It’s been awhile…

Well, I have not written a new post in almost a year now. I figure it is about time to post something new.

During my sophomore Christmas break from school, I was reading Jonah for the first time in a long time. Some books of the Bible I don’t read because I feel like I had been taught them so much in children’s church and therefore now I know everything there is to know about that certain topic or book. Jonah has been this way for as long as I can remember but for some reason, I decided to take a little tour down memory lane (All of this beginning banter is pointless and I am sorry that it is contaminating my soon to be profound and incredibly thought-to provoke new blog post).

 

JONAH:

I was reading the whole book in one sitting (only four chapters) at Dunn Bros the other day and I found something that I had never realized before.

We all know the story of Jonah: God calls Jonah to the evil Ninevites but Jonah says no and runs away until God finds him and gets a fish to eat him as corrective punishment. Jonah is then spat out of the fish and decides that it is now time to go to the Ninevites and proclaim God’s message. He does this and they all repent and God relents from his anger towards Nineveh.

The part of the story I guess I had always missed, the part that God spoke so powerfully to me about was in chapter 4. At the end of chapter three the Ninevites hear that God is going to bring disaster and they decide (V9) that “Who knows? God may turn and relent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we may not perish.” They gave repentance a dying chance and in verse 10 “God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way. God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it.” I love that God was fiercely angry but repentance is a characteristic God seems to like so he relents. However, in the beginning of chapter 4, it says that this relenting “displeased Jonah exceedingly and he was angry” (4:1).  The next verse is what gets me:

“And he [Jonah] prayed to the LORD and said, ‘O LORD, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and a merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster.'”

Jonah did not disobey God because he was scared of the Ninevites as I had always believed. No, Jonah fled because he hated the Ninevites and he knew that if he went there God would be merciful to them. I love that Jonah fled instantly because he knew what kind of a God he was dealing with. He absolutely knew for certain that if they repented God would be merciful and all Jonah wanted was wrath and judgment.

This is incredible to me. The fact that he didn’t need God to say anything about mercy. Jonah knew God’s character so well that he was certain that God was “a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster.” All too often I picture God as angry and mean. I want Jonah’s view of God: Loving and merciful to the repentant. A “gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster.”

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He Loves Us Anyway..

Romans 5:6–“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.”

Romans 5:8–“But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Romans 5:10–“For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.”

I love Romans 5. It makes me love Jesus more.

I don’t think I am alone when I begin to think that I am too wicked to be saved. I let go of the cross and I rapidly reach out for my own efforts towards salvation. I know the theological answer to this kind of heart is too, “Go back to the cross because in thinking you’re too wicked, you are just proving you don’t believe the gospel.” My problem with that answer is that it seems to only reassure what I have been feeling. I don’t believe the Gospel. Because I don’t believe the Gospel I begin to feel even more wicked and it becomes a descending spiral.

My hope in this moment is not that I will start doing better to see the beauty and truth of the Gospel. No, my hope is Romans 5. My hope is that even when I don’t do better, He loves me anyway.

These two things sound like the same thing. However, for me, I don’t respond well to people telling me what I am doing wrong and how I can fix it. I respond best to what Christ did to fix it. The Gospel’s primary goal is Jesus. Jesus’ primary message is salvation to the broken-hearted and meek. I am broken-hearted, meek, the sinner, the injured, I am in need of the great Physician.

Sometimes I just need to know that he didn’t want me because of the perfect holiness that I would shine towards him in this life. Sometimes I need to know that my performance was never part of the great exchange on the cross. Sometimes I need to realize that the only performance I brought to the table was my wickedness. That is my part in that exchange, that is our part in that exchange. Sometimes, I just need to know that he loves me anyway.

“I am the thorn in Your crown
But You love me anyway
I am the sweat from Your brow
But You love me anyway
I am the nail in Your wrist
But You love me anyway
I am Judas’ kiss
But You love me anyway”

He loves us anyway…

Ephesians 2:1-7

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A Different Way to See Wrath.

Romans 1:26 and 28,  “God gave them up to dishonorable passions…And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what out not to be done.”

I have a curious and short thought that I have been thinking over today in reference to the passage above. I have just been thinking: sometimes God’s devastating wrath is just letting sinners have what they want. In Romans 1 God turns the wicked people over to their wickedness. These sinful men and women wanted darkness and God wrathfully lets them have darkness.

Two Points:

1) Could that mean also that God might give the unbelieving pastor a large church? Could it mean that he gives the unbelieving family man over to success and wealth? If in Romans 1, where the people had exalted themselves or something over God and God’s wrath was to give them what they wanted, could it mean that for the situations mentioned above and many more like them, God just gives people their idols and His wrath is that the idol slowly poisons every part of that human’s soul? For the Pastor, maybe he is dying so bad to have a large church filled with thousands of people rather than God’s glory and renown so God’s response is this Romans 1 wrath. God gives him the large church and the pastor misses God. For the family man, God knows that the man loves his family and money more than God and so God gives him the family he wants and the money he craves as an act of wrath rather than mercy? Sometimes the big building and the great family and the bank accounts being full might just be God’s wrath against the wicked and the sinful, not his mercy. Practical application: We should always be checking our hearts to make certain that every time God gives us more of what we want it is more of Him and Him alone!

2) Praise God that for the believer, God works “All things out for the good of those who love him.” Praise God that he never abandons his children. Praise God that he never says, “You’ve fallen or sinned too much, therefore, I am going to give you completely over to sin and doom you to eternal death.” For the believer, he only works with mercy. For his children, he only works out of love. For his bride, he only works for the greatest good for Him and in them. Practical Application: Praise Christ for the saving work he did on the cross! Praise him that he only works things in your life (The believer) out for GOOD! Praise him for his greatness, majesty, glory, love, and mercy.

Dale Gruber

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My Name is ______ and I’m an Addict.

Tonight I attended my first AA (Alcoholic’s Anonymous) meeting. I was there to support my wonderful older Sister as she received her one-year sobriety medallion. As I sat through this meeting, awaiting the presentation of my sister’s medallion, I kept hearing a peculiar phrase on repeat. Speaker after speaker came up to the microphone and exclaimed in front of the whole group (over 100 people), “My name is _____ and I’m an addict.” Instead of condemning or standing in complete shock, the group of people applauded. They rejoiced! This idea caught my blind mind off guard. Men and women would go in front of their world and exclaim, “My name is _____ and I am an Alcoholic” or “My name is _____ and I am an addict.”

Why were the people watching this praising these stories? They definitely were not praising Alcohol and it’s effects. No, they definitely were not. They weren’t praising cocaine, or meth, or heroine. No, not at all! There was something else. The people were not applauding the disease, they were applauding the cure! After the speakers explained their horrific story’s of abuse, and addiction, and promiscuity, and rape, and the effects of so much darkness, they closed with emphatic praise to the recovery program that saved them. They simply explained that they were a complete helpless mess and their twelve step program saved them! They applauded the savior! The cure!

As the night was closing up it hit me almost unbearably, the Church is nothing like this… We go years without ever letting a single soul know we have problems. We care more about our reputation than our sanctification. We would rather bleed to death than let people know we are dying. How sad is that? How extremely, and terribly sad is that? It breaks my heart… At this meeting people didn’t play any games, they didn’t pretend to be well. They didn’t pretend because there was no reason to. They realized their desperation and stopped caring about anything but getting help. They all knew they were struggling, they didn’t pretend to be okay.

The Truth is, absolutely every single one of us is an addict; we are addicted to ourselves…

The first of this twelve step program is to “Admit you have a problem.” This is just the first step. Just the beginning, the entry! However, in the Church, as believers, we never admit our problem. We never admit that our hearts burn like lava for our own greatness. We are consumed in flames, dying for the world and God to bow down to us and us alone. Instead, we go and do Church unwilling to admit our addiction. No one is exempt from this sickness. We are born with it, it is our very nature.

In nineteen years of church, I have never heard anyone proclaim, “I am _____ and I am an addict to myself [or my sin, or anything].” We aren’t honest with our disease and therefore we never give the full praise to the cure. Christ is minimized because our sins are not maximized for the whole Church to see. We hide our true failures and only confess generic superficial sins. In our analogy to AA, the reason the program gets so much glory is because it has defeated so much darkness! We minimize all of our darkness and therefore minimize the absurd and glorious saving power of Jesus on the Cross. I am still so broken-hearted at the thought of the churches that I’ve seen. We never boast in our weakness in acknowledgment that “Christ’s power is made perfect in our weakness!” No, we just live in complete selfishness. We choose our glory over God’s, every single moment. Even though we say we understand that everyone has this disease, we all pretend like we are the only ones who don’t. These ideas just breed liars and pretenders.

My final thought is simple. OUR SAVIOR IS INFINITELY BETTER THAN THAT PROGRAM!!!!!!!!!! HE IS GOD!!!!!! He is the only true source of healing! From the Bible, we know that our disease is much bigger and darker than just Alcoholism. Alcoholism is just a symptom of filthy and dead spiritual hearts. We know the depths of the darkness! We should be people screaming in a world-changing way, “I WAS AN ADDICT TO MYSELF, JESUS CHRIST SAVED ME!” There should never be a “program” that gets the glory that our savior deserves! Jesus Christ is the true remedy, the true savior! He deserves infinite glory! He saved us from infinite darkness! The problem is, we just play games and pretend like we aren’t that bad… and it breaks my heart.

I am seriously just angry at us (We the Church). What’s wrong with us?! Why is some program apart from the church doing a better job than the church in bringing healing to this broken world?? It doesn’t make sense!! We have the God of the universe! Why are we letting this program shine brighter than Jesus? Jesus is the only real savior… Please, please, repent with me of our sin! We need to quit living like clowns and lay down our addiction, not for one hidden person but for the world. I want the world to see that Jesus is better than everything. Grace is the ultimate antidote!

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Sola Scriptura

Today, there is only one Word that transforms lives. There is only one Truth that can take a heart of stone and breath everlasting life into it.

I am writing this because God is revealing to me my lack of belief in the power of the Word of God. When I want to counsel people who are hurting I give my own words, not the Bible’s. I quote to them my own fallen ideas, rather than God’s perfect and unchanging ideas. When I want to tell someone something great, I usually take Scripture and add my own interpretation and delivery. I am sinful, the Bible is perfect. Everywhere I fail, the Bible doesn’t. The Bible reveals the raw gospel in magnificent ways, the Holy Spirit pours out of that gospel in power. When I speak, I want to speak Biblical truth because the Bible is the real “Two-edged sword”. The Bible is the true God-inspired work that is, “useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in Righteousness.” Paul says in 1 Timothy 4:7 to have “Nothing to do with irrelevant, silly myths; rather train yourself for godliness.” What is my point? We have the living, active, life changing word of God and it is much more lasting and meaningful than anything any of us can come up with. We don’t need to add our own spin in order to make it better! The Word of God is the better, our own spin is the worse. Scripture is perfectly sufficient, let it be the Truth that transforms the world.

Today when we go out into a hurting world, give the Truth of Scripture, not the “truth” of our fallen minds. Let the Bible reveal the Gospel in its beauty, we don’t need to complete the perfect word of God. Scripture doesn’t need our help.

Dale Gruber

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Identity Amnesia

Lately, I have been reading Elyse Fitzpatrick’s book, “Because He Loves Me” and it has been unsuspectingly helpful. You should go purchase it right now and expose your whole soul to the depths of the gospel that are explained in this book. My following words are going to almost be directly from it.

In the book, Elyse explains that we all experience “Identity Amnesia.” This epidemic in the Christian world is manifested when we forget who we are in Christ. Every time we sin, we “momentarily suffer an identity crisis.” We forget that we live by Christ alone, for God alone. We forget that through the cross we are already everything we ever want to be. In this age of technology, identity theft is a common crime. People consistently steal other people’s names and personal information for fraudulent use. However, Elyse points out, “Christians are, by definition, people who have someone else’s identity. [We’re] called ‘Christians’ because [we’ve] taken the identity of someone else: the Christ”. She describes this reality as, “The Identity Gift.” Christ is now our life! “He has made [us] his own; that’s all that matters.” “Christ-not home repairs, clean air, or successful children is our life.”

If Christ is our life, why do we think we deserve anyone’s respect? We have nothing to bring to the table. We have no gift, no offering, no goodness; we only have and boast in Jesus. When people fail around us, responding in kindness “Is not a simple matter of bootstrap obedience; it’s a recognition of what the cross has declared about me and my identity.” Fitzpatrick sums all of this up by stating, “Our problem is that if we don’t continually remind ourselves of how he [God] has chosen, renamed, and remade us, the struggle to grow in Christian character will become nothing more than another attempt at self-improvement and self-improvement always results in self-loathing or pride. Our savior has declared that we are completely dependent upon him and what he accomplished for us, but in overconfidence, we hastily run past his accomplishments and seek rest in our own…The truth that many of us have lost and desperately need to find is that Christianity isn’t essentially a program to help moral people be better. No, it’s a relationship based on the premise that we aren’t good now and will never be good enough in this life. We need someone to be good in our place, to suffer what we deserve to suffer and to live the righteous life we should have lived. Our Redeemer has taken our sinful identity so that we might receive his righteous one!”

The absolute reality of life in this world, and our life here and now is that “We are, each one, more sinful and flawed than we ever dared believe, but more loved and welcomed than we ever dared hope.”

Dale Gruber

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What’s Wrong with Me?

I have a problem: I don’t like Me.

This is not a joke, I don’t like Me. I want so badly to, “live in a manner worthy of the Gospel” (Philippians. 1:27) but I was born as a failure of this command and I haven’t changed since my birth. The reason I fail and walk in sin is because it is my nature.

In light of Scripture, It’s not just that I have a problem: I AM the problem.

Paul gives some insight to this point in Romans 7, “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate…For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.” I want to do what is right (glorify God) because I believe God is so overwhelmingly good and great. However, I don’t have anything in my self to carry that desire out.

Insert: Jesus

Jesus took on flesh to perform a rescue mission into human history. He lived the life I could not live. He died the death I should have died. He rose again three days later and is now seated at the right hand of God the Father. 1 Corinthians sums this up by stating, “He became sin, who knew no sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God.” Jesus became Dale’s sin, so that Dale could become Jesus’ righteousness. In doing that exchange, I receive God, who is far better than all things. God is my, “Paradise” He is my, “Heaven”.

How does this look in history? I have three examples that God uses repeatedly to encourage my heart and make me love Him more.

Peter: He was one of, if not, the closest disciple of Jesus while he was on the earth. Peter lived with Jesus for three years. He heard Jesus himself speak and teach. He watched Jesus perform hundreds and hundreds of miracles—–YET—- Peter denied Jesus three times. All of the other disciples fled when Jesus was arrested but Peter stayed. However, while Jesus was being falsely tried, mocked, beaten, and crucified, Peter denied him. Luke 22 tells us that Jesus looked right at Peter after his last denial. Jesus was suffering and Peter literally saw him in agony. They made eye contact! Yet, Peter denied him. The struggle is that we know Jesus’ saying, “If you deny me before men, I will deny you before my father” This is the beauty: Peter denied Jesus before men, He deserved hell! The cross was enough! Grace was enough! Jesus was enough! Jesus forgave Peter and built the whole Church on Peter.

Paul: He hated Christians, hated Jesus, wanted to kill everyone that belonged to Jesus. Paul devoted his entire life to stopping, hating, killing, and destroying Jesus and his followers. —–YET—– Through the cross, Jesus humbled Paul and saved Paul. The Bible talks a few times in the New Testament about an “unpardonable sin”. I don’t fully understand what this means, however, many people believe it is, “Attributing the works of the Holy Spirit to the works of the Devil.” I think this is Paul. Anything that was Christ, which would be Holy Spirit, Paul hated and attributed to a lie, to fake, to most likely demonic. He may have never used that term but he didn’t think Jesus was on the good side. According to this definition, Paul was doing the unpardonable sin! However, Jesus PARDONED him and used him as the Greatest Missionary our faith has ever known.

David: He slept with (Fornication) and impregnated one of his best soldiers wives (Adultery), He then killed his most faithful soldier (Murder), and then lied to God and the entire nation of Israel. —YET— God said David was a Man after his own heart! David committed adultery, murdered someone, and then lied to God about it and still, GOD called David a man after his own heart! how crazy is that?! We can still be after God’s own heart even if we sin. Sin does not change that fact. God wants hearts that want him. The cross purchased our perfection and holiness before God!!

My purpose is this: I am the problem. You are the problem. Jesus is the rescue. Jesus is the savior. Life is not meant to be lived for anything that proclaims us. Life is meant to be lived in Christ, for Christ, in love with Christ, and for the glory of His great name. Therefore, lets cease to put confidence in the flesh! Let’s boast only in Jesus and his grace-pouring Cross!

Dale Gruber

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