Category Archives: Thankfulness

Jacob have I loved

2 “I have loved you,” says the LORD. “Yet you say,`In what way have You loved us?’ Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?” Says the LORD. “Yet Jacob I have loved; (Mal 1:2)

There has been much ink spilled on this verse in relation to the doctrine of election. In fact, that is Paul’s entire point in Romans 9. I am unabashedly Reformed and hold to the doctrine of election and reprobation as summarized in the Canons of dordt. But I can’t tackle every subject every time I write. So lets assume that one, and look at this verse from another direction.

I would like to analyze the sneering response of Israel. God says, “I have loved you” and you say, “Yeah? Really? How?”

Satan’s first temptation was an attack on the goodness and benevolence of God. “Yeah, hath God said…”

And this is the heart of every sin. God says, “I am good.”

And we say, “yeah? Prove it.”

God says, “I love you”.

And we say, “Yeah? prove it.”

And every time we do, we fall into the same temptation that Adam and Eve succumbed to. I think that this is the primary battle against the flesh that we must war against daily.

It is so prevalent and deadly that the Reformed Confessions, primarily the Heidelberg Catechism, summarizes the whole duty of redeemed man as “gratitude” – embracing God’s goodness.

“Rejoice in all things, and again I say, rejoice!”

So how do you do that when you are in pain? When you are mourning? When you face disappointment and heartache and loss? How do you rejoice always, even in a Roman prison (which is where Paul was when he wrote that).

“Jacob have I loved”.

First, you start with the love of God, beyond all understanding. It is God’s desire that you know him. Not only in words and in theory and in treatises, but in actually experiential knowledge. That you might know his redeeming power, his strength in weakness, his love in a world of rage, his beauty in the midst of ugliness, his glory in the midst of ashes.

And because God loves his people in Christ, he shows us glimpses of his goodness, the amuse-bouche for the wedding supper of the lamb. He gives us just enough of a glimpse in this cursed world that we might long for him, set our affections where he is, and stop glorying in our strength and our wisdom and our goodness.

He gives us those glimpses of his goodness in the midst of the ashes of this cursed world.

The tang and crunch of the apple. Try the Opal, if you haven’t yet.

The brilliant skill of a talented baker of pie (I’m a sucker for good cherry pie. If you are ever south of Yuba City on Highway 99, try Stephen’s Farmhouse. Amazing pie – they can even do gluten free!)

Fresh baked bread and sharp cheese.

The smell of rain on dry ground (petrichor – I didn’t know it had a name until recently.)

The astounding beauty of a skilled musician; the breathtaking scope of art; the curve of the tulip…

The thrill of discovering something new; the kiss on the cheek; snuggling with your sweetie while watching British mysteries; the wine on the back porch around the patio fireplace in the evening…

Far too often we are so busy demanding that God prove his goodness to us that we miss the innumerable proofs that he surrounds us with daily.

Elie Wiesel wrote that Adolph Hitler was the only one who kept all of his promises to Israel. I understand why he thought that, but what a sad statement! God kept every promise to every one of his people, and always has. The problem is not in the reality. It is in our eyes.

“I have loved you.”

“Yeah? Prove it.”

We all do it, because we are in the midst of a cursed world and because we have inherited the sin of Adam. Don’t we all mimic the sentiment of Elie Wiesel when we are at our lowest? God is not good. He does not love us.

But God has not left us there.

“First of all, I love you. I called you out of Egypt. I redeemed you from your misery and sentence of death that you might know me.”

Even in our darkest moments, God is near. He doesn’t abandon us in the valley of the shadow of death. He walks with us.

And beyond that, he did not need to create the world in color. He could have given us food in the form of tasteless paste to keep us alive. What purpose does music serve if the point of life is simply to stay alive?

When we remind ourselves that “Jesus loves us, this I know for the bible tells me so”, from there we will see endless examples of his love and beauty and goodness to mankind.

To paraphrase Calvin, every blade of grass is created that the hearts of the sons and daughters of men might rejoice. The fault is not in the love of God. The fault is in our ingratitude.

Remind yourself of the gospel. Stop being afraid of everything. You don’t catch sin by looking at the wrong thing, or hearing the wrong thing. Your sins are washed away completely. And then look around. See all of the beauty that you are missing?

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Rejoice Always!

There are a lot of people opening up about the abuse that they have suffered.So many must be feeling triggered right now. Holidays are so hard for so many – reminders of betrayal, heartache, loneliness – that we live in a cursed world full of injustice, lust for power, greed. Many are perhaps suffering from illness or ongoing pain. Many have gone to the church for help only to be attacked, shamed and abused in the house of God!

And yet we also see the command of God to rejoice always! How can we do this?

Here is a list of things that we can truly be thankful for, even in the whirlwind of this life in the flesh.

  1. We have been completely washed by the blood and Spirit of Jesus. On particularly rough days, I imagine the meaning of my baptism as I shower. Just as this cool, refreshing, cleansing water is cleaning my body, I really and truly am washed by the blood of Christ. I am clean completely in the eyes of God. He doesn’t see me as I see myself, or as others see me, but as a new creation, fit to enter his presence – clean. He sees me the same way that he sees Jesus – his well-beloved Son.
  2. Because I am in Christ, God loves me with an almighty, infinite, unchanging eternal love. So I can rest in him. Because he is almighty, there is nothing outside of his power. Because he is unchanging, nothing can remove me from his hands.
  3. He sets the lonely into families; he frees the prisoners; he heals the sick; he feeds the hungry. He cares for my broken-down body. He is at work in me and I am fearfully and wonderfully made! His faithfulness is everlasting – unchanging, almighty, infinite.
  4. God is just, and this is a cause for rejoicing! On this earth, justice always comes short. The wicked prosper and the righteous are oppressed. Ahab gets rich and Naboth is stoned and everything seems completely upside-down. There is even great wickedness in the house of God! But God told us there would be. And God told us that he will not forget. He sees it and there will be a reckoning. God’s judgment will be infinite, almighty and unchanging. He will thoroughly clean his threshing floor.
  5. Sometimes we tie ourselves into knots trying to figure out how a just God squares with an evil world. But since 1 and 2 above are true, we can stop trying to figure it all out, and just rest – knowing that God is not fooled, is not swayed by trends and opinions, and already has this sorted. Our job is to wait and hold to Christ. The secret things belong to him.
  6. And the day will come when Jesus will descend with a shout of the archangel and the blast of the trumpet. His people will be gathered together and meet him in the air, and descend triumphantly with him. They will be vindicated before everyone. Every slander will be revealed for what it is, every murderer and reviler exposed, every abuse and every degradation exposed and left without excuse. There won’t be any “mistakes were made” or “besides, I’m gay” or “we were protecting the ministry” or “everybody did it back then”. There will be only perfect justice.
  7. And God’s people, united to Christ by faith, will be vindicated before the world. Every glass of water given freely, every meal shared, every kind word, every prayer – not to prove anything to God, but to reveal God’s people for who THEY are. Slander and reviling and gas-lighting will all be destroyed forever. God knows his own, and his works in his own people will be revealed before the universe.
  8. And there will be no more curse. No more loneliness, no more wickedness and strife, no more illness and pain, no more death, no more lies.
  9. The day will come when we will crush the head of the serpent under our feet and reign over all things forever and ever.
  10. No matter how weak we are on this earth, no matter how many have trodden us underfoot, no matter what we have suffered, we are more than conquerors in Jesus Christ. In him there is no more male and female, slave or free, Jew or Gentile, but we are all one in Jesus Christ. We share in his sufferings together. We share in his glory. We will reign with him over all creation forever. How astounding is that??

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

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