Thursday, October 09, 2008


I have neglected this blog over the past several weeks—which have stretched in to months. So I apologize to anyone who is still out there who might read it. (Even if it just pops up on your reader).

I enjoy blogging, but have been without a computer for several months now, so I only have access at work or if I go to the library or some other public place. However, I do want to start being more intentional with posting to this blog.

In the previous post, I wrote about the idea of purity. Now, I would like to present some contrasting thoughts on holiness.

One might argue that these two words are synonymous and that this is merely an exercise of semantics. I would like to point out the simple distinction—as I see it—that purity is what we think of ourselves or how others think of us; whereas holiness, to me, is a condition of the heart and mind.

Holiness speaks to character—the who that we are. Purity speaks to culture—the what (or image) that we or others see.

Why is this distinction of fundamental importance? Essentially, the answer is because holiness is what God sees when He looks at us. The Scripture tells us that man looks on the outward (purity) image, but God sees our heart (holiness) condition.

In Scripture we’re also instructed to “be Holy” as our Father in Heaven is holy. At first, I think a lot of Christians just skim over that commandment because we all know that we can’t be like God. Doesn’t Romans say that we’ve all “fallen short”?

And so we castigate ourselves each time we stumble, while at the same time excusing ourselves for missing the mark that we see as unattainable.

But I believe God’s call to holiness is a plea for our heart. By instructing us to be holy, He is saying, “be like me.” Even earthly parents delight when their children grow up to be like them.

God is saying, “I want you to have a heart like I have.” God’s heart of holiness consists of so much more than a set of rules we adhere to or a series of ethical codes by which we live our lives. God’s heart is infinitely lovely, just, pure, true, kind, considerate, compassionate and good.

So perhaps instead of taking purity pledges, we should determine to seek after the heart of God. Perhaps we should seek to be good rather than to be right. (And I have a feeling that when we seek after God’s heart and become like him, the other issues will fall in to line perfectly and without guilt or shame).

The Problem with Purity

When I was growing up in Middle America in the 80s and 90s, the popular topic for every church youth group was purity. We had purity rallies where we made purity promises sealed with purity rings (or necklaces or other “purity” paraphernalia).

Although I understand the intent, in some ways, it seems to ensure that we stayed focused on the superficial…the topics—as it were—and not the real issues. Maybe that’s how the devil wants it.

You see, if we focus on purity, we become self-absorbed. We constantly focus on what behaviors (physical or psychological) make us pure or impure and we stay caught up in the pursuit of this state of purity.

The other night I heard Dr. Phil say something that stuck with me. He was advising a couple on the brink of divorce

He said, “We often argue about the topics—such as who left the dirty laundry out, or whose turn it is to pick up the kids when we should really be discussing the issues—trust, love and integrity.”
What is true for romantic relationships is true for us as Christians. When it comes to morality, we often talk a lot about the topics (purity) and not about the real issue (holiness).

Our “purity” becomes a spiritual badge of honor that we proudly display to everyone around us. It is a ruler by which we measure the shortcomings of others. In the worse case, it becomes the switch by which we self-castigate.

Whether our sense of purity leads to arrogance (i.e. “I’m better than you”) or to false humility (i.e. shame—“I’ll never measure up”) it is equally destructive.

Our obsession often leads to arrogance and a critical spirit. But it seems that more Christians suffer from the sense of shame and self-loathing that is brought on by not being pure enough.

As new Christians, we are taught that all of us “fall short” of God’s glory. No matter what we do, we will never measure up. There is this inherent sense of failure built in to our salvation, regardless of how hard we try to live purely

But Christ desires our freedom. We are set free from “the curse of the law.” When He frees us, the Word declares that we are “free indeed” (or free for sure!). What did Christ say about why He came? “I have come that you might have abundant life.”

God’s Word does speak of our shortcomings. Christ himself said, “I’ve come to call sinners to repentance.” However, our lives should not be governed by the pursuit of the unattainable and selfish state of purity, but rather, we should live holy lives. Christ calls us to holiness…and that is a different matter altogether.

It is a call to freedom. It then becomes not about what we do, but about who we are.

Blessing of Inconvenience

Sometimes inconveniences are really a blessing.

Last week, I was in line at Burger King waiting for my lunch. It wasn't terribly busy, as I take my lunch later in the day. The noon rush was over.

I waited patiently, but I only have a 1/2 hour lunch break, so as the time dragged on, I was a bit concerned.

Finally, the employee at the counter told the manager that I'd been waiting nearly ten minutes for my sandwich. The manager turned to the ladies in back (who'd been just standing there -- in plain sight of the customers -- chatting up a storm). Within moments, I had my sandwich.

On the way out, the counter employee asked if I wanted a Hershey pie to take on my way.

I quickly accepted. As I left the restaurant the idea of inconvenience being a blessing came to mind and I realized that there are all sorts of "inconveniences" in my life that are actually blessings.