Holy, Holy, Holy

holyholyholyIf you ask most people, love is God’s number one attribute. I won’t argue with passages like 1 John 4:8 that say “God is love,” but we shouldn’t forget some of the other qualities that scripture attributes to God.

For example, did you know that the idea of “holy” appears 900 times in your Bible? Many commentators say that holiness is the most frequently described attribute of God. Holiness is important to God’s people, too. Hebrews says, “Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14)

Almost every time that a human gets some glimpse of God, the attribute of God that overpowers them isn’t his goodness or even his grace—it is his holiness. When we see God’s holiness, our unholiness is revealed in stark and painful contrast. When Isaiah peeked into the throne room of God, he witnessed the seraphim crying, “Holy, holy, holy”–the same thing John saw in Revelation 4, by the way—and it nearly broke him. He said, “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips” (Isaiah 6:1-5).

Why, then, does “holy” rarely make the top of our lists of God’s attributes?

Perhaps we haven’t understood the beauty of the word “holy.” Maybe some “holier-than-thou” types have caused us to think less of holiness than we could. Maybe our own unholiness doesn’t like to be confronted with the perfect holiness of God.

Whatever the reason—it would do us well to look into this attribute of God, one that he specifically commands us to imitate. God himself said, “You shall be holy to me, for I the Lord am holy and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be mine” (Leviticus 20:26). That’s what we’ll be doing for the next several weeks in our worship assembly. I hope you’ll come, ready to be challenged by the holy God of scripture!

Oh be careful little lips…

wordsThe tongue has incredible power. When James wrote about it, he said that the tongue is the spark that ignites a forest fire or the rudder that steers a large ship. He said that humans can subdue and control everything—except the tongue (James 3:1-12).

We don’t often realize the deadly power lurking behind our words.

In a relationship, a harsh word can be devastating and cause nearly indescribable heartache.

In a doctor’s office or pharmacy, a misplaced word becomes a medical error that maims or kills instead of heals.

In society, an untrue word repeated over and over again can become the basis of belief and action that launches out into all sorts of wickedness.

In a church, words of gossip can divide and totally obstruct the work of God.

In an office, words of complaint and negativity can sap productivity and make everyone miserable along the way.

In the military, secret words repeated in front of the enemy cause defeat with loss of life.

Words are more powerful now than they have ever been. Today they can spread to the whole world with nothing more than a click of a button. We don’t often think about the responsibility that comes with the “forward” button on our emails, but these words are just as important as the words that we say or write.

Jesus said, “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matthew 12:36-37).

“Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble” (Proverbs 21:23).

The Root of the Violence Problem

Stop-the-ViolenceViolence leads the news every night as we’re told of another shooting or attack. The talking heads ponder over the motives. Everyone asks the same question, “How can we keep this from happening again?”

Maybe there’s another question we need to ask first. Why do people hurt other people? Most people aren’t sadists. They don’t enjoy causing each other pain. So why does it happen?

Hate causes violence. If you’re worth less than me, you’re scum, and you don’t matter, then it’s easy for me to treat you with physical contempt. Hate causes us to squash people like little more than bugs.

Anger causes violence. If I feel like I’ve been mistreated, I can rationalize violence as a sort of revenge. When we lose our tempers, situations escalate out of control.

Fear causes violence. If I am scared, I tend to react strongly to defend myself against the perceived threat. Sometimes we are afraid of people who look different. Sometimes we are afraid because we are carrying guilt.

Hopelessness causes violence. If I don’t see any way out of a situation, why not be violent? If my options are to starve or steal, why not steal? When our options are limited, we’re more likely to choose bad options.

Mental illness causes violence. If I am unable to think rationally, I will act irrationally. Irrational behavior is dangerous.

What causes violence? The brokenness of humanity. Do you want to know how to stop violence? Wise laws and policies can make a dent—but the only real, lasting change comes when we are transformed into the image of Jesus.

His perfect love casts out our fear.

His peace that passes understanding diffuses our anger.

His universal love pours water on the coals of our hate.

His hope promises a future.

He grace redeems our broken minds and hearts.

If you yearn for peace in our land, and for justice to roll like the waters, and for the lion to lie down with the lamb, then the answer is not in Clinton or Trump or anybody whose name is on a ballot. The answer always has been and always will be Jesus. We can’t force other people into his arms, but we can run to him ourselves. When people see what we have, they’ll want it, too.