The LORD is a God of Justice

Often it is said that a loving God would not allow all the evil in the world to continue. That it is not fair that people suffer. And believe me, it does seem unfair. Suffering is hard, and the world if full of it. Even watching someone else suffer can be so painful.

But God is not unfair. He is too kind and too merciful and too loving and too just, to be unfair. If we say God should eradicate evil and the resulting suffering, then what about the sin and evil in our own hearts? No one is untouched by sin. Do we want justice for ourselves, too? Do we want what we really deserve?

A judge must do rightly. A just God could not simply forgive men for the sin they have committed. Think of the ‘worst’ sinner you can. A rapist? A mass murderer? A child abuser? Someone who has committed all these atrocities? If a judge says, “I am loving, so I will let this guilty man go free,” you would cry out for justice.

What if it was your sin on trial? Since every man is under the wrath of God because of sin, he must suffer the punishment of sin, which is death (Romans 6:23). Any sin at all is enough to separate us from God, so we are all guilty (Romans 3:23), and someone has to pay the penalty. God the judge must satisfy His own justice and appease His own wrath.

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And God does just that! The good news is no sin is so big or so terrible that the blood of Christ will not cover it. God demands justice, and the grace of God provided it through the death of his only son Jesus, who was crushed for our sin. He was the spotless lamb. By this we know love! God sent his perfect son, Jesus, to take His wrath in our place, so that we could have forgiveness. So that we could have eternal life in his presence forever. So that we get what we don’t deserve. That is not fair! That is grace upon grace. It is mercy. This is the love our Father has toward us.

Therefore the LORD waits to be gracious to you,
and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you.
For the LORD is a God of justice;
blessed are all those who wait for him. (Isaiah 30:18)

The Lord waits with patience to shower this grace upon you. If we acknowledge our guilt before Him, He commands us to repent of our sin and believe in Him (Mark 1:15), and we will be saved! Because of this, we have hope. In Christ, evil has been conquered. In Christ, suffering has an end. In Christ, death is just the beginning of life forever with him.

“But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 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.” (Romans 5:8-10)

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Two Truths and a Lie?

We often assume Satan is all about lying, and he is—John 8:44 says he is the father of lies. But often, he gets to us believe the lies because they masquerade as truth. It’s like that game we used to play as teenagers–two truths and a lie. You said three things about yourself that all could be true, but the person had to guess which one was the lie. The lies are easy to believe because, at least on some level, many of the taunts of the devil are quite true. God does call the weak, the meek, the lowly, and the poor, and we may easily identify ourselves in that way.

If we dwell on that alone, we might be tempted toward despair or self-pity. We want our lives to look better, so we end up defending ourselves and what the world sees as important—our status, our job, our cause—instead of defending the gospel.

But we don’t have to defend ourselves, because we know a more powerful truth. We know our standing is with Christ and that His word is true. We can defend the gospel while admitting we are weak, because our strength is not in ourselves, but in Him (2 Corinthians 12:9).

So next time Satan, or the world, tells you these things or similar thoughts—cling to your standing as a child of God. It is our only sure hope.

  • When you hear, I don’t belong here. It’s true; I don’t. Nothing on this earth feels quite right. But, this world is not my home, and soon I will be with Christ in heaven forever (Hebrews 13:14).
  • When you hear, I am worthless. It’s true; any of my good works apart from Christ are filthy rags. But my worth is found only in Christ and I can never do anything to earn His love or forgiveness or salvation; it is only by grace that I am saved (Ephesians 2:8-10).
  • When you hear, I look awful (or old, or ugly…). It’s true; outer beauty is fading. The cares of this world are many, and it can show. True beauty is found in the one who created us in His image.
  • When you hear, I just did that again. I am hopeless. It’s true; I do fail often. I am a sinner and I will never be perfect this side of heaven. But God does not treat us as our sins deserve (Psalm 103:8-14), He gives good gifts to his children when we ask (Matt 7:9-11), and He is pleased to give us the kingdom (Luke 12:32). My hope is in Christ alone. However, He does continue to sanctify me and I must be teachable in order to grow in Christ-likeness.

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Like Trees in Winter

What would you do if you came across a tree in winter, and you had never seen a tree? Would you notice only the outside, and never examine the inner parts? Who are you when you are stripped bare? Would your inner beauty shine through the lifeless exterior? The outer appearance is not always as it seems, but the roots tell the story.

Like Trees in Winter

Aged and barren
Colorless and lifeless
Branches stripped bare
Dull and fruitless
With no shade to offer
Nothing to give

But underneath
Deep within the earth
The roots remain strong
Hidden buds hint toward
The promise of spring
A broken branch reveals life within

Still loved by the Creator
There is purpose yet to be revealed
Pay attention
When you see the trees in winter
Don’t give up
When you are a tree in winter.

We are loved like trees in winter. We are loved by God not for what we do and not even for who we may become, but because God is love, and we are made in His image. He shines light in the darkness, and brings life out of desolation. The weak and broken, he makes useful and beautiful. He is making all things new.

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We Have This Hope

We are never really prepared to lose someone. It is hard to find anyone, except perhaps a young child, who has not been affected by the curse of death. Whether it is the sudden death of a child, or the expected death of an elderly adult, or anything in between, we are never really prepared for the specific ache each loss brings.

My brother in Christ, Mark, is now in heaven with Jesus. We have this assurance not because of anything he did; not because he was a good person, and not because he did any good thing; but because he put his trust in Christ, repented of his sin and believed that Christ’s blood shed on the cross was sufficient to save him and give him new life (Ephesians 2:4-9).

God loves us and will never leave his children, even through suffering and trials and loss too painful for words. Please read Mark and Anna’s story here. It is the story of our faithful God, and how this family continues to live out the gospel, and trust that God is good, even in the deepest valleys.

Because Mark was saved, we can say that for him to live was Christ, but to die is gain (Philippians 1:21). So though it doesn’t feel like our gain, we know that it is his. We rejoice that Mark is now beholding the glory of the Lord, but we weep at his absence. There is deep pain at the loss of a beloved son, husband, father, friend and brother. Some wounds never fully heal this side of heaven. Some do, but the scar remains. Mark will always be missed.

Mark was a fighter. Yes, he fought the battle of cancer, but more importantly he fought the good fight of faith (1 Timothy 6:11-12). He fought to the very end, all the way to the feet of Jesus, where I imagine he has already heard, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” Mark’s legacy of faith will continue. Not because he was famous or well known, but because he was loved by those who knew him, and always will be, and because he was a faithful servant of Jesus Christ. We will tell his story. He will not be forgotten.

We have this hope! And it is a glorious hope. God will make beauty out of ashes, he will give joy instead of mourning. He will wipe away every tear, and death will be no more. He will make all things new.

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Dear Hand, I have no need of you…

Said no one ever! As an introvert, a lot of things make me uncomfortable. I err on the side of silence and caution and comfort, instead of transparency and risk and reaching out.

Have you heard the quote, “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone”? How do you make yourself do something that you know will be hard or scary or uncomfortable?

I read this recently: “Why don’t we [introverts] make ourselves known better, so people don’t mistake and overlook us? It’s easy to grumble about not being known. It’s harder to make an effort, to do some action that lets people know you are there and have something to contribute.”

And it was challenging. It’s not wrong to be an introvert, but that doesn’t mean I automatically earn a get of out jail free card, either. I am part of a body. And a body functions best with all of its parts actively working. The body depends on each part, and isn’t it easier to work together when you know the strengths and weaknesses of each part?

Though I feel like a fish out of water at times, the truth is, we all are in desperate need of community. Somehow, though Jesus is ultimately all we need, God also made us to need each other. So if we need community, then that community also needs us. Each of us. Deep down, we all have a desire to be known, no matter how much we may want to hide. It is good to remember that we are all different, and there are specific ways we can love and serve each other well. The body is truly made up of different parts, beautiful parts. It can be a challenge to know who you are, know how you are gifted, know that there is always room for growth, and then not compare yourself to the other parts.

Sometimes I like to say that in the body of Christ, I am a tonsil or an appendix or something. God created them, so they serve a purpose, but when it comes down to it, the body can function perfectly well without them. This is not biblical, but it’s how I feel sometimes. But, according to 1 Corinthians, even those weaker parts are indispensable. Even the hidden parts are important.

“The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.” (1 Corinthians 12:21-26)

This is the beauty of community, and I want to make sure I am loving others well, considering them first, and that I am open to being known and embracing the uncomfortable, ultimately, so that Christ will be known. I want whatever part I have to function well. I want to have the same care for one another, but know that it might look different for each of us. I want to suffer together, and rejoice together, and not worry that the eye suffers differently than the hand, and the head rejoices differently than the feet. I want this because we will be known by our love for each other (John 13:35).

We are one body, and we desperately need each other.

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To Those Weeping and To Those Rejoicing, on Mother’s Day

Holidays are usually a cause for celebration, but often they are also reminders of painful things. While I don’t want to overlook the joys of Mother’s Day and forget to thank God for mothers everywhere, including my own, I must say days like this also remind us of suffering, or of what we’ve lost, or what we’ve never had.

I am sad that I am not a mom and may never be. You might be too, or you might feel a deep sense of loss or isolation for other reasons. Or you might be rejoicing today! We are commanded to rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. (Romans 12:15) Let’s be mindful of each other!

Honestly, I just want you to know that you are loved. Not just by me, but by the God of the universe who knit you together in your mother’s womb, and who knows you more intimately than you could comprehend. You are not defined by your singleness, or by your infertility, or by your imperfect mothering. You are a child of God. He knows both your joy and your pain. So, whether you are rejoicing or whether you are weeping, or maybe more likely some juxtaposition of the two, I just want to say that I am too, and though it may seem trite, Jesus is enough for us. He really is enough.

To all the women who want to be mothers and are not,
To all the stepmoms and foster moms who don’t feel like “real” moms,
To all the single mothers who wish things were different,
To those who are grieving the loss of a mother or the loss of a child,
To those with strained relationships with their mothers or their children,
You are loved, and you are not alone.
I am weeping with you.

To new mothers welcoming their little ones,
To mothers who work tirelessly and sacrificially without much thanks,
To mothers who never stop loving their kids no matter what,
To those who don’t have children but are amazing mothers to so many,
You are loved, and you are appreciated.
I am rejoicing with you!

Happy Mother’s Day!

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Grace Like Manna

I’ve been thinking a lot about grace recently. There are a lot of commands and reminders in scripture that we are to live for today. We should take heed – we are not guaranteed tomorrow.

Do not worry about tomorrow. (Matt 6:34)
You do not know what tomorrow will bring. (James 4:14; Prov 27:1)
His mercies are new every morning. (Lam 3:22-23)
Our treasure is in heaven, not on this earth. (Luke 12:20-21)

Though I know we are refined by the fire for God’s glory (Isaiah 48:10-11), I still often wonder how some people walk through so much heartache and suffering and don’t just survive but are actually made stronger. I can’t help but think if it were me, I might just give up. The orphan living in poverty, the single mother with 5 kids, the husband who just lost his wife and only son in a car accident, the woman struggling with chronic daily pain. How do they do it? By God’s grace.

Yes, but what does that mean? Why does it seem that I would never be able to handle those things? I am often reminded that grace is given for today. God tells us tomorrow will have enough troubles and not to worry about that, but that he will give us the strength we need for today. The same is true for our friends going through trials. It is like the manna in the wilderness. God provided just enough for each day, and if the Israelites tried to store it up for later, it would rot.

But when they measured it with an omer, whoever gathered much had nothing left over, and whoever gathered little had no lack. Each of them gathered as much as he could eat. And Moses said to them, “Let no one leave any of it over till the morning.” But they did not listen to Moses. Some left part of it till the morning, and it bred worms and stank. And Moses was angry with them. Morning by morning they gathered it, each as much as he could eat; but when the sun grew hot, it melted. Exodus 16:18-21

But I am also reminded that grace is particular. If you, like me, put yourself in the shoes of your neighbor or friend, you do wonder. You say, I could never handle that! How does she do it? His faith must be stronger than mine! But their faith is God-given, just like grace. We can learn much by watching our friends’ faith in action. We receive enough grace to help carry their burdens, to comfort, to encourage, to walk beside them. And they receive as much as they need, particular to their situation, to persevere through their greatest trials. And it doesn’t look the same. We do not receive their grace.

The Israelites, or their fathers, did not even know what manna was. As far as we know, God had never provided manna in that way before and he has not since. It was God’s particular grace for the trials he had them endure in the wilderness.

And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. Deuteronomy 8:3

So just as we only receive grace for today, we only receive grace for our specific trials. We trust that God will take care of all his children’s needs, even when we can’t comprehend how he is working, or how this could possibly work out for good, or how we would handle the same situation. We are commanded not to worry. He will supply. He will be faithful. He is enough. Both for today, and for all our tomorrows.

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