Tag Archives: hope

thoughts on shame

Shame is universal. It isn’t a gender thing. All humans born of Adam are conceived and born in sin. Sin generates shame. Adam and Eve knew that they were naked.

Seeking to cover up that nakedness is also universal. We blame others. We attack ourselves. We sew all sorts of fig leaves and hide in all sorts of bushes to seek to cover our shame.

Shame isn’t an emotion. Shame is the fear that there is a standard to which you don’t measure up.

Sin misdirects our shame. We seek to meet different standards to cover our shame and continually miss the mark.

We cover our shame by destroying what we perceive to be the threat.

We cover our shame by boasting, by our feats of manliness, by works of charity, by taking a gun, by reviling others, by ranting on social media, by storming the capitol, … the examples are as varied as humans are varied…

Covering shame is universal, for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.

Shame can only be covered one way: Come out of the bushes and stand naked before God and wait for him to clothe you (Please read Genesis 3).

We “come out of the bushes” by acknowledging our sin and shame before God without excuse.

We stand naked by acknowledging our sin without excuse, without shifting the blame on how she was dressed, how drunk you were, how someone incited you, how “the woman gave to me, and I did eat…” Standing naked means saying “Lord, have mercy upon me. A sinner.”

Waiting for God to clothe you is to receive the perfect righteousness, satisfaction and holiness of Christ which only comes as a free gift. It is never earned. It is always free. It is given to all who ask for it.

The call of the gospel is “Where are you?” We come out of hiding. We stand naked before God trembling and afraid. And we receive the perfect clothing of the righteousness and satisfaction of Jesus Christ. This is the gospel. There is no other.

Whenever a pastor teaches that shame can be covered in any other way, he has failed to grasp the power of the gospel.

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Compassion

There is a certain kind of person who gets very concerned whenever anyone starts talking too much about God’s compassion. They are always the ones to remind you that Jesus was harsh with people at times.

They seem to forget that the people Jesus was consistently harsh with were those who had a problem with God’s compassion.

I think that the reason certain people get nervous about God’s compassion is that God might be compassionate on the wrong sort of people.

It was the “wrong sort of people” that washed Jesus feet with her tears and anointed him with costly ointment.

There are those who view God the way the older brother viewed God – he worked hard for God every day and God never gave him anything. The older brother was angry because the younger brother got to “go out and have fun” and still got the fatted calf.

The older brother never understood sin. So he never understood God’s compassion. God’s compassion meant that someone somewhere is getting away with something – and we have to put a stop to it.

“God’s compassion will lead to chaos. Didn’t you know that? How will society survive if God is compassionate on the wrong sorts of people.

(Jesus never whipped people. He used the whip to drive out the animals.)

These same sort of people get nervous when you talk about empathy. One might find themselves being empathetic with the wrong sorts of people. We can’t have that.

As a disclaimer, I am the wrong sort of person. But Jesus found me. He spoke kindly to me. He drew me into his arms with whispers of love.

Jesus loves me, this I know. For the bible tells me so.

It is not possible to be “too unbalanced” with God’s compassion. It is far greater, far broader, far more extensive, far higher, far deeper than any of us can possibly imagine.

If you are the wrong sort of person, you are just the one that the Father is seeking. Come to Jesus and find rest.

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Achan and the Gospel

When Joshua conquered Jericho, God gave Israel specific instructions concerning the goods there. Everything was to be killed, burned or put into the treasury of the temple.

The story of what happened next is disturbing. The next city to be conquered was Ai. It was a far smaller and less powerful city, and the strategy was just to send a few of the army there. But they were soundly beaten, which caused Joshua and all Israel shock and great sorrow. What happened? Why had God forsaken them? Why did the army flee? Had God forgotten about them? What about the rest of the conquest that they were promised?

Joshua fell on his knees and asked the Lord what had happened.

Someone took gold and silver and clothing from Jericho and kept it for themselves against God’s command. Because of this disobedience, all Israel was troubled and God gave them into the hands of their enemies. God pointed out the criminal and Achan was stoned with his whole family in the valley of Achor.

Read the account. It is disturbing. Joshua 7.

This morning, I received a question about the event. The person asking the question was taught that if a parent had sin in their lives that God would punish the church and their children until they confessed it and turned from it. They were taught that this was the message of Achan. If someone is disobedient, the whole church will suffer, and their children will suffer.

I was greatly disturbed by this and have been thinking about it all day.

This, by the way, is not the gospel. The gospel is NOT “if you sin, God will punish your children.” And didn’t Jesus say that all of scripture taught of him?

We do learn of the holiness of God in this account. He is not someone to trifle with. He cannot bless disobedience. He cannot dwell with sin. He does indeed visit the iniquity of the fathers unto the children to the third and fourth generation (Exodus 20:5) and his character does not change.

How can any of us escape? How are any of our children blessed? How can anything unclean stand in his sight, and who of us are clean enough?

The wrath of God and the horrors of sin are the backdrop of the gospel, but they are not themselves the gospel. “Do this and live” is not the good news, for who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean?

The stoning of Achan is disturbing, for God does not change.

But centuries later, the prophet Hosea saw the gospel from a distance. Israel had been divorced by God – they were no longer his people. But Hosea was shown a glimpse of the gospel.

14 “Therefore, behold, I will allure her, Bring her into the wilderness, And speak kindly to her.
15 “Then I will give her her vineyards from there, And the valley of Achor as a door of hope. And she will sing there as in the days of her youth, As in the day when she came up from the land of Egypt.
(Hosea 2:14-15).

There will be a new exodus and a new deliverance. God’s bride will be gathered from every land and every nation. The gentiles will be gathered in as well. And the valley of Achor will be a door of hope.

What does it mean? How can this scene of the trouble that came on Israel be a door of hope for God’s bride?

Because Achan pointed to Christ. Achor pointed to Calvary. Christ was taken outside the camp and bore all of our uncleanness. Christ was cut off from the land of the living, bearing our curse. Achan’s sin troubled all Israel, and when he was cut off by stoning, the curse was taken away and they went on to victory. But that victory was short-lived, because all Israel were descended from Adam. All of them were unfaithful, just as all of us are unfaithful. The conquest was incomplete. The book of Joshua concludes with the book of Judges. What hope is there for any of us?

All of us have sinned and come short of God’s glory. All of us are unclean. How can Achan be stoned and take the curse away from us when every single one of us is Achan?

Only in Christ. In Christ, true God and true man, the curse that lay upon each one of us is taken away.

Isaiah puts it so clearly.

4 Surely our griefs He Himself bore, And our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, Smitten of God, and afflicted.
5 But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed.
6 All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him.
7 He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He did not open His mouth; Like a lamb that is led to slaughter, And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, So He did not open His mouth.
8 By oppression and judgment He was taken away; And as for His generation, who considered That He was cut off out of the land of the living, For the transgression of my people to whom the stroke was due? (Isa. 53:4-8)

That is the gospel. The curse is on us because all of us have hoarded our stolen things. All of us have trusted in our own resources rather than trusting in the living God. If God marked iniquity, who should stand?

But God doesn’t send US outside the camp to bear our iniquities. He laid them upon Jesus Christ. Or you could say that he took them upon himself. Because of the mystery of the Trinity, both are correct. God laid them on Christ. God took them on himself.

The story of Achan is not “Behave or God will curse your children”. It is “come to Jesus, who bore our iniquities in his body on the cross.”

Teach your children about Jesus when you teach them about Achan.

The valley of Achor becomes a door of hope at Calvary.

Praise God!

On another note, if your church has never taught this, then it is not teaching the gospel. If you are being taught that God’s blessing comes on you when you obey and when you disobey you will earn God’s curse, then you are not being taught the gospel. Flee those churches. It is what God calls a synagogue of Satan. Go to where the gospel is proclaimed.

There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

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coming out

When Paul was in chains in Rome, he rejoiced that the power of the gospel was seen in his weakness.

One thing that I have read continually from those who heard Ravi Zacharias speak is this: when he spoke, you knew you were in the presence of a great man. he was so articulate, so wise, so charismatic. He could work a crowd. He could answer any objection.

Paul was just the opposite. In fact, Paul said that he preached in weakness and trembling. He was ridiculed frequently for NOT being a great public speaker, or a skilled rhetorician.

As I was thinking these things, I decided to come out. I have hidden something about myself for many years. I’ve hidden it even from myself, preferring to beat myself up for not being quite right than acknowledging that I have a weakness that I can do very little about.

I have anxiety disorder. Whether it was inherited or whether it was learned through much experience, or perhaps a little of both, it is a chain around me that I cannot rid myself of.

My brain warns me that I am in danger and tells me to flee, usually at the most inopportune time.

My heart races. My face flushes. I break out in a sweat. I start to shake. My words start to stammer.

If it is bad, I won’t eat.

I wake up frequently in the middle of the night having conversations in my head, running events through my head over and over again – until I break out into a sweat and my body temperature goes up.

I read recently that Herman Bavinck, arguably the greatest theologian of the 20th century, vomited before every sermon.

I don’t vomit. But I completely identify with the sentiment.

I manuscript sermons because I don’t know when my mind will go blank. I rehearse conversations because I have no idea what to do in them.

Social events are exhausting. I tend to flee somewhere just to regroup. Weddings are torture.

My mind tells me that everything is OK. God is on the throne. I am just human. My conversation is fine.

But there is a part of my brain that attacks me during every single conversation:

“You are such an idiot. I can’t believe you said that. They are going to hate you now. You will be left alone. Don’t you know how to people?”

“You are doing this wrong. You are going to fail. You’ll never make this. They will think you are stupid.

I won’t try out a new restaurant if the ordering procedure is too different. I have never tried sushi. I have never attempted to do something new for fear of failing.

When I am in a new place, or trying something new that I am required to do, my heart races and I go into panic mode. “Failure deserves to be beaten, outcast, isolated, and alone.”

I would far, far rather serve the table than sit down at it and be served. When I am clearing dishes I know what is expected, and when I know what is expected, I don’t break out in a cold sweat and listen to my heart pound in my ears.

I have been like this as long as I could remember. When I was younger, I would pinpoint a person that I figured was an acceptable person and try to imitate them. Maybe I wouldn’t be rejected if I could be someone else.

But that is a hard way to live.

One of my earliest memories was being terrified of trying out the slide. My parents, not knowing what to do, spanked me until I went down.

I remember the absolute terror of my first fire drill when I was about 5. They should not allow children to be tortured like that.

I self-medicated with nicotene for years. It gave me a good excuse to leave any social situation and it would calm my panicked nerves. But when I quit several years ago, my panic attacks and anxiety would attack from out of nowhere.

Today I know that it has a name and there are things to do about it. I have anxiety disorder.

I have anxiety disorder.

My dad used to say that worrying about stuff never helped. He was fond of saying that the things he worried the most about never happened. I’m very glad for him.

For me, everything that I ever worried about actually did happen, but those are stories for another time.

The curse on this world is very real. People do things that are even worse than you can imagine. The hate that the world can throw at you is unfathomable.

Illness is real. Cancer is real. Brain damage is real. Suffering is real.

The cross is real, and if we are Jesus’ we will pick it up with him and follow him.

And like Paul, when those chains tie us down, paralyze us and keep us from doing what we want to do – God will show himself strong.

“How can you be a minister” – my anxiety tells me repeatedly.

And then I remember Paul’s words:

(1Corinthians:2:1-5)  And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.
And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power:  That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.

And so I’ve decided to quit pretending that I’m something I am not. I will speak the truth. I will teach from house to house. I will visit. I will call. I will do what I can to show the power of God in the cross of Christ.

But then I might have to sit down. I might have to go outside and regroup. I might need to do something to calm my pounding heart and my rapid breathing.

I’m not the kind of preacher that has everything together. When people see me, they don’t say, “I’m in the presence of a great man” and that’s OK.

Because if I can lead someone to the living water, if I can exalt the power of God, if I can tell you about the beauty of Jesus who sweat great drops of blood, who fell down terrified at Gethsemane in order to bring me to God – then it is all worth it. Because I also know that when I am at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, I will sit in his presence and rejoice and no longer panic. I will no longer feel like an outcast. I will no longer be an outsider looking in on the normals.

And that is what I long for. But more than that, I long to be free from sin and misery.

In the meantime, don’t look for me to exalt human strength. I don’t have any. When I am in God’s presence, it won’t do me any good anyway.

Instead, I have an anxiety disorder. And so I look to Jesus.

Jesus didn’t come for the well. He came for the sick. He didn’t come for the strong, he came for the weak and foolish – and that is me.

If you are like me, and struggle with these things, don’t be ashamed. Walk right into it, for Jesus is with you through the valley of the shadow of death.

I wrote these words so that you might not feel so alone. There are a lot of us out here. I just thought that you might want to meet one.

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To seek the lost

Jesus said that one who is healthy doesn’t need a physician.

If you won’t admit you are hurt, you will flee the healer.

If you won’t admit you are weak, you will reject the One who is Strong.

If you won’t admit you are broken, you will turn from the One who puts you back together.

If you won’t say that you are lost, you will run from the Shepherd who seeks you.

If you refuse to “be a victim”, you will refuse the arms that hold you.

Jesus didn’t come to help the strong, the wise, the intrepid, the rich, the powerful.

He came to seek and save that which was lost, broken, sinful, weary, frightened, hurting…

If that is you, call to Him. He will never, ever forsake the little ones who come to Him.

If you don’t know this about Christ, read what His Apostle Luke has to say about him.

Luke 19:10 “ For the son of man came to seek and save that which was lost.”

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What if…?

What if I fail?

What if I’m not strong enough?

What if I’m not smart enough? What if I say the wrong thing? What if I pour everything I have into it and it isn’t enough?

Or worse, what if I just don’t want to? What if I get tired? What if I fall into sin one too many times?

What if everything is my fault? What if what they say about me is true? What if I can’t figure it all out?

What if those things that I thought were right were actually wrong? What if they lied to me? What if I made a decision that was foolish?

What if my health completely collapses and my anxiety and my fears smother me completely and all I can do is rock back and forth and cry out “Abba, Father”?

What if my good works were selfish? What if my gift of cold water wasn’t enough? What if I didn’t visit enough?

What if I just get tired and can’t read another dry theology text book? What if my words fail? What if I can’t tell the difference between finitude and sin? Between rest and laziness? What if I don’t do enough?

What if opportunity came knocking but I was just too tired, too exhausted, to discouraged and too disappointed to answer?

I can’t sort it. I look into the depths of my soul and all I can see are my failures and missed opportunities and careless words and –

What if I’m not sorry enough for my sins? What if my repentance isn’t good enough? What if my faith isn’t strong enough?

(Pro 12:25) Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs it down, But a good word makes it glad.

Is there a good word? Is there one little Word to fell the prince of darkness grim?

I can’t find rest in my soul. I can’t find rest in empty platitudes. I can’t even discern the thoughts and intentions of my own heart. I think I mean well, but what do I know?

But I know a Word that cannot lie, that cannot mislead, and that cannot deceive, and he says,

(Matt 11:28-30)  28 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
  29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
  30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

And so, Lamb of God, I come again. I’m glad you don’t get tired of me. I’m glad for your perfect righteousness and holiness that you gave to me. I’m glad for your resurrection and the new life you give me again and again and again. Refresh me again, O Lamb of God.

I’m glad you lift me in your wings. I’m glad that you told me to come to you in the day of trouble.

And so, Lamb of God, I come to you again. For I’m in trouble. My heart is heavy. My foolishness and ignorance is weighing on me again. I’m tired and hurting. And so I come to you again.

I’m glad that you said, “the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.” (Jn. 6:37)

Because I am coming again. I am coming because I believe your words. I am coming because you said you wouldn’t cast me out and I cannot bear the thought of being outcast. So here I am. Waiting. Wash me in your precious blood and take my sins away.

Come quickly, Lord Jesus.

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A Loathsome Vermin?

Jonathan Edwards’ sermon, “Sinners in the hands of an angry God” taught generations of American church-goers that God views us as disgusting vermin, barely tolerable and loathsome in his eyes, as revolting as a spider on a thread.

I believe that sin is far, far worse than we can even fathom, but it is precisely because of the exaltation of mankind as the image-bearer of God (Psalm 8) that sin arouses such wrath in a holy God.

If we were disgusting vermin, sin would not have aroused God’s pity and compassion. It is precisely because of God’s love for us that he is determined to deliver us from the bondage of sin, so much so that he gave his only begotten son, and delivered him up for us all.

The truth is that our sin nature is not part of God’s original design, but a result of man’s fall. God has provided a redeemer because of his great love wherewith he loved us. Christ came to restore that which was lost. (John 3:16)

If you do not believe in the Lord Jesus, come to him to find your value and worth in him. No one that comes to him will be cast out. He calls you to himself because you are created in his image and sin has defaced that image and made it ugly. Come to him for cleansing and healing and forgiveness. You are a great sinner in need of great grace for the wrath of God is coming. But that is different than saying that you are a disgusting vermin. God desires that you be all that you can be and he calls to you to be free from the bondage of sin through faith in the Son of God.

If you are in Christ, you are also not a disgusting vermin, barely tolerable by God. You are a child of his love, a first-born heir of eternal life in Christ. You are a special treasure, a royal priesthood, his bride, his body and he loves you with an infinite love that surpasses anything we know on this earth.

The goal of the Christian life is not to try to make yourself less loathsome to God. The goal is to rest in his love, believe in his promises, understand his compassion, and grow in his grace.

It is the language of a reviler and an abuser – the language of the devil – that tears down the image of God in a person. The devil reviles. “You are loathsome. You are disgusting. God barely tolerates you, you revolting worm. He can’t wait to throw you into hell.” This motivates no one to good works, to love, to worship. We become what is expected of us. Religion is turned into a crowd of groveling worms trying to outdo each other in false humility.

But this is not the good news. The good news is that no matter how great your sin is, you have a far greater savior, who loves you and gave himself for you. He is restoring his image in you that you might finally be free and clean and stand before him whole and complete. His compassions don’t fail. His mercy is everlasting. His love is infinite.

His love for you calls you out of hiding, and says to you, “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.”

Rather than viewing us as loathsome, revolting insects, he is a friend of sinners. This knowledge calls to us, invites us to him and drives us to confession, worship and adoration.

“And this is eternal life, that they might know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”

Imagine a young woman. She grows up in an abusive environment. Suppose her church was tremendously influenced by Elisabeth Elliot, Joshua Harris, and the purity culture – as an example. So she was taught that purity is the same as holiness, and when you loose your virginity, you spoiled your “rose” so that no man would ever want it.

She has been repeatedly raped and molested for years. Or just once. The dynamic is the same. Her abusers have impressed upon her that she is worthless, ugly, loathsome. That she deserved it.

Her worst fear is that God also finds her to be a loathsome vermin.

She has “lost her virginity” and can never get it back so she makes the connection.

No one will ever want me. I am loathsome. I am a vermin, disgusting to God and man.

She might dare to hope that one day, all of those good things that she hears about will apply to her – but for the most part, love and joy, peace and rest, intimacy and glory – those things are for the others, not for her.

And then she reads “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” and discovers that the “greatest theologian in American history” has validated her conclusion. She is indeed loathsome and disgusting, a spider or other loathsome insect dangling over hell.

I wonder how many other suicides took place in New England after that sermon…..

Should not the message of the church be “Jesus, the friend of publicans and sinners” who touches us and says, “I am willing; be clean”.

You are washed, cleansed, purified, whole, complete and loved by your father in heaven for the sake of Christ, if only you accept such benefit with a believing heart.

Come to him and rest. Jesus doesn’t find you disgusting. He came to seek and to save that which was lost. He hates sin and desires all men everywhere repent and believe.

But he doesn’t find you disgusting.

He is angry at rebellion and sin. His wrath abides upon the unbeliever so long as they are not converted. But he doesn’t find you disgusting.

He is calling you with open arms, with goodness and mercy and compassion, as a nursing mother has compassion on her child. Come to him. He won’t cast you away.

He will clothe you in his righteousness, he will glorify you with the same glory that he is glorified with himself.

You are not “barely tolerable” in the eyes of God. Rest in his love.

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What to say?

I’ve been having a hard time finding words to say. Perhaps it is because I’ve said them before, or perhaps I am just tired. The world now is experiencing what many of us have experienced for years.

Some of us know what it is like to have a debilitating, and perhaps deadly, illness that doctors can’t do anything about.

But I really don’t mean this to be a “I told you so” post, because it isn’t. Quite the opposite, in fact. I mean it to be a comfort with the same comfort that my wife and I have learned over the years of struggling with isolation and illness.

It has something to do with idols. Where do we turn when we don’t have any answers? Where do we go when we don’t have any strength? Where do we place our trust when the world is upside down.

When it strikes hard, your idols are revealed. That is painful, and it is a hard ride, but it is glorious in the end. As long as you learn what the Psalmist finally learned:

(Psalm 33:16-22)  16 The king is not saved by a mighty army; A warrior is not delivered by great strength.
  17 A horse is a false hope for victory; Nor does it deliver anyone by its great strength.
  18 Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear Him, On those who hope for His lovingkindness,
  19 To deliver their soul from death, And to keep them alive in famine.
  20 Our soul waits for the LORD; He is our help and our shield.
  21 For our heart rejoices in Him, Because we trust in His holy name.
  22 Let Thy lovingkindness, O LORD, be upon us, According as we have hoped in Thee.

Remember all of the money that you spent on conferences? Remember all of the power that you gave your favorite celebrity pastor? Remember the televangelist that promised you that you would be healthy, wealthy and wise?

Remember all the books you bought? The long theological debates that you had online?

Remember when you thought that the person you voted in office would really save you from all your troubles?

All of the times you thought that your righteousness and your own hand would save you?

Just 6 weeks ago, I spoke to someone who told me that these kinds of diseases only happen in other countries, where they don’t know how to eat healthy food, and sanitize themselves, and live like proper Christians….

And to a certain extent, we tend to think the same way. These kinds of things happen to others. Not to us.

We are God’s people. We are American Evangelicals! We finally won the cultural wars! We are back in the business of building that “city on the hill” for the whole world to see. The American dream!

Funny how things disappear, isn’t it? Funny how it proves true, over and over again, that we are but dust. Like the flowers of the field, we fade and die.

And God sends things to remind us that the greatest assets that men and women have – wisdom, righteousnesses, social charity, cultural wars, armies, battleships, money, power, institutions (even “Christian” ones) – will all fade and die and be forgotten. One tiny virus brings the world of men to its knees, until the Keeper of Time says, “stop now”.

It is interesting how and illness that no one can do anything about can change our perspective.

And why is this? Because God will never give his glory to another.

So here is the comfort. God has ways of stripping away our trust in horses, armies, kings, medicine, doctors, politicians, elections, church leaders, celebrities.

And the purpose for all of it is for us to finally fall on our knees and say, “Our soul waits upon the Lord. He is our help and our shield.”

We can’t even get toilet paper unless he decrees it. And that is a wonderful thing, for he is good and his lovingkindness is forever.

We hope in YOUR lovingkindness, O Lord. Remember us, for the sake of Christ. He is our help and our shield.

Amen.

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Filed under Coronavirus, Trust

Fear, Death and Panic

As most of California, we are staying at home.

I also have symptoms. I’m not worried about me. But I certainly don’t want to spread anything around, out of love for my neighbor.

As I watch the stockpiling of weird supplies, the fist fights in the lines,  the empty shelves ravished by frightened people, I remembered what Satan said to God, accusing Job of loving the Lord simply because the Lord gives him things.

4 And Satan answered the LORD, and said, Skin for skin, yea, all that a man hath will he give for his life. (Job 2:4)

The power of the devil is the fear of death. It is HIS voice that causes the panic and the fear and the bargaining.

And that makes me sad. Life is a vapor (James 4:14) and we have no control over it anyway. Virus or no virus, every moment we are under the sentence of death, and held in bondage by the fear of death.

All that a man has, he will give for his life.

But this is not us, beloved brothers and sisters in Christ. Jesus became flesh, united himself to us and was obedient unto death. The sword fell on him and the sting of death is removed. And then, in this flesh, he rose from the dead for our justification. When the sword of God’s wrath fell on Jesus, Satan’s greatest weapon was destroyed – the fear of death.

14 Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil;
15 And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. (Heb 2:14-15)

For us, we are now no longer in bondage to the fear of death, since death is now no longer a punishment for sin, but a dying to sin and an entering into eternal life.

19 For I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayer and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ,
20 according to my earnest expectation and hope that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death.
21 For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
22 But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell.
23 For I am hard pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better.
24 Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you.
(Phi 1:19-24)

Whether we live, then, or die, our concern is for the glory of Christ and the good of our neighbor. If he calls us home tomorrow, or down the road apiece, we still belong to Him and our prayer should always be that Christ be magnified in our bodies, whether we live or die.

This does not mean that we willfully put ourselves in danger. It does not mean that we act foolishly. And it certainly does not mean that keeping the outward ceremonies of the law (the physical gathering of the church) should outweigh our neighbor’s life. This was the mistake the Pharisees made, and it made Jesus angry.

It means this: Love your neighbor. Don’t sell your dignity, honor and birthright for a case of toilet paper. Don’t take all the eggs. Leave some for someone who needs them more than you.

Consider that person in line as more important than yourself. “Will God not clothe you, O you of little faith?”

And don’t prove the devil right. Don’t sell everything in exchange for your own skin. It’s a bad bargain, and you will lose it anyway.

“What shall it profit a man if he corner the market on eggs and toilet paper, and lose his own soul?”

The fact is this: One day – maybe sooner, maybe later – you are going to stand before your Maker. He has given you one talent, and maybe more. But one that he has given you is your life, like a tiny flower, on this earth for a little while.

How did you use that gift? In love and service, in quiet and calm, resting in him, magnifying the Lord Jesus in your body?

Or did you bury it in exchange for your own skin? Do you die alone surrounded by all the eggs and all the toilet paper and all the cartons of milk?

It’s a metaphor, people! I think that love for our neighbor requires that we practice what we are told to practice. Shut yourselves in for the good of your neighbor.

But you don’t have to hoard. You don’t have to panic. You don’t have to fear.

Don’t sell your peace and don’t sell your dignity and don’t sell your birthright to save your own skin.

Let the peace of God rule your hearts and minds.

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Filed under Coronavirus, Providence

Here comes the sun

  2 But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall.(Malachi 4:2)

This earth seems very dark indeed at times. The power and the ugliness of sin corrupts and rots the heart.

The oppression of the strong against the weak – the relentless assaults of the world, the flesh and the devil…

And the despair…does anyone care? Is anyone listening? Will this pain every end?

Will I ever get well? Will my friend talk to me again? Am I as ugly, unwanted and shameful as I so often feel in my heart?

Some wounds don’t ever seem to heal. Words are thrown about that cut to the heart. Parents let their kids know that they are unwanted, ugly, unclean. Spouses telling the ones they once vowed to love that they hate them. “You’re so stupid. You are worthless. If I threw you out, no one would have you…”

But we were created in honor. A little lower than the angels, crowned with glory! We were given dominion and the wonderful blessing of fruitfulness and life and love and unity: Be fruitful and multiply!

Sexuality was God’s way of delight and joy and spreading his kingdom throughout the world.

And how ugly it became! Instead of joy, now there is shame and guilt and pain. Heartache and loneliness. Anger, oppression.

It is an ugly, dark world and it so very often seems like the darkness will never end.

But Malachi describes the coming gospel – the Sun of Righteousness will arise with healing.

Here comes the sun, and I say it’s alright. With apologies to the Beetles.

Malachi was going for true light though, not wishful thinking. He wasn’t thinking of dreams of air, but the gospel of Christ. He had in mind the word of God made flesh and pouring out his life as an offering for sin.

All of your sin and guilt and shame was nailed to the cross, and instead of the curse you are restored to glory and honor in him. Here comes the sun!

And when the gospel is proclaimed and believed, it is as if the clouds have broken open, the first glimpse of the glorious day is seen from afar and we know…

We KNOW…

Here comes the sun. The Sun of righteousness is coming, and healing is coming with him. We know that because we have already glimpsed it. There is already hope there; we see the beginnings of a new life; a new way of thinking. So we can endure the remainder of the night, for the Sun is coming!

So let’s quit walking in darkness. Let’s quit walking as dead men who have no light, stumbling over the obstacles as blind men.

Awake, you who sleep, and Christ will give you light.

Healing is coming, dear ones! The broken heart will heal. The body will heal. The words that tore your soul will heal. Your tears will be wiped away. The scars will be wiped away. The soul will be restored, new and whole and light as air, freed from the muck and mire of sin and shame, filled with goodness and righteousness and truth.

And the filth that festers and grows in darkness will be flushed away when the Sun arises.

And we will walk again. We will rise up with new wings as eagles, filled with the Spirit of Christ, pure again with beauty and glory and honor!

Take heart, dear ones. Here comes the Sun!

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Filed under Gospel, Hope, Light