fresh and inherent with the exhilaration of infinite freedom from sin itself. The eternal brighteness of a new day will be ours in Him forever. No more darkness, no more night, and no more death of any kind awaits those in Him.

So take heart you who call Jesus Lord and Savior, you are being guided into an expanse of His eternal glory. You will be given the opportunity to give Him all the glory in the presence of the mighty and holy angels. You will stand and bow in the midst of a great company of saints who have washed their robes in the eternal river of His blood. You will lay celestial eyes upon the Risen Christ and see the wounds that bear your name. You will stand in the wash of His grace and enter into His resting place, complete in and even like Him. No one will need to convince you on that day that all the glory is His, no, you will run to give it passionately to the Lamb of Glory. It is impossible to describe with the thoughts and words of an earthling the level of glory that will accompany being in His presence. But suffice to say it will be the crowning jewel on this journey God calls salvation.

And it does not appear what we shall be, but we know that when He shall appear we will be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. To be one moment in His celestial presence will be better than a million lifetimes of power and wealth on this earth.

Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Unredemptive Blogs

The blog phenomenon is of great benefit in many ways, including offering great resources for spiritual growth and expression. Like most things, however, it has also provided a platform for destructiveness and merciless judgment, which was there before the internet, but now has an informational conduit with which to spread its venom. Such is the blog called Slice of Laodicea overseen by a woman named Ingrid Schlueter. She operates this blog as a spiritual correction to everyone and everything she deems in need of her doctrinal authority, including questioning the ordination and calling of scores, perhaps hundreds, of ordained pastors and preachers. She herself has only a radio program on a station started and I assume still overseen by her father. But her ecclesiastical usurpation aside, I want to address a broader issue that she, as well as other Christian bloggers, exhibit regularly.

Last year the governor of Alaska was nominated to run for vice president on the Republican ticket. Since I am non-political, including abstaining from voting, I have no political axe to grind and Ms. Palin seemed to be a nice woman who also professed a faith in Jesus Christ. During the campaign it became known that her 17 year old daughter, Bristol, was pregnant out of wedlock. As you can imagine the press had a field day with that from all perspectives within our culture. Some were absolutely horrible while others thought nothing of it.

Bristol Palin, with the guidance of her parents decided to have the child and not have an abortion. She is on the beginning of a journey that will have some unique struggles. Recently she decided to go with her mother and give an interview to Fox news about her situation. She tells of her desire to be an example of what not to do, and to even speak to teenagers on the subject. She expresses remorse in a 17 year old language, and nowhere does she say what she did was right, even though she does not regret the baby itself. How could she?

But now enters the “Christian” blogashpere, ready to pounce on her every word and demanding she show more shame and contrition, such as would meet their criteria. One such post emanated from the blog Slice of Laodicea, written by Ms. Schlueter. It is a treatise on condemnation and self righteousness, and presents in stark relief what Christianity looks like when redemption and grace is missing and replaced by self righteousness camouflaged as “Biblical morality”. It is not enough for people like Ms. Schlueter to speak disparagingly about preachers and churches, or to demean the ordinations and callings of pastors and elders, but she and others must investigate the moral failings of ordinary young women in the midst of a difficult situation and pile on with her caustic rhetoric regardless of the circumstances.

Some of these bloggers, if you can believe what I am going to share, actually subscribe to secular news outlets that give them daily e-mail reports, some with key words like “pastor” or “church” or other catch phrases so that each morning they receive secular reports about the moral failures of others. And when things like a pastor from Nowhere, USA is caught in adultery comes to their attention they immediately can spread it and add their self righteous editorial about the state of evangelicalism, excluding their own piety of course. And if you read the interview juxtaposed with Ingrid’s post you will see a mischaracterization, not to mention the “stick your nose in other people’s business” foundation of the post. So the internet can provide the perch from which anyone can write as if they had authority and divine direction, even when the love that should cover a multitude of sins is absent.

I cannot tell you how repulsed I was to read her self serving mischaracterization of that interview. She is absolutely obsessed with everyone else’s business, and shows no compassion whatsoever for hardly anyone. Her blog is a demonic tabloid. In reality, her post about Bristol Palin is nothing more than a lie and could even be legally slanderous. I preached strongly against premarital sex, but when my own daughter became pregnant before she was married our entire faith community gathered around her to forgive and restore her. No one had to tell her she had sinned, but “a bruised reed will He not break”.

As a father, I cannot put into words what I would have felt if some woman had used our family heartbreak as a launching pad for her vicious attack blog. Ingrid continues to reveal the depth of her self righteous darkness and she is without feeling for those she castigates.

Let it be known, without compassion and mercy there is no Christianity, just a hollow moral construct that self righteously suggests the heart of the one who judges is much better than the ones she castigates. Christianity is infinitely more than a set of moral commandments that are policed within the community by the modern midnight riders of the spiritual Klan, enforcing their own legalism by the outstretched tentacles of their viperous electronic tongues.

It has become apparent that these teachers of the law are deconstructing the very faith once delivered to the saints with every bit as much diligence as are some who reject some cardinal tenants of the faith itself. It has become a rejection of the cross, every bit as deceptive and deadly as those who reject the substitutionary essence of that cross. These moral storm troopers delight in the failure of others and are only too happy to inflict additional wounds to those who have fallen, and that, my friends, is demonic at its core.

Let us not be deceived, what some are projecting is not Christianity, it is a modern day revelation of the parable of the publican and the tax collector. Just because one seems outwardly moral, and goes to church to sit and revel in their own righteousness, and just because one checks all the doctrinal boxes on the theological test, does not mean that person is living out the Christian faith.

Discussing issues, even in uncivilized verbiage is unfortunate but understandable. Even attacking certain preachers with adolescent and ignorant labels and phrases is fleshly and carnal. But attacking, lying about, and using the sins and failures of young men and women to further your own twisted hubris is unconscionable and does despite to the Spirit of Christ. God’s Spirit is searching for a bride for God’s Son, and like Eliezer He draws this bride with gifts of mercy, grace, forgiveness, and love, not a judicial construct that not only condemns the future Mrs. Isaac, but publishes her sins with an effervescent editorial that makes her as unattractive as possible and elevates the publisher as the owner of the tree of good and evil. There is nothing in that carnal “ministry” that remotely resembles the ministry of reconciliation, and in fact it works as the opponent of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

So go ahead all you who desire to rid the culture of all unpleasantness and sin through the capture, tagging, and mounting of those sins on your blog room wall. Many continue to hunt for the sins of others, and with the skill of a taxidermist you preserve them as discernment trophies and invite as many visitors as possible to view the success of your transgression safaris. Go ahead and keep exhibiting your psychotic behavior by receiving daily secular updates on the sins of the world with which you can whisper that same gossip into the ears of your eager readers, presented with your own garnish of hyperbole, judgment, and twisted mischaracterizations.

All of you who do these things are working for the kingdom of darkness, not the kingdom of God’s Dear Son.

Monday, February 09, 2009

A Spiritual Mea Culpa?

What do your eyes see?

San Francisco – Some see Sodom, others see a mission field
Homeless – Some see a nuisance, others see compassion
Liberals – Some see the enemy, others see just an opinion
Economy – Some see panic, others see an opportunity
War – Some see victory, others see tragedy
Gays – Some see sin, others see redemption
Politics – Some see the answer, others see the problem

What does the world see?

The Church – Some see hate, others see love
The Church – Some see judgment, others see forgiveness
The Church – Some see self righteousness, others see humility
The Church – Some see law, others see grace
The Church – Some see an organization, others see an organism
The Church – Some see people, others see Christ

But what hardly anyone sees is a plethora of personal mea culpas emanating from within the body of Christ. No brokenness, no humility, and no spiritual responsibility. The fault of the spiritual condition of this land lies with the liberals, or the gays, or the music, or the government, or Hollywood, or anyone and anything other than at the feet of the Lord’s own people.

Is it not time to issue a blanket mea culpa that states, “Oh Lord, we have sinned, and we bear the responsibility of living in a dark world with a bushel securely placed over our light”?

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

The Soiled Landscape of Redemption

The Soiled Landscape of Redemption

In this modern world of technological advances and the marketing of the finished product, the church has become far too antiseptic, bleached, and spiritually unblemished. We have orchestrated a presentation that undermines the message of redemption and in many ways presents a mirage, even a lie. I read a comment this past week that stirred my innermost being.

The man said, “Our churches do not have enough blood on the floor, the blood of both wounded sinners and the Savior”.

Think on that statement, that indictment. Instead of a redemptive slaughterhouse, we have become a museum for the approval of the righteous, when in fact we should be a crimson lighthouse that attracts the wounded and provides them a place to bleed as well as a place to find the blood from which to heal. We spend much energy to project an image of wholeness and perfection, believing that is what attracts sinners. But most times that is exactly what drives sinners away, for by that image they are repelled as they shrink back in the reality of their own profound imperfection and sin.

We have hung drapes of morality that keeps the light of redemption from shining through and opening the hearts of the lost. Many people feel the necessity to get cleaned up before they can even consider becoming a believing follower of Jesus Christ, and we have encouraged that perception by the clean and pristine image projected by our spiritual communities. Sinners, demonstrative and open sinners, were drawn to Christ in His incarnation, and yet we continue to be aloof and insulated in our micro-communities of conservatism, moral causes, and our assembly lines to church membership.

But the process of redemption has always been messy. Think on the cross and see the gruesome visage and scarlet body, hanging and writhing in agony over the soiled landscape beneath this figure draped in horror. There is nothing antiseptic here, nothing that presents a neat, little package waiting to be opened beneath Rockwell’s Christmas tree. This is the soiled landscape of redemption, arrayed in all its gory glory, and lifted up for all to breathe in the smell of sweat and to behold the ghastly vision of a tortured God. This is the crimson mirror in which we see both ourselves and the love of God, but this mirror is smeared with the treachery of humanity mingled with the divine embrace of redemptive love. Messy, repulsive, and captivating.

And this event died and was resurrected and slipped the boundaries of Golgotha and spread around the world with energy and power. The hearts of sinners heard the story and saw this cross, and by revelation and the message of grace they were introduced to Hope. Could it be possible that they were included on that day of redemptive death? What must they pay and how clean must they become before they approach the power of its forgiveness? What is required before the crimson door swings wide open for them? Tell us dear believer, tell us what tribute must be paid to gain such grace.

Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Only believe, truly believe. That is everything.
What kind of love is this that offers itself without demanding a dowry? What kind of redemption requires such unimaginable sacrifice from its Author but offers its eternal benefits simply by faith? And by the millions they have come from every corner of the world, filled with the baggage of sin and the wounds that accompany those transgressions. As they come the landscape is soiled with the oozing wounds of their own hopelessness and the overflowing blood of the Son of God. Those that have already walked through the Door should rejoice in the scarlet flow that both messes and cleanses its new recipients. The redemption process is messy indeed as sinners go forward and fall back, and as their wounds heal and are reopened, and as their past and present imperfections and sins continue to soil the ecclesiastical atmosphere. The journey of the church is filled with the messiness of believing sinners and the redemptive slaughterhouse of the blood of the Lamb.

Let us guard our fellowships against the spiritual hygiene that bleaches the crime scenes and pretends everyone is fine and only moments from perfection. Our atmosphere must be filled with the blood of wounded sinners and the blood of the Savior, and our invitation must be centered on redemption over judgment. We must not place spiritual throw rugs in our midst so as to avoid the messiness that inevitably comes with shepherding imperfect sheep and loving wandering goats. So often believers are concerned when the unconverted are attending our church, when in fact that is the New Testament way. Jesus knew and allowed one twelfth of His eldership to be unsaved and loved him nonetheless.

Living and spreading the message of redemption is a messy business that bids sinners to “come and dine” and allows God to separate the sheep from the goats. And make no mistake, if you desire your church to present a “Leave it to Beaver” ambiance you can construct such a fiction and gather a collection of museum curators. But if you desire to present and live the Person of Jesus Christ, and if you are going to sound a call to all sinners from every genre of transgression, and if you will joyfully minister to the wounds of human beings both self inflicted and otherwise, then your ecclesiastical landscape will be significantly soiled with sin and redemption mingled in your midst.

There is no other way, the landscape of redemption is always soiled.

Monday, February 02, 2009

The Ministry of Being Wrong

I was born again in March of 1975. In 1976 I began Bible college at a conservative school affiliated with the Christian and Missionary Alliance. I learned many wonderful things at that school and appreciate the years I spent there. It was in those formative years that I learned the core doctrines of the faith and I learned how to study the Word.

But in those days most conservative evangelicals were taught not to think outside the box and to be suspicious of most conversations that contained any unfamiliar thoughts or ideas. And we were very suspicious of any emphasis on humanitarian works since our reasoning was that they diluted the message and came dangerously close to a “social gospel”. The fundamental system of how the church was to function was etched in stone and most everyone fell in line with it. It was so simple back then as we reclined inside the well worn parameters ranging from the King James Bible to our mandatory short hair and everything in between.

And with all our rigidity we created a self fulfilling spiritual martyrdom, and we felt so proud to be different and verbally persecuted, supposing we were favored by God. Sure we loved Christ and His Word, but there was an ecclesiastical clique that constructed an artificial wall of separation that Jesus never intended. In reality, in our genuine attempt to please God we had set up a New Testament law that in many ways abrogated grace and cultivated self righteousness. We did not mean to, but we did.

And now those of us who lived out those days are still around in this spiritual climate, and we are faced with some searching issues that demand perspective and honesty. That is not to say that the dangers of spiritual and Biblical departure are gone because they will always be with us, but it is to suggest that the church of the living God could be, MUST be, entirely more expansive in its revelation of the person of Jesus Christ. It is pitiful to pat ourselves on our backs because we lift up Christ in our pulpits while the dark and blind world sees and hears very little of Jesus lived out in His followers.

I would now suggest some tangible things about which I was wrong.

I was wrong for criticizing lost sinners. Back in the fundamentalist heyday we were accomplished at preaching against rock stars, movie stars, and an array of public sinners who provided much sermon fodder and elicited many a self righteous “amen”. We would castigate people like Madonna or Elton John or the movie star activists, and when I think about that type of self serving ungraciousness I realize that I was wrong. God’s love understands what sinners do and what condition they are in, but His example is the cross. His answer wasn’t to come into the world to condemn the world, no, He came so that the world through Him might be saved.

This issue goes all the way back to the Anita Bryant crusade against homosexuals and the church championing her as a hero of the faith only to see her own marriage crumble in divorce. Churches would hold youth record burnings with the latest “out of the closet” rock star becoming the target, and all the while we had our ears and eyes on moral targets and not on Christ Himself. This type of "attack Christianity" galvanizes the base but leads us all astray and veering far off the redemptive journey set before us by our Redeemer.

We do a disservice to Christ and His message when we take cheap shots at the unbelievers, regardless of who they are and what they do. It breeds self righteousness and denigrates the concept of grace wherein we all stand. Our message is the everlasting gospel and our motivation is love, love for Christ and love for the sinner. We need to teach about sin in our midst, but we need to march outside the camp with a banner of loving redemption unfurled before us.

I was wrong for being political. Perhaps no other issue has clouded the greatness of the gospel and the concept of justification by faith than the church’s participation in politics. During the 70’s there arose many religious right organizations whose expressed purpose was to change the morality of a nation through political leverage. Millions of unbelievers have gotten the idea that to be a Christian you must be moral, and specifically you must be aligned with certain issues like abortion and homosexuality. While those issues may be pertinent within the church, they are the spiritual carts before the horse among the lost.

In many ways the church has projected America as God’s new Israel, and patriotism has become a tenant of discipleship. Supporting conservative causes has become a part of Christian moralism, and in fact this view has led the church to join “forces” with a range of denominations including Roman Catholicism, Mormonism, conservative Judaism, and all sorts of organizations that we would not agree with spiritually but cooperate with morally. This, as Paul noted, sends an uncertain sound and even projects a works based Christianity.

And it isn’t just those issues that have ecclesiastical sway, many believers project a conservative view of the government’s monetary policy, foreign policy, and many tangential issues that again are not germane to the gospel of Christ. We cannot be spiritual Martha’s, always worried about earthly issues that cannot be solved at the ballot box, no, we must walk in the footsteps of Mary and sit before the Savior and learn of Him. The government is in God’s hands, we must be about our Father’s business.

I was wrong for downplaying humanitarian issues. I came to believe that feeding the poor, helping the sick, and generally reaching out to people’s earthly needs were unattached to the gospel and minimal in God’s redemptive economy. I failed to see the importance and the attached spiritual revelation that good deeds can have when passionately invested in people and accompanied with a redemptive fragrance that unmistakably comes from Jesus Christ. I sincerely believe I have missed many opportunities to walk through doors that would have been opened by a more fervent outreach to people in need, motivated by God’s eternal love.

I now wonder how I could have been so blind and entrenched. Why could I not see that helping and ministering to people’s physical needs was a partner in the proclamation of the everlasting gospel? Maybe it was because we were always so worried about the “social gospel” that we eschewed the notion of worldwide humanitarianism energized by the love of God and ushering in the life changing message of the Risen Christ. We were so reactionary in those days, and we cultivated a climate of the “defense of the gospel” when in reality it was often just defensiveness.

No one can be saved without faith in Jesus Christ, that is clear throughout the New Testament, but we have become so obsessed with avoiding the social gospel we have sometimes become blind to binding up the wounds of people first and allowing the Spirit to open their hearts to the Savior later. Loving and prayerful process has given way to pigeon holing and windshield tracts. All of such attempts to spread the gospel are legitimate and necessary, but meeting people’s needs are our calling as well.

I was wrong about doctrine. I believe doctrine, which just means the study and organized expression of God’s truth, is important. Without doctrine, based upon the written Scriptures, we would have chaos. And it is no secret that there are always doctrinal aberrations that range from unorthodox all the way to rank heresy. So the core elements of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the teachings concerning salvation by grace through faith are vital to the health of the body of Christ. But so often we have elevated the side issues of doctrine to a status they were never meant to have, and even used portions of doctrine as artillery toward others and self righteousness toward ourselves.

Everything we know, every truth that has been revealed to us is completely by grace through the illumination of the Spirit and surely not the spiritual prowess of our intellects. And yet we sometimes act as if we are the protectors of the Holy Grail and that we ourselves have sought and found God’s truth and have been assigned to protect it from the hordes of doctrinal barbarians. To be sure there are always movements and teachings that seriously change Biblical understandings of truth, but our calling is overwhelmingly a redemptive offensive and not protectionism.

And just a quick perusal of church history reveals a host of brothers in Christ whose doctrinal teachings were anything but satisfactory. Wesley brushes with legalism; Finney veers significantly off course; Luther carries over some Roman Catholic views; Calvin changes the nature of the atonement; Graham quotes the pope; and almost the entire catalogue of former and present evangelical preachers had their own doctrinal idiosyncrasies at best and variances at worst, but yet they were brothers in Christ and used of God. So the core doctrines are vital, but all the rest are not fellowship breakers and most assuredly not an excuse for careless and ungracious attacks .

I was wrong about love. The church has carefully crafted a counterfeit love that masquerades as the love of God but is in reality a self serving conscience salve that is no more the love of God than our love for sports. All believers know we are taught to “love the world” as God did and “love one another” as God commanded, so we are aware that we must project some teaching concerning these issues or risk being “unbiblical”. But if we are honest and sincere, and if we willing to let the Spirit speak to our hearts with conviction and discomfort, we will see that what we preach, and certainly what we practice, seriously misses the Scriptural mark concerning love and even exposes the love we teach as Biblically flawed and spiritually diminutive.

The love of God that we are called to emulate and practically illustrate is violently sacrificial and selfless, and when demonstrated in the power of the Spirit it must stand forth as incongruous to earthly love and a conduit that draws the saint and sinner alike to Christ. How is it that the body of Christ can claim to be walking in the power of God’s love and yet be so unnoticed and unremarkable in the midst of such a selfish and unloving generation? Why were sinners, so blatant in their sinful lifestyles that they were ostracized by society, drawn to Jesus? Why was a woman who practiced a sinful sexual lifestyle bold enough to approach Jesus with her worship, and yet sinners are driven away from our churches?

Where is the “God so loved the world that He gave” kind of love today? We were always so worried about rubbing shoulders with the world that we withdrew from them and in so doing projected a God that exhibits an aloof disdain rather than a gregarious love. We were more concerned with reputation than redemption, more concerned with acclamation than salvation, and more concerned with earthly separation than spiritual emancipation. We were reserved in our love even among ourselves, and if we cannot love each other with abandon how can we claim to love the sinner? In the end, we loved our ecclesiastical constructs more than we loved God and His Word.

There were other things about which I was wrong, and most assuredly things about which I am still wrong, but I ended on this one since if you are wrong about God’s love you are wrong about everything.