What Does Real Repentance Look Like?

Jesus cried out, “Repent! For the kingdom of heaven is at hand!”

A couple of years ago I posted on Facebook a question about the Greek word translated “repentance.” (It’s metanoia and its variants.)

Yes, I admit, it took me a long time to get back to all the links and ideas people sent me, but here I am again, studying repentance.

It’s because three things happened at about the same time. First, I was praying for pastors and other Christian leaders (the ones who have treated and counseled sexual abuse survivors as if they were pariahs) to repent about their wrongdoing.

Second, I’ve been praying for revival for a long time, and in the context of that, having a discussion with a Christian leader about whether or not repentance is necessary for salvation.

Third, I’ve been studying II Corinthians, where Paul talks about repentance in chapter 7.

I always used to hear repentance being taught as a change of mind. That very sterile, academic definition vaguely dissatisfied me. It seemed to accompany the academic, intellectual acceptance of Christ embodied in the “sinner’s prayer.” Continue reading “What Does Real Repentance Look Like?”

How Can I Give Grace?

I can’t.

I don’t mean I’m incapable unless God helps me. I mean, giving grace is a prerogative of God alone.

It’s popular now to talk about how we need to give grace to others, but the way people are using the word—meaning forgiveness and kindness and love—diminishes the meaning of the remarkable word “grace” until it loses the vital meaning it should have.

Continue reading “How Can I Give Grace?”

No More Night of the Living Dead

“Mama, Grandma’s eyes are open, but she’s breathing like she’s asleep.”

“Thank you darling.” I dropped what I was doing and hastened to Grandma’s bedroom, where she lay, resting between death and life.

I waved my hand in front of the unresponsive eyes. I put my hand on the unresponsive hand.  I listened to the long, labored breathing . . . until it ceased. Continue reading “No More Night of the Living Dead”

Expecting the Joy When You Can’t Feel It (Joy Part 4)

A friend listened to the song “If You Want Me To” by the blind songwriter Ginny Owens. She said, “I can’t say this is where I am all the time, but it’s where I want to be. I know it’s all true.”

That’s it. That’s it. “It may not be where I am all the time, but it’s where I want to be. I know it’s all true.”

This friend was about to have surgery and didn’t know if she might come out a paraplegic. Continue reading “Expecting the Joy When You Can’t Feel It (Joy Part 4)”

Joy Comes as a Response in the Realm of the Spirit (Joy Part 3)

Have you ever noticed those verses in the Bible that talk about God’s judgment on the wicked coming in the form of birds picking out their eyes? (One of them is in Proverbs 30.) I know that’s really a disgusting image, but it’s describing something completely realistic: when the ravening birds would start to eat a dead body, the first place they would go was the eye. If the eye didn’t respond at all, they knew that creature was completely dead.

Not a very likely opening to a post about joy, I know.

But the point I’m making is about response. The Bible links life to responsiveness and death to unresponsiveness.  There are many, many places where this understanding of death and life bring into full focus what God is saying. Continue reading “Joy Comes as a Response in the Realm of the Spirit (Joy Part 3)”

Joy Is a Response (Joy Part 2)

Last week I gave the first part of a definition of joy, asserting the controversial opinion that we have to admit that it’s a feeling, an emotion.

This week I want to say something that might also be considered controversial: Joy arises as a response to something outside of us. A sensory response. I’m talking about the five senses here: sight, hearing, taste, touch, smell. As in . . . Continue reading “Joy Is a Response (Joy Part 2)”

Acknowledging My Inability

It was three years ago this month that I participated in the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers’ Conference.

I listened to speakers talk about how to write nonfiction, the merits of self-publishing, and how to be a dynamite storyteller. I chatted with experts at the dinner table.

During such an empowering week, it’s always hard to get away for quiet time. But in a corner of the beautiful lodge, I discovered a little desk tucked away. Continue reading “Acknowledging My Inability”

Thirsty Yet?

Ho! Every one that thirsts! Come to the waters . . . Drink!

New Year’s Resolution #2,011: Drink more water.

Have you ever noticed that you can systematically drink less and less water, way less than your body needs, without feeling thirsty? Counterintuitive, I know. But that thirst mechanism behind your throat sort of atrophies or something.

And lots of people, when they do feel any thirst, go to coffee or soda to try to assuage it. Of course those beverages actually drain water from your system.

And as that thirst mechanism shrivels up, sometimes when people are thirsty they think they’re hungry, and then they eat . . . and eat . . . and eat . . . while they’re actually dying of dehydration. Continue reading “Thirsty Yet?”

The Welcome Behind the Veil

My daughter is getting married, and she wants to wear a veil. In front of her face.

She knows that veils aren’t that common nowadays. It’s probably because at some point people thought that since their faces wouldn’t show up in the photographs, the pictures wouldn’t be good, so it wouldn’t be worth it.

But the symbolism of the veil hiding the bride’s face, the veil that the groom has to turn back in order to kiss her . . . that symbolism is rich with meaning.

He can now, as her husband, enter a place where he was never allowed before. Now things are different. Now he is welcome. And her eyes will say to him, “Come.”

I remember with crystal clarity a day twenty-one years ago, when this same daughter was two. We sat snuggled together in the big green armchair while I told her Bible stories. I was talking about a different veil. I pointed to the picture of the shocked priest, watching the veil of the temple being ripped from top to bottom.

Tears came to my eyes as I explained the symbolism of the tearing of the veil and what that meant Jesus had done for us on the cross: that now we can enter a place, in the presence of God, where we were never allowed before.

Little Katy stared up at me with her solemn eyes. She didn’t understand, but that was okay. I understood it better than ever.

This morning our pastor will be preaching about the rending of the temple veil, the shockingly beautiful symbolism springing out of and accomplished by the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ on the cross.

This is the picture of our bold and joyful entrance into the very presence of God, a place we were never allowed before.

Everything is different. Now we are welcome into His very presence.

Now He says to us, “Come.”