The Nonparadoxical Paradox of Christianity

I often find myself having more questions than answers when it comes to my Christian faith. Now don’t get me wrong, the Bible gives me more than enough answers to satisfy the depths of the heart, mind, and soul. However, there are still things that my finite mind cannot fully grasp because let’s face it….the human experience falls quite a bit short of the totality that is the Lord God Creator of the universe. 

I was recently stumped by a particular passage of Scripture that I was studying to prepare to teach at my community group. Hosea chapter 11 is a beautiful passage that expounds on the faithful love of God. It starts with this imagery of God as a loving Father who gently raises up His children and guides them through life’s ups and downs. But in verses 5-7 God presents Himself as the scorned lover who has been betrayed, cheated on, and trampled upon. He is justifiably filled with a righteous anger and decrees punishment upon His unfaithful lover. And then we have verse 8:

How can I give you up, O Ephraim?
    How can I hand you over, O Israel?
How can I make you like Admah?
    How can I treat you like Zeboiim?
My heart recoils within me;
    my compassion grows warm and tender.

It’s as if God is torn. The all mighty, all powerful Lord of creation has been overcome with emotion. His heart is in turmoil over His lover, His people. It would seem that God is having this internal struggle to reconcile His righteous wrath and His loving mercy. He must punish evil, yet how can he give up on His people? Can God be moved to change His mind? Can He resolve the conflict between His wrath, holiness, and justice and His love, mercy, and grace? I wrestled with this concept for a while. It wasn’t until I looked at the cross that I finally started to understand a little bit about this paradox that really isn’t a paradox.

Israel was called a son of God that was lead out of Egypt. He (Israel) turned His back on God, broke His Law, and rejected His sonship. In Matthew 2:15 we see the story of another Son brought up out of Egypt. Jesus was God’s Son who submitted to the will of His Father, fulfilled the Law in every way, and glorified His Father. In both instances, the wrath of God was ultimately satisfied. His wrath was poured out in partiality on Israel but His love and mercy allowed for that wrath to be withheld to an extent. His wrath was fully appeased on His other Son, the innocent Son. In a beautiful picture of both ultimate wrath and ultimate love His Son was hung on a cross. It is the cross at which point in history both the wrath, holiness, and justice intersect fully with His love, mercy, and grace. 

The Christian faith will never be fully understood while we are citizens of this earth. How can beauty be found in blood? Why would the innocent die for the guilty? How is it possible for their to be life through death? Our God is a beautiful paradox of love and wrath, life and death, holiness and mercy. Yet, in this paradox we find life, peace, joy, wholeness, and salvation. I may not fully grasp it, but I’m grateful God has revealed enough to satisfy my heart, mind, and soul. 

4 More Years….What Is that In Comparison To Eternity?

4 More Years….What Is that In Comparison To Eternity?

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Let me preface what I am about to say by stating that I am not a big political fan, don’t claim to know a whole about politics, nor do I think it is wrong to care about politics and the direction of America. I am extremely grateful to live in a land that allows us the freedoms we sometimes take for granted. I have been to other countries, and there is no other place I would like to call home. With that said…..

Some Christians confuse me. First of all, I must ask those who claim Christ and claim to live by the Holy Scriptures and voted for Obama, how do you reconcile what the Bible teaches about certain moral issues with the platform Mr. Obama leads from? Listen, my political stance is shaped and formed by the Bible and if the laws of this country don’t align with that I move on and love others with the love of Christ anyway. So don’t get me wrong. I realize I am a sinner saved by His precious grace and treat others accordingly. But what do you build your foundation on? I have always failed to see how some Christians can vote for and brag about politicians that so openly go against the Word. And then to boastfully throw it in the faces of those who have a different opinion than you? Please help me understand.

And for those Christians who are upset about the election, Scripture clearly states that God appoints the leaders and rulers of this world. Of course He is not pleased when there is sin and the promotion of sin running rampant. But does that reduce His sovereignty? And yes, it is perfectly ok to be upset about the results. But it is not the end of the world. You don’t have to move. You do not have to vehemently and personally attack the president or those that support him.  Besides, did you think this great country of ours would last forever? Read your history books. Every great civilization falls. I’m not saying this is what will happen. I’m just saying that we are aliens. Our citizenship is not of this world. We are living for and playing for a far greater kingdom. So take some time and let the loss sink in, struggle with it, be upset, and then buck up and start praying for the leaders God has put over us. Sure our lives may get more difficult, but since when did we deserve to live so lavishly? The “Christian” thing to say is to feed the poor and take care of them. Heaven forbid we lose that money that we worked so hard for. Heaven forbid we become the poor. Of course I don’t want that but it could be a possibility in the near future and maybe in some aspects already is happening. But why be upset? It is an opportunity for us to bring glory to God. Things are going to happen and we have every right to be upset. But God’s desire is to count it all joy. Why? Not so things will get better. But so He can receive glory. And on a side note, if the church had been doing what it has been tasked to do in Scripture, namely feeding the poor and giving graciously without expecting anything in return, I would dare say many of those political hotbeds would not be nearly the issues they have become. 

We have spent quite a bit of time, money, and energy as a nation trying to make a difference for the next four years. What I now present to you my fellow believers is this….let us spend our time, money, and energy trying to make a difference for eternity. Don’t twist my words and read into this thinking I don’t care about our country or the direction it is going….that is not my point at all. My point is simply this…

1.) God’s kingdom > earthly kingdoms

2.) Our King > our president

3.) Eternity > 4 more years

The Battle With Sin

A soul under the power of conviction from the law is pressed to fight against sin, but he has no strength for the battle. He must fight, but he can never conquer. He is like a man who thrusts himself on the sword of the enemy on purpose to be slain. The law drives him on, and then sin beats him back. Sometimes he thinks he has foiled sin, but he has only raised a dust, so that he cannot see the sin. He stirs up his natural affections of fear, sorrow, and anguish, and this makes him believe that sin is conquered when it is not even touched. He soon must be at the battle again, and the lust which he thought to be slain is seen to be not even wounded. ~ John Owen
It is quite a sad state that I find myself in. I am constantly fighting with this man who is determined to get the best of me and never let go. His choices of weapon are temptation, lust, and guilt. He comes at me with a ruthless assault determined to knock me down and keep me down. I have known this man for quite some time, for my whole life as a matter of fact. His place of residence is in the depths of my heart, soul, and mind. I have tried everything in my power to defeat this foe…I have prayed, gone to church, been religious, and have done everything I can to do the right thing. But alas, it has all been for naught. I cannot win. With every seeming victory, the enemy comes back at me with a barrage of attacks at my character and my supposed righteousness. He whispers softly in my ear, “You’re a liar. You’re a cheat. You’re a thief. You’re an adulterer. You’re a murderer.” How can I argue with this? He is right. I am all of those things and then some. I am defenseless and powerless against this savvy, old man.
Thank God someone has gone to battle for me. He accomplished what I never could. The enemy has no answer for His power. In Him there is no weakness. In Him there is no guilt. In Him, no imperfection is found. On a day that started out as any other, He changed the world forever. He was tried unjustly, sentenced to death unfairly, beaten endlessly, spat upon disrespectfully, humiliated pubicly, tortured mercilessly, and met death on a cross maliciously. How did this change the world? This isn’t triumphant. This is death. This is defeat in all it’s finality. The battle is seemingly lost, but ah, the war has been won. Sin no longer has power and death has lost it’s sting. “Victory is mine!” exclaims the risen Savior! The grave could not contain Him and He has set the captives free. The very law that condemned me has been fulfilled to the fullest extent in this Man, the Christ, the Son of God. I no longer live, but the very power of this Jesus lives inside me! How thankful I am for the grace and peace given to me by my LORD, my Master, my All In All, my Everything, my Savior.
Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. - Romans 6:6

There’s More To Christmas Than Jesus Being Born?

The day after Thanksgiving is the unofficial start to the Christmas season. There is Black Friday shopping, Christmas music, trees, lights, decorations, Santa, presents, vacations, snow, etc., etc., etc. And to be perfectly honest, as a Christian, I am perfectly fine with all of this stuff. As a matter of fact, I actually enjoy it! I love getting to see my family, exchanging gifts, and taking in all the holiday festivities. Of course, many of my fellow Christians are always quick to remind everyone that “Jesus is the reason for the season”. And I agree….mostly. Sure we chose December 25 to celebrate the birth of our Savior. But in reality he was most likely born in late spring-early summer. December 25 was actually a pagan holiday that the early Catholic church adopted for the purpose of celebrating the birth of Christ. But enough of the history lesson. The point is that we celebrate the birth of Jesus on December 25 and I have been wondering if we as Christians don’t do enough justice to the fact that God sent His only Son to dwell among sinful human beings. 

You see, Christians are always quick to remind everyone that Christmas is about the birth of the Savior. But the way I see it, we fall woefully short of giving a biblical account of the “reason for the season”. We go to church or gather round with family and friends and read passages from Matthew or Luke and focus in on the birth of Christ (and rightly so). But there is so much more that Scripture tells us about Christ coming to earth. There is so much more to it than Jesus being born in a manger, than the wise men and shepherds coming to see Him, or that it was in Bethlehem. I believe one of the great “Christmas” passages in Scripture is actually not even found in the four Gospels. It is found in Philippians 2 - 

1 So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

 

Jesus, being One of the Holy Trinity, emptied Himself of His godly privileges and took the form of a man. The passage states that Christ did not find equality with God something to be grasped, but instead emptied Himself in order to take the form of a servant. Being that He took the form of a servant, He was obedient to the purpose for which He came to earth – to die on the cross for our sins. This encompasses all that it means to follow the Way. That is the so-called reason for the season. Jesus Christ set aside His rights as Creator of the universe and sovereign King to come to earth to redeem sinful human beings. It is awe inspiring to think that He became one of us for the sole purpose of taking our punishment. He died so we could live. And when we look at the context of this passage, it exhorts us as believers to have His mindset. We have been commissioned and empowered to follow in the footsteps of Christ. During the Christmas season, we get a glimpse of the goodwill of mankind. But it is only because of Christ giving up His rights in order to save us, that we are able to truly spread goodwill toward men. My challenge to myself is to not make Christmas merely about Jesus as “the reason for the season”, but to proclaim that not only was a child born, a Savior was born, a Savior that we all desperately need. GOD WITH US

TREASURE!!

The “daily grind” has it’s way of sucking the life out of you sometimes. The mundane routine of work and the ever constant threat of going clinically insane will tend to take a toll on one’s mind, body, and soul. The constant interaction you have with fellow human beings drives you to question whether or not mankind truly is the most intelligent lifeform on good ole’ planet earth. You often find yourself taking a step back and asking yourself, “Seriously mankind! What is the problem here? If you do everything according to how I see fit, then we all be fine. Just trust me. I know what is best.” Take the sutpidity (oops, pardon me), the ignorance of people and pour it in a bowl filled with problematic circumstances, unfair situations, and physical limitations and you have yourself a recipe for one headache-filled, anger-driven person. This is life. Wait a second….this is life!!!???

God has a way with words, doesn’t He? I rant and rave about how bad life can be and the consequential toll it takes on my attitude and outlook. I get angry and bitter and God reals me back in with one word - treasure. I plop open the Good Book and read this in Matthew chapter 13 - “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” So a man stumbles upon this hidden treasure in a field, it brings him copious amounts of joy, and so he sells everything to purchase this field. Seems simple enough. How does this apply to me? Glad you asked.

This treasure is so valuable that it is worth giving up everything in order to obtain it. It is the prized and sole possession of the one who has obtained it. I have this treasure - the glorious gift of salvation! Nothing else matters! How could I ever let the temporal, earthly details of life steal the incomprable joy of my salvation? I have this unbelievable treasure that I don’t deserve and can’t earn, yet it lives in me! May I rest and take solace in the joy of my salvation.

I just saw the new Woody Allen movie, ‘Midnight In Paris’, for the second time and one of the themes of the movie is that of the hopeless (or hopeful) romantic. Is idealism something to strive for or is it merely a fleeting moment or passing thought? Well, to be perfectly honest, as hard as it may be to believe, I consider myself no expert when it comes to the fine art of love. I only know failure in this arena and I wonder what my expectations should be. I think if I am honest with myself I would have to admit that I am that romantic at heart. I want to believe that when I meet that right person everythng will click - she will love God, enjoy sports, appreciate the arts, love to laugh, etc. But there is idealism and there is reality. We all have faults and make mistakes. She will do things that annoy me and I know I will do my fair share of things that drive her nuts. There will be fights and arguments and disagreements. It will be a far cry from what the movies or books portray. So it brings me back to square one - Should I desire idealism? Who knows? Maybe at the end of the day, my ideal mate will simply bring a smile to my face and that’s all I will need. However, realistically, I hope my desire will be to please her and love her and that will be enough for me. Maybe idealism is something to be desired, but isn’t that really all about me? It’s what I want and what I desire and that is not true love. At this point, I have more questions than answers, but I think I’m learning to be okay with that.

Birthdays are typically a celebration of life. However, if your name is Jeremy Neiditch, you spend your day contemplating the doldrums of your existence and the vanity of life. I saw this quote from Robert Browning: “In heaven I yearn for knowledge, account all else inanity; on earth I confess an itch for the praise of fools - that’s vanity.”  That pretty much sums up the folly in our thinking. So I figured I would take time to pontificate on the beauty and glory of death. Now I know this sounds broody and morose, but it’s quite the contrary. Don’t get me wrong, I love life and look forward to many more years on God’s green earth. But the thought of equating death with beauty is both intriguing and compelling.
I would suppose these thoughts began surfacing in my mind a few weeks ago. I was at church when my pastor stated that death was a gift from God for those that have put their faith in Christ. As great as this life is, it is still filled with pain, heartache, and misery. When you think about it, the only true escape is death. The apostle Paul seemed to grasp this concept when writing to the Philippians (while in prison, mind you). He stated – “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.” (Philippians 1:21-23). We have tremendous opportunities given to us to live a life that is meaningful and exciting but there is something far better awaiting us. Death is God’s gift to us to escape this imperfect, tarnished world and to spend eternity in His presence and at His feet.
It is also fascinating to think that love’s greatest victory was accomplished through death. How else can death bring life? Through one death, many are able to have life. And to further accentuate this point, the horrific manner in which this death was achieved seems to stand in defiance of everything that is pure and holy. Yet, the blood that flowed, the flesh that was struck, and the degradation that ensued gave birth to a majestic and glorious salvation. Death can be a beautiful thing. 

Birthdays are typically a celebration of life. However, if your name is Jeremy Neiditch, you spend your day contemplating the doldrums of your existence and the vanity of life. I saw this quote from Robert Browning: “In heaven I yearn for knowledge, account all else inanity; on earth I confess an itch for the praise of fools - that’s vanity.”  That pretty much sums up the folly in our thinking. So I figured I would take time to pontificate on the beauty and glory of death. Now I know this sounds broody and morose, but it’s quite the contrary. Don’t get me wrong, I love life and look forward to many more years on God’s green earth. But the thought of equating death with beauty is both intriguing and compelling.

I would suppose these thoughts began surfacing in my mind a few weeks ago. I was at church when my pastor stated that death was a gift from God for those that have put their faith in Christ. As great as this life is, it is still filled with pain, heartache, and misery. When you think about it, the only true escape is death. The apostle Paul seemed to grasp this concept when writing to the Philippians (while in prison, mind you). He stated – For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.” (Philippians 1:21-23). We have tremendous opportunities given to us to live a life that is meaningful and exciting but there is something far better awaiting us. Death is God’s gift to us to escape this imperfect, tarnished world and to spend eternity in His presence and at His feet.

It is also fascinating to think that love’s greatest victory was accomplished through death. How else can death bring life? Through one death, many are able to have life. And to further accentuate this point, the horrific manner in which this death was achieved seems to stand in defiance of everything that is pure and holy. Yet, the blood that flowed, the flesh that was struck, and the degradation that ensued gave birth to a majestic and glorious salvation. Death can be a beautiful thing. 

I Am A Transplant Recipient

I just finished watching a story about a boxer from Chicago who collapsed in the ring and subsequently died two days later from brain trauma.  He left behind a loving wife and a baby daughter who was not even one year old.  Being that he was a highly skilled and highly trained professional boxer, his body was in phenomenal shape.  Upon his death, his family was asked if they would be willing to donate his organs to people who desperately needed them in order to live.  They agreed and so one woman received his two lungs, another his liver, another his kidney, and another his heart.  All four women were given no chance of survival unless they received these vital organ transplants.  More than a year after this young man’s death, it was arranged for these four recipients of his organs to meet his family.  Suffice to say, it was one of the most moving things I have ever seen.  The boxer’s family placed their hands over the chest of the woman who had received his heart and felt his heart beat once again.  And in a poignant moment, one of the recipients stated that it was sad that someone had to die so that they might live.

Where am I going with this?  Well, it stirred up inside of me an overwhelming humility and gratefulness for the One who died so that I might live.  When Jesus Christ was nailed to that cross some 2,000 years ago, not only did He take my place in death, He gave to me His heart, His mind, and His life.  So often we Christians trivialize the cross and the death of Christ as Him merely dying for our sins.  While this is true, we often forget how beautiful and rich His death is for us.  The power that we have to overcome this world and to live unto God comes from the life and the righteousness bestowed upon us because of the grace of God.  He took our guilt and shame and we now stand before God declared innocent.

I say all this and yet still find myself struggling to live my life for the glory of the One who saved me.  I am a selfish, prideful, and insecure human being.  I am constantly trying to find my identity in what others think of me or in the selfish desires of my own heart.  In turn, I view others through tainted eyes and instead of magnifying Christ to them, I project my sin-filled thoughts and feelings on them.  May I live as one who has been bought with a price.  May I live as one who is a new creation.  May I live as one who has the mind of Christ.  May I live as one who is a man after God’s own heart.  

Why should I gain from His reward?

I cannot give an answer

But this I know with all my heart

His wounds have paid my ransom

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.  The old has passed away; behold, the new has come." 2 Corinthians 5:17

Brothers

"For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers" - Hebrews 2:11

What a humbling truth….Jesus Christ lowered Himself to satisfy the wrath of God and through His suffering, our salvation, though undeserving, was made complete. And furthermore, this man, Jesus Christ, the same Jesus Christ who died for our sins while we were still His enemies, takes joy in calling us His brethren and joint heirs. What a humbling privilege to serve Him and one day share in His glory!

Michelangelo is arguably the most celebrated artist the world has ever known. Anyone who has seen his handiwork in person can attest to his sheer brilliance. From the Sistine Chapel to the Pieta and David, the intricacy and beauty of the pieces stay with you forever. However, there are some pieces that remain forever incomplete. The untouched hammer and chisel marks leave unanswered questions of what might have been. These pieces are said to have been left incomplete because Michelangelo decided at some point that he would not be able to reach the idealism he had created in his mind. These figures are left trapped in a state of incompleteness.
Why the discourse on Michelangelo and his work? The image of a sculptor working tirelessly on his masterpiece has captured my imagination.  Lately I have been meditating on my walk with God and this metaphor of the the sculptor and his work seem to define that relationship. I am this ugly, misshaped rock that had no defining beauty and leaves no lasting impression. But through the magnificent process of sanctification, God begins to carve away at the sin and imperfection that encompasses my being, He smooths out the rough edges and He leaves His indelible mark on me. The beauty that begins to show forth says nothing of the rock that is representative of me. Instead it is the beauty of the mind and heart of the sculptor, the Lord Himself. It is the beauty of His Son. It is His righteousness imputed on me. I am a vessel that radiates His glory and brilliance. This process is a lifelong work and many times it is not fun or easy, but it is necassary. I am so thankful that He is faithful to finish the work that He has begun in me and I am not left in a state of incompleteness. Oh that I might be the handiwork of the Master Craftsman. 

Michelangelo is arguably the most celebrated artist the world has ever known. Anyone who has seen his handiwork in person can attest to his sheer brilliance. From the Sistine Chapel to the Pieta and David, the intricacy and beauty of the pieces stay with you forever. However, there are some pieces that remain forever incomplete. The untouched hammer and chisel marks leave unanswered questions of what might have been. These pieces are said to have been left incomplete because Michelangelo decided at some point that he would not be able to reach the idealism he had created in his mind. These figures are left trapped in a state of incompleteness.

Why the discourse on Michelangelo and his work? The image of a sculptor working tirelessly on his masterpiece has captured my imagination.  Lately I have been meditating on my walk with God and this metaphor of the the sculptor and his work seem to define that relationship. I am this ugly, misshaped rock that had no defining beauty and leaves no lasting impression. But through the magnificent process of sanctification, God begins to carve away at the sin and imperfection that encompasses my being, He smooths out the rough edges and He leaves His indelible mark on me. The beauty that begins to show forth says nothing of the rock that is representative of me. Instead it is the beauty of the mind and heart of the sculptor, the Lord Himself. It is the beauty of His Son. It is His righteousness imputed on me. I am a vessel that radiates His glory and brilliance. This process is a lifelong work and many times it is not fun or easy, but it is necassary. I am so thankful that He is faithful to finish the work that He has begun in me and I am not left in a state of incompleteness. Oh that I might be the handiwork of the Master Craftsman.