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David Burchett Christian Blog and Commentary

David Burchett

David Burchett's weblog

I used to be quick to jump on Christians who failed morally. How could they claim to be a Christian and do something like that? I wondered how they got to such a low point in their journey.

Perhaps a bit of insight came from a Texas storm. Strong winds toppled a 50-foot-tall tree in a friend’s backyard.

    lone tree without leaves in autumn

But strong winds are a part of every spring in Texas. Why did this particular storm fell a mature tree? The answer came as my friend cut up the fallen tree—it had completely rotted inside. There was no way to tell when you looked at the tree. The bark covered the decay and the leaves were still green and pretty. But inside the tree was dying. It finally reached a point where there was not enough strength left in its core to withstand another storm.

The example from nature is a metaphor for how we can topple as Christians and completely surprise those around us. We wear masks. We look good. We say the right things. We stay busy doing Christian things. We are more concerned about appearance than honest spiritual health. They is no way to tell by looking that the slow rot of sin is decaying our judgment and relationship with Jesus.

Tree experts will tell you that often a small wound in a tree left unattended will allow fungus to enter and begin the destructive process. If the wound had been treated, the disease could have been halted with little or no damage.

That is again a metaphor for what happens in our souls. Most of us are a little or a lot wounded by life and others. Perhaps pride or fear or simply not knowing what to do causes us to ignore the wound in our souls. And that opening allows the slow decay of unresolved sin that leads to a fall.

The illustration reminded me of the Scripture where Jesus railed against the “self-righteous” religious leaders:

“What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy—full of greed and self-indulgence! You blind Pharisee! First wash the inside of the cup and the dish, and then the outside will become clean, too” (Matthew 23, NLT).

I know me. I know that I must seek the illuminating light of the Holy Spirit to help me see the filth and greed and self-indulgence that lies within or I could fall with a sickening thud as well. I know that forgiveness and redemption are available to everyone but I also know the terrible consequences of sin. When a Christian fails morally they pay a terrible price and so do those they have hurt.

Pray for those who fail and don't write them off as "less of a Christian". I would ask you to look in the mirror. If you see what I see you will extend grace to those who fail. What I see in the mirror is a person who was saved only by grace. I see a person who is capable of failing if I do not lean wholly on that grace every day. A person who does not want to hurt the heart or cause of Jesus because I am so grateful for His amazing grace. I like the way The Message translates Paul’s words to the Galatians:

“If someone falls into sin, forgivingly restore him, saving your critical comments for yourself. You might be needing forgiveness before the day’s out. Stoop down and reach out to those who are oppressed. Share their burdens, and so complete Christ’s law. If you think you are too good for that, you are badly deceived” (Galatians 6, The Message).

Author Dave Burchett's latest book is Stay: Lessons My Dogs Taught Me about Life, Loss, and Grace. You can follow him on Twitter @directordb.

Like Christmas displays in September the political season seems to get earlier and earlier. The conversation between the two parties over the next few months will often be less than gracious. You have to be a trained professional to have that kind of grasp of the obvious. I had to laugh when a forgotten song by Chris Rice cycled up on the iPod today titled “You Don’t Have to Yell”.

Priest doing a sermon

I tuned in to hear the news
I don`t want your point of view
if that`s the best that you can do,
then something`s missing
and experts on whatever side
you plug your ears, you scream your lines
you claim to have an open mind,
but nobody`s listenin`
don`t you think we`re smarter than this?

How should a follower of Christ engage in the political discourse? Dr. Gregory Boyd has said some controversial things but, in my humble opinion, this is not one of them.

“Christians are not to seek “power over” others – by controlling governments, passing legislation or fighting wars. Christians should seek to have “power under” others – winning others hearts by sacrificing for those in need.”

That is indeed what Jesus did. That is EXACTLY how a group of men and women in the first century with NO political power turned the world upside down. They sacrificially served others.

Dr. Boyd also noted that “America is not the light of the world and the hope of the world. The light of the world and the hope of the world is Jesus Christ.”

Hard to argue with that. I love America. I don’t think there has ever been a more benevolent world power. Like a lot of people of faith I once thought that electing the “right” politicians would change the culture. I was wrong. The fact is that government and laws can only restrain behavior begrudgingly and usually temporarily. Paul had a lot of thoughts on that in his letter to the Romans. Jesus can change the heart and change behavior from the inside out. I am saddened when I see good, well intentioned people thinking that more education and regulation will solve our problems. I am certainly not against education but I would point out that it has been the brightest and best that got us into such a mess on Wall Street and in Washington. The problem is not lack of knowledge but a lack of understanding of the hearts of men and women. We all have a nature that needs to be changed. We deny that at our own peril and the peril of our culture.

I am not smart enough to decide what God has called people to do. If He has placed a desire for people to impact the culture through political action I am not about to question their motives. But I do believe that those of us who claim the name of Jesus need to communicate our views with grace and compassion.

I get nervous about using the church as a political base. God’s Word taught effectively will mold followers of Jesus that will view social issues wisely. My goal is to introduce people to Jesus, disciple them into a real relationship with Him and then watch as the Holy Spirit changes what my sermonizing and loud arguing cannot.

The body of Christ is about Jesus. About being a good citizen that respects authority. And about demonstrating His amazing grace to a desperately needy world. The message should be grace, redemption and the forgiveness available to everyone. All parties and colors are welcome at the foot of the Cross. We need to spend more time there…for the good of America.

That sets the stage for today’s gentle plea. May I challenge my fellow followers of Jesus to show grace in the current political season?

I have much to repent over in my past political history. I did not trust God consistently to accomplish His plan and I thought that my politics had to prevail for God’s plan to prevail. How arrogant on my part. Once again I was wrong. I was obsessed with politics and it was dangerously close to idolatry. I am sure I crossed that line at times. As we head into some spirited debate I am begging my fellow followers of Christ to be graceful in your debate. Things will be said that are maddening, unfair and mean. Responding in kind damages the name of Jesus. Solomon wrote these words that are so timely today.

A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare. The tongue of the wise makes knowledge appealing, but the mouth of a fool belches out foolishness. (Proverbs 15, NLT)

You cannot change the minds and hearts of others by strident arguing and yelling. You can change a few hearts and minds by demonstrating the grace and good news of the Gospel of Jesus.The hope of the world is Jesus. That is my message. I want to be a good citizen but I must first be a grace filled representative for Christ.

Author Dave Burchett's latest book is Stay: Lessons My Dogs Taught Me about Life, Loss, and Grace. You can follow him on Twitter @directordb.

If you read more than a snippet of my writings you know that I am a grace guy. But there is a question that confounds me.

“If grace based theology as the way to live out the Christian life is true then why is it not more popular in the church?”

That is a great question. I have been swept away by grace. Everything in my life has been changed by taking away my performance based faith and believing in Christ’s performance for me.

   Football chains

During a recent football telecast I thought about a parallel between one of my least favorite football strategies and this grace conundrum. Perhaps it was an insight from the Holy Spirit. Perhaps it was simply because my brain is not wired to factory specs. But this idea popped in my mind. A lot of football teams play a defense that is called the prevent defense. That style of defense is designed to allow the opponent short yardage gains as the defense tries to prevent big plays and long touchdowns. The theory is that if you can force the other team to settle for short gains they will eventually make a mistake, get called for a penalty or simply fail to get the yardage needed.

I thought about the opponent we line up against as followers of Christ. It occurred to me that Satan played a kind of “prevent” defense in my spiritual journey for many years. It was almost like the Enemy was willing to give up short gains of spiritual growth and ministry as long as I focused on my own efforts to keep grinding out more gains. Satan, like a good defensive coordinator, believed that I would make a mistake and then he could pounce on my miscue and cause a costly turnover. My failure would cause me to doubt myself, my commitment and my worth. When I made a mistake Satan’s play by play announcer would broadcast loudly in my head.

“You have failed again. Jesus must be really disappointed with this effort but He certainly is not surprised. Dave has been a disappointing member of the team since he joined.”

After another failure I would get tentative and fearful. The announcer always chimed in.

“Certainly no reason to expect victory from Dave this time. He has failed over and over in this very situation. To be honest, I am not sure why Jesus even keeps him on the roster. Expect him to be cut soon.”

The goal line of joy and freedom and peace seemed more and more difficult to reach. Finally I was happy just to make a short gain now and then. I seldom sustained a lengthy drive of positive spiritual gains.

But then I discovered a new offense. A game plan that Satan can’t defend. When I lined up with grace there was no way for the Enemy to keep me from the goal of freedom and joy. Instead of grinding out each painful yard with begrudging self-effort I simply followed the lead block of the Spirit and ran with confidence. I remembered my team identity and the power that was promised from that association. I believed that I would be victorious not because of my skill but because of Christ.

Maybe the analogy is a stretch. Maybe not. Since I detest the prevent defense in football it seems logical it came from Satan. I do think there is something to consider in the idea that Satan “gives” us little gains and tries really hard to stop the big ones. I believe that grace scares the Enemy more that anything we do because grace relies on surrender and trust. My self-effort against the ruler of this world is a long shot. My surrendered life to Jesus is a sure victory. Jesus has fought this battle and won. Why we would we not depend on His game plan to reach the goal? I will meditate on these words from Hebrews this week.

So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.  (Hebrews 4, NLT)

Author Dave Burchett's latest book is Stay: Lessons My Dogs Taught Me about Life, Loss, and Grace. You can follow him on Twitter @directordb.