My One Defense

Yesterday I took my contracts exam. Then last evening I went to a large-group Bible study at my church, and on the way home I was listening to the song “Lord, I Need You” by Matt Maher. Part of the chorus says, “My one defense, my righteousness, Oh God, how I need You.” I’ve heard this song many times before, but it struck me in a new way last night.

In any type of law, it’s often wise for a defendant to bring up multiple defenses. You can challenge the factual basis of a claim—stating the other side didn’t prove its burden—or you can raise “affirmative” defenses, justifications, or excuses. Maybe a defendant was justified acting in self-defense Or a defendant who breached a contract should be excused because the task was impossible. There are a variety of ways to defend someone, and good lawyers will often try to put more than one egg in the basket.

Sometimes a lawyer will bring up defenses that don’t even go together, arguing one “in the alternative” of the other. For example, “The defendant didn’t have a duty to care for X person, but if you think think he did have a duty, then he didn’t violate that duty.” or “The contract didn’t say X, but if it did, the defendant should be excused because he made a mistake and never really agreed to it.”

We might think that there is security in multiple defenses, but in truth, an effective defense will get someone acquitted, and a thousand mediocre defenses will just leave someone with higher attorney fees.

So with the law on my mind, I listened to the “Lord, I need You” with fresh appreciation for its truth—we don’t need an alternative defense or backup plan.

Just one will suffice. The One.

And yet so often I live as if I’m waiting in uncertainty for the verdict to be announced. In the worry of “will I be enough?” “Have I done enough?” As if the backup defense is somehow needed. As if my success and good deeds will up my chances with the Judge.

But instead what is required, repentance and faith: “Yes, Lord, I’ve sinned. But I plead not guilty by reason of Jesus’ blood.”

This defense cannot fail. It fully vindicates corrupt hearts headed for eternal death. And it’s always available to all people, no matter the sin, no matter the crime.

~~~

 “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” – Romans 8:1

He is Risen (Easter)


When the world woke up that day, Hope had come alive.

And the dead rock was pushed away,

the heavy weight lifted like a feather with the resurrection’s power.

“He is risen!” sighed the breeze He breathed again.

No more grieving—the women, first fearful, now knew

the Son of Man went before them

in death to life.

Don’t look for the Living among the dead.

~~~

” We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” – Romans 6:4

The Jesus Who Came (Palm Sunday)

It’s been too long since I’ve posted! Hopefully, I’ll be back to my semi-regular posting now. I wrote most of this poem a couple Palm Sundays ago, contemplating how Jesus—knowing a brutal death awaited Him in Jerusalem—still chose to enter the city. Hosanna! Salvation is coming!

Bound for death, bound for glory,
bound for a redeeming story,
lowly and lovely, my Jesus came.
On the road to Jerusalem, surrounded
by twisted “hosannas” from future betrayal,
His unpleasant object known, yet he came.

Bound for death, bound for glory,
bound for a redeeming story,
love on His mind, my Savior came.
On the back of a donkey, worshipped
by earnest “hosannas” from sinners, desperate
for a glimpse of the Messiah who came.

Bound for death, bound for glory,
bound for a redeeming story,
for sinners still, my Jesus came.
On a cruel wooden cross, crucified
by a mocking people for whom He died
Even then, even though, He came.

Bound for death, bound for glory,
bound for a redeeming story,
to reconcile, my Jesus came.
On the throne of heaven now, majestic,
by the Father’s right hand sits He who lives.
Praise the Lord, oh my soul, that He came.

Bound for us, bound for glory,
bound for a redeeming story,
to make anew, my Lord will come
Like a thief in the night, He’ll return,
and may our hearts continue to fully yearn.
Praise the Lord, oh my soul, that He comes.

In Everything Preeminent

A couple nights ago I was reading Colossians 1. I took a moment and lifted my head, closing my eyes, pondering the phrase in verse 18 “that in everything he might be preeminent.”

How can I make Christ preeminent in my life? So that in my life He might be preeminent.

But then I thought—the text surely gives the answer. What must occur “that in everything he might be preeminent”? So I looked again, and I was shocked that I had so quickly forgotten what came before.

“15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.

The truth is I  can’t “make” Jesus preeminent; He is so because He is Creator, Sustainer, Savior, Death-conqueror (“firstborn from the dead”). His preeminence comes—not from my declaration that He is first in my life—but it comes from who He is and what He has done.

I think my intentions were in large part God honoring. I was thinking of preeminence in terms of laying aside idols and worshipping Christ above all else. Preeminence does mean “most important and “surpassing all others.” Yet there was some part of me that thought for  minute that His preeminence depends on me. That I could make or break it for Him. That He needed me.

Yet if such were the case, He wouldn’t be objectively and truly preeminent in all things. He is most important and surpasses all others regardless of what I do or think.

We should seek to perceive Jesus rightly, to worship Him rightly, to treat Him and obey Him as the preeminent One. But we don’t bestow preeminence upon Him with our praise—we acknowledge it. We wonder at it. We rejoice in it.

How freeing and heartening it should be to consider that His matchless power, love, and glory is enough. Jesus doesn’t need me.

And yet He came to me. He came to earth visibly. And even now He lets me glimpse His preeminent glory.

Pride is Deceitful; Look up.

Pride is fundamentally fueled by lies—

the lie that I am more important than I am

more powerful than I am

more intelligent than I am;

it deceives our hearts.

Humility brings truth

clarity

understanding.

True humility recognizes our place in relation to God’s place.

Humility brings wisdom that starts with the fear of the Lord.

Jesus, at the center of it all.

And I’m looking toward it,

I’m looking through it,

that lens of perspective informing every aspect of my life

like the sun—

by it I see all,

not like an artificial, flashing, fading, light bulb on its way out,

but fresh, anew, bright, and true

Light captivates.

By gazing at the Savior, pride dwindles here.

~~~

“The pride of your heart has deceived you,
    you who live in the clefts of the rock,
    in your lofty dwelling,
who say in your heart,
    ‘Who will bring me down to the ground?'”

When your heart beats in tandem with a stranger’s from afar

This is not a political statement. If I have time, I will write more legal/political analysis of the recent executive order on travel/refugee ban, but this is not that. I wrote this Sunday night when my heart was feeling so heavy.

~~~

“Why I’m Crying”

I’m thinking about those who had a plane ticket for today,

finally to depart for the promise land.

Not yet. Maybe later. Maybe not.

I’m thinking about those who received the stamp of approval last week

that they would be settling here in the United States.

I’m thinking about their smiles,

the hugs they shared in celebration at the good news—

but now tears.

Hold on, I care. He cares

I’m thinking about the ones who have never heard the love of Jesus

being turned away by a “Christian nation.”

My heart beats for you.

My heart bleeds for you.

I want it to.

If only they could know, the Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed.

And He himself was once a refugee too.

~~~

“The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.” – Psalm 9:9

“Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” – Philippians 2:4

Edit: I realize I didn’t explicitly acknowledge many of the specific factors that make life in a refugee camp (and life in a war zone) so hard. Yes, I’m moved thinking about the hunger and cold and other dire circumstances refugees face—more than anything. That’s why it must be all-the-more difficult and tragic for refugees who have been approved for resettlement to now hear that such hope is delayed, in some cases indefinitely.

 

On Being Pro-Life and the March for Life

I didn’t attend the March for Life this year, but I was there in spirit. Below is something what I posted on Facebook today regarding the March and last week’s march. I thought it might be good to share it here as well:

Today I did some ill-advised perusing of the #MarchforLife hashtag on Twitter. The most common criticisms I saw of the March were variations of the argument that pro-lifers are hypocrites because they don’t care about humans after birth. Beyond the general inaccuracy of this perspective, I find it frustrating because that is not an argument against the pro-life position (that we should not legalize the killing of innocent human beings regardless of their stage of life). 

The March for Life is very much a single issue event where people can and do disagree on all sorts of other political issues like gun control, the death penalty, war, economic policy, etc. I’m happy to have a discussion with you about abortion, but don’t try to get out of the argument by telling me I don’t care about human beings after birth because anyone who knows me can tell you nothing could be further from the truth.

Last Saturday, I didn’t march. Part of me wanted to. I found many of the stated causes of the Women’s March compelling. Some pro-lifers chose to go, but ultimately the organizers themselves made supporting the right to abortion an integral part of the march, so I didn’t feel like I would be accepted.

Today my heart is pulled in different directions about recent political changes, part of it grateful for the new opportunities for the pro-life movement, another part of it saddened by news of refugee programs shutting down like this: http://www.syracuse.com/…/syracuse_refugee_program_will_be_…

I, too, am annoyed by pro-lifers who just want to use abortion laws to control women’s bodies and moral choices, but that’s not why I’m pro-life. That’s not why most people are pro-life. The majority of us just believe human beings at all stages of life should have a right to live.

I’m trying to live in the tension, acknowledging my own conflicting feelings while pursuing justice for all.

#whywemarch

Future Grace

Have you ever anticipated a person hurting you long before it ever happened? Have you ever anticipated the upcoming need to forgive that person? Jesus did—while we were unborn, while we were still sinners—then He died.

So this is for those—strangers, “enemies,” and the close-to-my-heart ones—who will hurt me someday. In Christ, I’m trying to forgive you today.

~~~

Future grace, I’ll give

‘cause

future grace, I’ll get,

bearing with you today;

tomorrow’s been forgiven

by yesterday’s blood

that every gives me power

to love as I am loved.

“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness and patience, bearing with one another and if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all else put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” – Colossians 3:12-14