Monthly Archives: September 2015

Lying for Blood

Are there Jewish refugees hiding in your attic?

Where were you last night between midnight and 2 a.m.?

Does this dress make me look fat?

Do you enjoy watching Harry Potter movies?

Have you ever cross-dressed as Olivia Newton John in order to win a lip sync contest?

We’ve all had someone ask us a question where a lie would result in the more preferred teleological result. We tell ourselves that the end justifies the means. I’ve never encountered a situation where I chose to lie in order to save the lives of those I love, but I would do so in a heartbeat. I have, however, lied in order to protect a relationship, to avoid conflict and keep the peace, or to save myself from embarrassment—by not revealing some of my deepest darkest secrets. My ex-girlfriend told me she was sick and stayed the night at her aunt’s house because I knew very well that nothing good happens after midnight (thanks for that advice, Dad). I’m shallow, so my wife and girlfriends have always been thin no matter what they’re wearing. I LOVE Harry Potter movies. There…I said it. I’ll remain silent about the Olivia Newton-John thing for now. But you know me, I typically don’t keep things from my friends, readers, or even complete strangers. Let’s just say, we won that lip sync contest.

Lying is never substantiated by Scripture, however, there are times where individuals lied out of their conviction and faith in God and God’s redemptive plan—and they are revered. Before Moses was born, Pharaoh instructed the Hebrew midwives, Shiphrah and Puah, to kill any baby boy born to a Hebrew woman to control the population of the slaves. The midwives, however, feared God and did not do what the king of Egypt had told them to do; they let the boys live. When asked why they did this, the midwives lied to their king. God honored and blessed the midwives because they feared him and ended up contributing to God’s redemptive plan.

Forty years later, Joshua sent two spies into Jericho to scope things out. While they were there, they hid in a house of a harlot named Rahab. When the king of Jericho asked Rahab if these spies were hiding in her house, she lied, and told him they had left at dusk. After the king left her house, Rahab asked the spies if they could protect her—and her entire family—when the Israelites inevitably attack the city. The spies promised her that they would treat her and her family kindly as long as she didn’t tell what they were doing to the authorities, kept her entire family inside her house, and tied a scarlet cord in her window. The spies said to Rahab:

“If any of them go outside your house into the street, their blood will be on their own heads; we will not be responsible. As for those who are in the house with you, their blood will be on our head if a hand is laid on them”

—Joshua 2:19

Super weird, right? Why the scarlet cord? Why all the rules?

We know the history of scarlet in Scripture. We recall the continuous history of scarlet blood atoning for our sins. Every year the Israelites would hold a sacred remembrance of the night when scarlet blood provided a sign upon their doorposts, informing the angel of death to “pass over” them and move on—thereby scarlet upon the house would save the entire household…as long as everyone in that household remained behind closed doors (Exodus 12). The scarlet thread wrapped on Judah’s son and Jesus’ ancestor (Genesis 38) marks the descendant and chosen child of the promise. The veil of finely twisted scarlet linen within the Tabernacle would separate the priest from God’s holiness and the mercy seat of redemption that sat upon the Ark of the Covenant (Leviticus 16). Rahab the harlot tied a scarlet cord to her window to redeem herself and her family from the impending doom of the Israelite army. Scarlet represents blood and blood represents redemption.

1400 years later, Pilate’s soldiers took this harlot’s descendant, Jesus, into the Praetorium, stripped him, and put a scarlet robe on him. They twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand. Then they knelt in front of him and mocked him. “Hail, king of the Jews!” they said. They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again. Scarlet blood seeped from his scalp, his back, and his legs. After scourging Jesus, they took him away to crucify him. They nailed him to a cross as his scarlet blood dried upon his arms and his legs, and dripped down upon the ground below him. At 3:00 p.m., Jesus cried out and gave up his spirit. At that moment, the scarlet curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom, illustrating to the world that our sin no longer separated us from the glory of God. Because of Jesus’ scarlet blood sacrifice, we (our entire household)—will be safe from harm…from destruction…from death. God will redeem us. Our scarlet sins will be made white as snow (Isaiah 1:18).

“But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that are now already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made with human hands, that is to say, is not a part of this creation. He did not enter by means of the [scarlet] blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own [scarlet] blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. The [scarlet] blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the [scarlet] blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!”

—Hebrews 9:11-14

Rahab is not honored because of her lies…she’s also not excused—yet she is forgiven. She’s honored because of her faith in God’s ultimate redemption of humankind. We also are not honored because of our lies.

It’s just not good to lie!

We are, thankfully, forgiven. And we are honored—not because we lie, but because of our faith in God and God’s ultimate redemption of humankind found in Jesus Christ our Lord.

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Weak and Cowardly

I’ve been extremely discouraged lately. I’m one punch away from throwing in the proverbial towel on my love life and my church life. I’m disappointed in women, in love, in church, in church leaders, in the policies and political platforms of Evangelical Christians. I’m exhausted from trying to argue against the hatred and bigotry rampant within Christian circles. I’m sick of going out on dates, trying to convince a woman that I’m worthy, trying to find the love-needle in a haystack full of manure-saturated straw.

Those who don’t know Jesus, are confused as to who He truly is. I’m wearied from trying to introduce those who have questions to the loving, accepting, compassionate One—the Lord who recognizes the epidemic of loneliness and hurting and welcomes all people into His loving embrace. The simplicity, hypocrisy, and outright idiocy of the right is pushing me so far left, I’m about to fall of the spectrum completely. I’m tired, I’m lonely, I’m weak, and I’m afraid to face the world I call home because it’s a world that values hatred, anger, outward appearances, and disdain. I’m too weak and too afraid to cross the Jordan and engage this world that doesn’t seem very Promising anyway.

Therefore, I’m content to stay in the Wilderness and avoid the other side of the river completely. I’m grateful for the arrival of the football season and eventual snowboarding season to distract me from the loneliness, hatred, greed, materialism, bigotry, systemic selfishness that has become the identity of the world that exists on the other side of the river. So why shouldn’t I be afraid? Why shouldn’t I be weak? What does this Promised Land have to offer us anymore? I just can’t face this abysmal world alone…I can’t!

I honestly believe that this is exactly where Joshua was after his leader and mentor Moses died on Mount Nebo. Joshua had witnessed the futility of the world. He knew these people couldn’t be trusted. He doubted the value of the Promised Land and he was weak and afraid. He knew that the Israelites valued hatred, anger, outward appearances, materialism, bigotry, and selfishness. It doesn’t say that exactly in Scripture, but the fact that God had to tell him seven separate times to “Be Strong and Courageous” seems to suggest that God had some convincing to do (Deut. 31:6, 7, 23; Josh 1:6, 7, 9, 18).

I’m sure Joshua—like me—would rather sit in his chair east of the Jordan and watch the Minnesota Vikings embarrass themselves at Levi’s Stadium or shred the Gnar Pow on Mount Nebo than enter his world and embrace his calling. Joshua needed to know that he wasn’t about to face his abysmal world alone. Joshua needed an encouraging word from the all-powerful God and that is exactly what he received:

“Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them. Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

—Joshua 1:6-9

God’s redundant persistence shouldn’t go unnoticed here. God had to drill the assurance of His presence into the mind and heart of Joshua. Not only that, he had to repetitively encourage Joshua to avoid the temptation to remain weak and cowardly and instead embrace the strength and courage that can only come from God’s Spirit. God had a task and purpose for Joshua. Without God, Joshua was afraid and discouraged. With God’s presence, strength, and courage, Joshua could overcome those fears that plagued him, embrace his purpose, and cross the Jordan into the Promised Land—a land that may appear abysmal, but held promises and hope beyond the reach of Joshua’s expectations and imagination.

I’m still going to suffer through a dismal shellacking of the Minnesota Vikings every Sunday. I’m still going to partake in the thrill of shredding eight inches of powder in the Montezuma Bowl at Arapahoe Basin. I’m not, however, going to let those distractions dominate my existence. I’m still going to reach into that manure-saturated haystack in search for that enigmatic needle of love. I’m still going to trudge into church in search for that community of believers who still worship the Jesus I follow, love, adore, and try to emulate. I’m still going to combat the hypocrisy, hate, and bigotry that’s become annoyingly prevalent amid many Christians today.

But I can’t do it alone.

Thank goodness the Lord my God will be with me wherever I go…so I don’t have to.