…Let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith… Hebrews 12:1b-2a
Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Heather Davis, I live in the USA, and I am a Christian.
I know the Christian church has a poor reputation these days. She hasn’t always behaved as she should; a fact which breaks my heart. For my part, I am deeply sorry for it, and I hope and pray you have never suffered genuine hurt at her hands. I have, and so have many of my family members, so I can relate if you’ve been wronged at or by the church.
By now, I’ve walked with the Lord for two decades, and one thing He has taught me is that the people of His church are flawed. This includes me. I have deep flaws and have been guilty of not treating others as I want to be treated, along with a list of other crimes.
If we are honest, I believe we are all guilty of wrongdoing. Yet despite our guilt, God loves us. But because He is both holy and just, He cannot let crime go unpunished, nor should He.
His Word tells us what we earn by our rebellion against Him is death. There is also good news in this Book: death is the wage Jesus accepted on my behalf and on behalf of all who will put their trust in Him and let God once more be in charge. This is how He designed us to live.
One thing I’ve learned is that although the church is flawed and full of failings just as I am, it is important – nay, imperative – to judge Christianity by the Christ and not by the Christian.
The church is nothing more than a group of people Jesus has redeemed who are all in various stages of learning to love Him, obey Him, and deny themselves their selfish tendencies. Some are near pros, others are novices. Some are even fakes.
Although I have been hurt, I have also learned to love the church despite her flaws just as Jesus loves me despite mine.
And so, reader, as one restored by Christ to a right relationship with my Creator, I apologize for any and every actual wrong His church may have done to you. I also offer my time to discuss the amazing ways I’ve seen God at work in my life over the years. Many of these are recorded in the archives of this blog.
I invite you to share in my life and ask your hard questions about God. I don’t have all the answers, but I believe in being a safe place to talk about them. You see, if Christianity is true (as I firmly believe it is), it’s literally a matter of life and death, not just a preference or a coping mechanism.
That is both my conviction and my assurance, and I love to share it with others.
And [Jesus] took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village, and when He had spit on His eyes and laid His hands on him, He asked him, “Do you see anything?” And he looked up and said, “I see people, but they look like trees, walking.”
Mark 8:23-24, ESV
Healing the Blind
I love the Gospel accounts of Yeshua (Jesus) healing the blind because I know He’s in the same business today. For any who are willing, my Lord still heals spiritual blindness – a blindness far more profound than the mere absence of sight. Of all the blind men He healed, the one that resonates most with me is the healing recorded in Mark 8:22-25.
Mark’s account is singular in that Yeshua’s healing did not seem to “take” at first. This unnamed fellow’s sight did not immediately return. Instead, he began to see in stages, and his first glimpse of the world offered a distorted image of reality.
I can relate because I also began to see in stages after the Lord first touched me. He did not heal the abysmal spiritual darkness in me all at once. Instead, my first glimpses of the real world remained distorted by the lens of secular humanism I first embraced as a teenager.
The humanist worldview led me to view life as a silly option and death as the more logical choice. The more I saw through this murky lens, the darker life grew until blackness reigned unchallenged.
Secular humanism provides insufficient answers to questions of mankind’s purpose and meaning. Their efforts to touch these concepts lead in circles, much like Pooh and Piglet following their own tracks in the snow.
In adulthood, questions began to buffet me in the thick darkness of my chosen worldview:
If the end justifies the means, then why does my conscience prick me when I cause someone pain?
If mankind sets the standard for right and wrong, what man gets to set it?
When others use me and I feel wronged, am I right or are they?
When social standards change, does right and wrong change, too?
Is life built on such an unstable foundation as all this?
If man is the measure of all things, then what’s the point?
Why bother with life at all?
Years spent groping in this philosophical darkness brought no peace but only multiplied my confusion. And quite frankly, the longer I groped in this darkness, the less sense the humanist worldview made.
As I rode the fluctuating and unstable tide of humanistic morality, I knew deep inside there must be a true right and a true wrong. Without a changeless absolute truth, life was purposeless, chaotic, and ultimately meaningless.
He began to heal my spiritual blindness, but at first I saw neither Him nor His truth clearly. Instead, I saw a distorted version of reality blurred by drab layers of humanistic philosophy. At the Lord’s first touch, I saw enough to know He was there although I saw Him only dimly.
It took several applications of the Word of Truth before I saw clearly. And what I discovered was the world, seen through the crystal-clear truth of the Maker of all things, =made a startling, stark sense.
What About You?
I don’t know where you stand, friend. I don’t know if you see Yeshua through His Word or if you see an obscure shadow of Him; a man like a tree walking around. But I pray He will heal you fully so you may see the beauty of the Light of the World and all He illuminates.
Sin. I want to talk about sin. Get your mind out of the gutter, ya perv.
Seriously, though, we really don’t talk much about sin anymore, and I think I know why.
As humans, we have an innate understanding of right and wrong. Over time, this understanding becomes twisted by our pride, distorted by repeated suppression, and is subject to a myriad of other deformations. Yet somewhere deep inside, we all know certain things are wrong – even if we only recognize them as a wrong when done to us.
They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them
The general term for this understanding is conscience. And like any other human part, it can become scarred-over and calloused until there’s no feeling left.
Which brings us to today.
Instead of sin, we talk about things like lifestyle, my truth, or even illness. Much air is expended discussing our battles or our challenges. When confronted with wrongdoing, Christian influencers may confess their struggles. . . but not their sin.
It’s true we do go to battle against our sinful inclinations; we must struggle against temptation to sin. And yet, more often than not, the words are not used in this way but rather as a clever dodge to avoid responsibility. A struggle or a lifestyle is much more palatable than a willful crime.
What we’re missing in this subtle semantic waltz is the gravity of sin.
Sin is a killer. Period.
Sin is ugly. It is rebellion against the Maker; treason against the King; a refusal of the creation to perform its function as it was designed.
Sin lies. It cheats us of true life. It steals joy and covers it up in an endless, wretched pursuit of meager happiness and fleeting pleasure.
And no matter what name we give to make it sweeter to say, sin leads to death. In fact, death is what the sinner earns – as surely as you earn your paycheck from your employer.
For the wages of sin is death. . .
“But I’m not dead,” you may say, and perhaps you’re right. I wonder, though: can you honestly tell me you have a single relationship that hasn’t suffered a kind of death? Was any type of harm ever done to you by another person? Have you ever harmed another, even mildly?
Death of trust, death of respect, death of joy, of reputation, commitment, communication. Death everywhere we look, if we look with honesty. Even the cooling of affections is a kind of death.
Friends, this horror covers only one kind of death. The rot of sin goes far deeper than this.
. . . but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
The good news is, we don’t have to accept death. We can talk about our sin; confess it, repent of it, and be set free in Christ. Expose the canker of sin to the fresh air of truth.
It may hurt, it may be embarrassing, but I can tell you from experience there is no cleaner pain. Like debriding an infected wound, the momentary torment is nothing compared to the relief of healing.
Let’s confess our sin to God our Healer and turn away in true repentance, trusting in the work of the Son of God to break the chains of sin and make us really free.
But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.
If you’ve ever done any gardening, you’ll know how similar seeds can look. If one were to, say, spill opened seed packets of zucchini and pumpkin. . .
Well. One would have quite a mess of identical-looking, flat, off-white seeds. The only recourse would be to plant them and wait to see what sprouted.
And while our fictitious gardening klutz may not know where to expect zucchini and where to expect pumpkins, she can at least be certain none of her mixed-up seeds will produce oranges.
This is one way I used to introduce the “Fruit of the Spirit Project” to my photography students, complete with samples of the seeds. But the lesson portion isn’t just for students of photography. It’s one I learned from the Master Teacher, Himself (that would be the Holy Spirit), and I wanted to share it with you.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
Many of us read Galatians 5:22-23 as if it were a checklist of character traits to work on. Today, I need to try to be more patient. Tomorrow, I’ll cultivate kindness or set my mind to being more gentle.
I used to do the same. What I learned from my endeavors is that trying to produce these attributes on my own is as practical as trying to grow a unicorn tree or teach my puppy finite math.
Instead, we ought to consider those nine characteristics as evidence.
In truth, we are utterly incapable of growing the fruit of the Spirit with even our most valiant efforts. Why? Because it’s the fruit of the Spirit.
It isn’t a list of things we can work on; it’s the proof of the work of the Spirit in us.
Just like our fictional horticultural friend from earlier will discover where her pumpkin seeds were planted by the evidence of pumpkins, so the fruit of the Spirit is evidence that the Holy Spirit is “planted” in us.
This is not to say we will have a full harvest of completely mature, perfectly ripened fruit all at once. It simply means if we are not continually growing in love, joy, peace, patience, and so on, the evidence points to a lack of the Holy Spirit in us. If these traits are increasing in our lives – even if they are very wee and not much to boast about – well, growth is growth. God will give the increase.
Or as our Lord put it:
You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit.
The fruit of the Spirit is evidence of the work God is doing within us. If you lack it, don’t despair. Ask God to give you His Spirit, then ask for help hearing and obeying His voice. Let Him do the growing. Just be sure make your life fertile ground.
That is to say, I’ve had little formal training as a teacher; never took courses towards a teaching degree even during my miniscule collegiate experience; and never harbored even the teensiest trifling thought of teaching anyone anything on any basis before my Lord called me to homeschool our little brood of three.
So by the current American view of what it takes to be a “professional” teacher, I’m not one. But I have played one in various contexts. In doing so, I’ve discovered three facts that make me appreciate teachers even more.
Teaching is less a job and more of a lifestyle.
Most teachers are required to have a college degree. Some places even require them for preschool – a truth which never ceases to boggle my mind (as if your average, non-substance-addicted human being isn’t capable of teaching the alphabet, letter sounds, and color recognition !!).
Yet I doubt any degree can prepare you for the actual job. Despite the classroom time, most teachers spend hours arranging and decorating the classroom itself (often partly out of the teacher’s own pocket).
Untold hours are devoted to grading, brainstorming new ways to present key concepts, licensing requirements, helping with athletic events or drama productions, attending meetings, and so on. For many teachers, an average day begins around 7:00 a.m. and often extends past 9:00 p.m.
And despite the stigma, not many teachers take summers completely off. Summer is a time to sleep past sunrise and do some lesson plans and/or curriculum tweaking without the pressure of skipping lunch or prepping for that kid who simply will not stay on task.
And that’s for teachers who are supplied a curriculum. Some of us write our own.
The teaching lifestyle is not highly profitable.
One former teaching colleague graduated with a degree in data science and was asked to step in to fill a sudden gap in the math department during the school year. And he loved the job – until he moved out of his parents’ house.
College degrees are not cheaply obtained, and teacher salaries make the payback difficult for those who enjoy eating every day. Not only is teaching not for everyone, it isn’t affordable for many of us.
Teachers often burn out from fighting battles on too many fronts.
American teachers are often treated as the enemy – or even the servant of the enemy – rather than as the professional, hard-working, child-loving human beings most of them are.
Even in the very warm and wonderful environment I taught in, I experienced a few parents who reminded me of my waitress days and what I always called “low priority customers” – something to think about next time you’re treating your waiter as an inferior being. 😉
In social settings, I’ve spoken with well-meaning parents who simply cannot grasp why a teacher with fifteen or thirty other kids can’t provide the one-on-one time their little Charlie or Susie needs to flourish. It’s as if some folks indulge a bizarre belief that a teaching degree confers upon a person the ability to sidestep the space/time continuum and also perform actual sorcery.
The truth is, most teachers have bent over backwards so often, a side gig as a sideshow freak is a viable revenue stream.
If little Charlie or Susie were the only child with unique needs, it would be possible to help. But close to 15% of today’s kids have some type of learning challenge, while the rest of them are dealing with the heaviness of modern life. The teacher is left trying to present the day’s lesson multiple ways, competing with near-invisible earbuds and fifty-million video game hacks while still giving individualized attention to several kids – all in less than an hour.
Of course, this is assuming the day goes smoothly and there are no external distractions. Which happens, well. . . never.
If you are not a Christian, you are still human. You may not have the motivation of realizing Jesus died to pay for all those horrible things you’ve done (though He DID, and He’s always willing for you to accept the free gift of eternal life from Him), but you can still be a decentish human.
I’ll be among the first to tell you that the Church is far from perfect. People get hurt inchurch, at church, and even bythe Church. I daresay all church attendees could pop out a MeToo hashtag along with their own grim tales of church-induced suffering, whether real or perceived.
If I may be so bold, I imagine pastors could write a book about the pain caused at the hands of the flocks they shepherd. Their wives could probably fill volumes. The reasons for this are manifold, but for time’s sake I will only explore a couple.
To start, the Church is a collection of sinful human beings at various stages of sanctification. Not all are mature, not all are wise, not all have understanding, and not all really know what the Bible says or what being a Christian actually means.
In fact, not all people who engage in weekly worship and claim the name of Christ are legitimately members of His Church – the worldwide body of dedicated, true disciples who love Him with their whole heart, soul, mind, and strength.
In fact, Yeshua (Jesus) Himself warned His disciples of weeds sown among the fruitful crop (Matthew 13:36-43) and that not all who call Him Lord will enter the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 7:21-23).
Its simple to see how any person could be hurt by participation in an assembly which includes people filled with the love of God, people filled with selfish ambition, and everything in between.
But none of these things explain why I love the Church.
It isn’t because she’s never hurt me; she has. Worse than my own hurts were watching my son take friendly fire at a time when he most needed Christian mentoring. Instead, he was invited to various activities by pastorswho never followed up. One time in particular involved my then-11-year-old being invited to a group, never told the particulars, then listening in as the group discussed how fun it had been afterwards.
My son walked away from it all. And although I hate it with every fiber of my being, part of me understands. If my faith had been in a pastor, a group of people, or anything other than God Himself, I would have walked away, too.
But I love the Church despite what she’s done to me and to my family for the very simple reason that Yeshua loves me despite what I’ve done to Him.
Every sin I’ve ever committed, whether intentionally or not, is an abject act of rebellion against the One who created me.
Every careless word, every failure to love my neighbor as myself, each and every self-focused thought and action I’ve engaged in may as well be a hammer-stroke on the crude nails which pierced the flesh of the Son of Man.
You see, I have hurt the Christ. I’ve grieved the Holy Spirit. I have brought sorrow to the heart of my Heavenly Father, and yet despite it all – even despite the fact that I still fall into sin – He loves me.
Love is not just a feeling; it’s also a choice. I choose to love the Church not because she deserves it, but because I don’t deserve it and yet Yeshua loves me.
He also loves His church; loves her enough that He gave himself up for her. And if He who is perfect and pure can love such a writhing mess of sin and self-sabotage as His Church, well then, so can I.
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.
I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled!
Here’s a random bit of personal trivia for you: I am the family fire starter. In younger years of camping, I would be the one to light the campfire. On our large lot, I am the one who is tasked with burning the debris from yard cleanup efforts.
Why? Because I like it. There’s something about starting and tending a fire which I find relaxing. It’s a slow, analog process in a frenetic digital world. Tending a fire leaves the mind free to contemplate all God made and to reflect on the lessons He’s stamped into His creation.
At its inception fire can be finicky. Particularly in damp or less-than-ideal conditions, a new fire needs correct fuel in correct amounts and at regular intervals. Too much too quickly will smother it; too sparse and the flames will flare and rapidly expire. It also needs air and a little bit of coaxing in order to grow.
We tend to be like this in our walk with the Lord. At first, our zeal is feeble and finicky. We need to fuel it with intentional prayerful perusal of the Scriptures at regular intervals. In order for our little flickers of devotion to grow, we’ll also need the breath of the Spirit and a bit of coaxing.
As the flames grow and become established, larger portions of fuel are required. This is the sweet spot where the fire burns merrily and needs no coaxing but it is not yet large enough to need taming. Keep feeding it and enjoy the warmth.
In our walk with the Lord, we often reach a point where many of life’s mysteries begin to make sense in light of God’s Word. Truths about the world click into place as our understanding of God grows. We are capable of digesting larger chunks of the Word and our zeal has taken a life of its own and no longer requires as much external effort. We simply need to feed it and enjoy the warmth of God’s love.
Once hot enough, fire is no longer picky about the fuel it consumes. Damp wood and even green plants will catch fire if dropped into the flames. At this point, more attention is needed to the surroundings. A stray gust of wind or a small explosion from a source like bamboo can cause sparks to fly. Anything dry and flammable nearby becomes a potential fuel source.
For the careless or distracted manager, it takes mere seconds for a controlled burn to become an impending threat. Even for an experienced pyrophile, a momentary failure to consider all the elements – fuel source, climate, conditions, surroundings – can turn a fruitful burn into a frantic effort to protect the house or treeline.
It’s important to maintain vigilance in our Christian walk, too. Our fallen nature means that the fire of zeal in our hearts will all too easily seize hold of the wrong fuel. Before we know it, our passion for the Gospel has devolved into fervent outspokenness about justice or freedom or 5-inch swaths of cloth. We lose sight of eternity and latch onto the temporary concerns of this world.
As charcoal to hot embers and wood to fire, so is a quarrelsome man for kindling strife.
Proverbs 26:21 (ESV)
We let our opinions drive the flames and we’re careless about the fuel we feed on. We gorge on the opinions of influencers, podcasts, and blogs rather than the very words of our Creator and spread little sparks into flammable arenas we should have tended with more care. Or we fail to notice the surroundings and enter into thoughtless exchanges of outrage rather than revealing the pure Light of the World we have lost sight of in the raging fires of misguided passion.
The consequences to out-of-control fire can be devastating if not stopped. So can the consequences of out-of-control and misdirected passions.
And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell.
James 3:6 ESV
This is important to remember in the climate of today. Most people are weary. Many are confused; many are angry. Now is our time to kindle a fire, but we who are in Christ MUST resist the impulse to feed the fires of fury and bewilderment. We need to kindle a fire of love and devotion to the One who is THE Way, THE Truth, and THE Life in a lost, deceived, and dying world.
This is not freedom to anything but rather freedom from; from the chains of sin and death. Freedom to begin living for eternity now, enjoying a peace with God that will last forever. This peace makes death no longer something to fear but a change to welcome, knowing that when this sin-corrupted flesh of ours expires, our truest and best freedom will begin.
This is the peace Christ Jesus – Yeshua Messiah – offers to all who will submit to His Lordship. This is the fire I want to kindle in me and in my family: A fire that will not decay but will burn steadily, consuming every impurity within and leaving behind all that I’ve built on the sure foundation of my King. A passion for truth, for true justice, for absolute joy, for the glorious presence of the King of kings.