The God You Want vs The God Who Is

There are many times in our lives we are confronted with who God is in a way that challenges our current belief. It is beyond our capacity to fully comprehend his eternal nature, thus we make conclusions based on limited understanding. This is nothing new, but has been the ongoing struggle of humans since the beginning. We see as a model the New Testament letters written shortly after the launch of a church, correcting faulty teaching and practices.

For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. 5 As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.1 Timothy 4:3-5

The God who is will not always be the God we want. We have a tendency as humans to pursue the things that feed our passion. In some cases this is a good thing, but in others our hearts are not pure. This makes following what we want to be true, nothing but a lie. Our hearts are often deceitful and are subject to ongoing corruption by the world.

Often when we see God do or say something we like, we take that action or phrase and make an interpretation based on our own desires and perceptions. The truth is God never breaks character. Each word and action are always true to his nature and thus must be interpreted not through our desires but through the whole of scripture. An experience of God today, in the gospels or in the Old Testament is the same God with the same nature. Jesus is the one who spoke creation into being and was worshipped by Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

God is real. He is alive. He is not created from our suppositions. Our defining him as we wish does not make him so. He exists outside of our definition of who he is. He is the Alpha (beginning) and Omega(end). There is no end to his existence and no impact from his creations can change who he is. 

The Triune God spoken of in John 1 as before anything else is the same that exists in Genesis in creation. It is the same God who also cast Adam and Eve out of the garden and brought a flood to cover the earth that wiped out most of creation. He is the same God who made a covenant with Abraham and chose his offspring as the first witnesses to his plan of redemption. He is the same God who took on the form of man for our sake, and by his mercy took the punishment for those who turn to him in repentance. He is the same God who is preparing an eternal place for the elect and will return to bring an end to this age and judge the living and the dead. He has not changed from the beginning and will not in the end. His plan was known to him since before creation and we cannot disregard elements of who he is or what he has done. He is the same God from beginning to end and is true to his word.

The God we worship is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He is the God made clear through his taking on flesh and through his death and resurrection. He is further clarified through the sending of the Holy Spirit who leads us into true understanding of all God is.

In Acts 3 Peter explains to the crowd in Solomon’s Portico the power experienced isn’t in themselves or a new God. It is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (the God of their ancestors) who they put to death in ignorance before being raised back to life. This is not a new God or a new nature but the same God who existed before creation, now revealed clearly in the flesh.

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.2 Timothy 3:14-17

To know God better, we are never to adjust teachings endured since the beginning. There are certain things that are to be unshakable in our beliefs. We are not to tear up the foundations laid in the apostles’ teaching but rather allow the Holy Spirit to expose what is false through scripture in community. We are not to hold experience over scripture or isolate teachings that support our passion. Instead, we are to tear down any false view of God we have so that the truth can be built upon a solid foundation.

God’s hatred of sin is an area of contention for many. We have seen since the garden the reaction God has towards sin. God loathes it and punishes accordingly. We saw it with Adam and Eve, in Noah’s age with the flood and we see it in the requirement of the cross. In James 4 we see friendship with the world makes us enemies of God. 

In Acts 21, Paul travels to Jerusalem and is greeted by the new Jewish believers along with a riot of people looking to kill him because of his welcoming of the Gentiles and doing away with many customs. Instead of examining their views, the Jewish believers were so unwilling to abandon some false teaching they turned to anger and violence. This is not abnormal in the history of the church.

Wars have been fought between Christians over false beliefs. My own Anabaptist history has much persecution for beliefs. The early Anabaptists faced drowning for views of scripture (like full-immersion baptism) seen as heresy by Catholics and Lutherans alike. As the Anabaptists read the bible in their own language they discovered false practices and teaching and looked to correct them for which some were met with death.

Interestingly, for the Anabaptists it was an era of returning to early traditions and understanding the way of Jesus, but the false beliefs of the age (inside and out of the church) were so embedded in believers this movement was met with hostility and pride. We should be very careful when approaching the teaching and wisdom of the present age, always holding it up to our plumbline (the word of God).

No one wants to be caught on the side of false teaching like those who wanted to kill Paul or the other faithful throughout history. The solution seems to be to allow the truth of scripture to convict and correct our understanding. We should not shift like the winds with every teaching but stand firm on the word of God. When the word of God is not comfortable or what God does is not compatible with our understanding, we must confess we are wrong about who God is and what he commands us to do.

I would not want to be like the Jews who didn’t recognize their own God and cried out for his death. To avoid this we must embrace truth even though it requires suffering or difficulty. The radical teaching of Jesus will forever be radical. His words are accompanied by a promise of suffering. The world at large will never accept him, and a choice to be friends with this world is a choice to be an enemy of God (James 4:4). On which side will you fall?

“God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” – James 4:6

Humility is required to embrace correction. Pride will lead us down the path of heresy and keep us there. Pride doesn’t just hinder us in the presence of others, but also alone in the presence of God. Pride impedes us admitting error and wrongdoing which keeps us from the grace of God. As we approach all teaching we must have a desire to have exposed what is wrong both in our current view and in what is newly introduced.

So humble yourself before God. Ask him to expose where you have worshipped a false God. Spend time in the word with others asking God to build up a right view of who he is and what he has called you to. When Jesus makes a command, follow it. When you need the correction of a letter in the New Testament, take it. And when the God of Abraham (Old Testament) makes no sense to you, seek to know him as the one true God.

Grace is inaccessible if we remain proud. There is no grace for willful ignorance to the truth or disobedience to his commands. God’s grace leads us through correction to holiness. If that is not the direction we are headed, we will not know his grace. Through humility, however, his grace will forever bring us from glory to glory until we reach our eternal home with Christ.

Hide not from the truth of who God is. We must not create for ourselves false gods reflecting what we desire. That is not God.  There is only one God who is, was and always will be. He is the I AM and no created thing can alter the Uncreated One.

What is there to Forgive?

When contrasting arguments are laid out it is easier to distinguish the path and outcome. When it comes to a life filled with emotions and complications, it is not always so easy. The last blog started on the adventure of trying to increase vigilance to remain on the path that leads to life.

This series of blogs is not presenting a way of living that earns salvation, but displays the path of Jesus. Jesus is the way the truth and the life, the only way to the Father and life eternal is through him. This implies the path of life placed before us through Jesus is narrow. It is walking as he does and abandoning the path of death that we walked before knowing him.

The paths before us lead us either back to death or continue us along the path of life with Christ.

The paths of forgiveness and unforgiveness like that of humility and pride split into the same two paths. Forgiveness, like humility, can be found on the way to life and unforgiveness, well you can probably figure out where that leads.

Jesus highlighted this contrast in his teaching with a parable. He went as far as to say that our own forgiveness is tied to the forgiveness we show to others. There is no wiggle room on this theme; it is life or death that lies in front of us.

Jesus then models what to do in one of his last acts on the cross with the words “forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)

Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.
Matthew 18:21-22

Forgiveness does not keep memory of hurt. It lays no foundation on which to build future wounds or slights. In so many instances division or separation comes as a result of a build up of events. Anger at a first time offence is very rare. Usually it is triggered by memories of past wounds that are still raw, or lightly scabbed. When Jesus responds to the man saying to forgive 70 x 7 he is not telling him to start keeping a notebook with tallies of how many times he has forgiven people. Without getting into the numerical significance, although I encourage you to explore that yourself, Jesus is essentially saying to forgive infinitude.

You may have heard it said “time heals all wounds”. Whoever told you that was misinformed. Just take a look at the conflicts in the Middle East, or maybe even the current status of the American people. Time just lets wounds fester unless treated. Like a physical wound, it gets worse and infection sets in if untreated.

It is not time that heals emotional wounds, but God through forgiveness. Healing comes not from just speaking words of forgiveness but acknowledging the pain and handing it over to God. Removing the pain and letting go of any desired vengeance makes room for healing. The memory is not removed but the wound then is. In place of pain comes joy. If that person or situation is brought up in the future there is nothing to trigger, no wound to poke.

Suppression is not forgiveness. Ignoring that something happened does not take away any of the pain, but temporarily numbs us until the pain becomes unbearable down the road. Suppression is used because of the promise of time dealing with the wound on its own.

Like any infection, unforgiveness spreads. It can lead to anger, and a quickness to take offense. What could have easily been overlooked in the past becomes a new wound. Unforgiveness can lead to gossip which takes the place of productive speech and it invites others on that path to death.

Forgiveness can be an active practice through inviting God to reveal any harboured unforgiveness to deal with. A person committed to walking in forgiveness doesn’t wait for disaster, but acknowledges even a small hurt or sin done against them and quickly forgives and delivers unto the cross the wound to be nailed there with Jesus. The practice should in the end never desire another person to be set on the road to death but saved onto the path of life. Forgiveness is the practice that turns hurt into praying for those who persecute you. There is no promise of a future free of pain, just the promise of a past free of it.

23 “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. 24 When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 25 And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26 So the servant[c] fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27 And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. 28 But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ 29 So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 30 He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. 31 When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. 32 Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ 34 And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. 35 So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”
Matthew 18:23-35

The choice of forgiveness is not an easy one. There is something inside of us that acknowledges the wrong done and recognizes the need for justice. To make matters worse, if our own health or wellbeing was attacked in the process, we may feel violated. Sometimes we feel as though withholding forgiveness is the only way to hold out for justice.

Can you imagine if God felt this way about our sin towards him? What if he responded to our sin against him in that same way? The justice of God is mercy triumphing over judgement. On the cross Jesus took upon himself judgement that we may receive his mercy. All repented sin is greeted by the mercy of God as our sin is nailed with Jesus to the cross. That which is left unrepented will meet the judgement of God. What is fascinating is Jesus tells us mercy is unavailable to those who harbour unforgiveness in Matthew 18. The parable of the servants is used to demonstrate the seriousness with which God treats unforgiveness. Our being forgiven is placed in our hands as we choose to or not to forgive others.

When it is presented this way, how could we question the significance of unforgiveness? To receive the deserved punishment instead of the forgiveness offered to us because of our own inability to forgive is a price I am unwilling to pay. It is too steep!

As we saw in the last blog, the path of life takes vigilance. On it we find the fruit of the spirit but it takes discipline to stay on it. There are influences both external and internal that try to pull us away and off the path. Regarding forgiveness, we must be quick to forgive but also be sure to expose our hearts before God to find if there is any remaining unforgiveness.

The Lord knows the capacity and timing needed. Steps on the path must be taken in order. The grace of God pulls us along revealing the next obedience. I have found after asking the question “Is there any person I have not forgiven?” the Lord doesn’t withhold but protects me until I am ready to face a past situation. I remember a moment when God dealt with my inability to receive love from others and a floodgate of memories came in accompanied by an awareness of unforgiveness. This was after years of asking this question of God regularly.

When unforgiveness is held it is like a weight pressed upon us. We can ignore the pain by suppressing the memory or hold resentment but as soon as another situation touches the previous wound it adds another weight on top of the old one. Over time that weight grows to a point of unbearable pain. That last event could be very small but because of the built up weight it causes us to lash out and end relationships. If we go our whole lives without practicing forgiveness many old wounds with stacks of weight on them will be triggered. We become fragile from a life of unforgiveness. The Holy Spirit can lead us through memories of situations and people we harbour unforgiveness against. Through forgiveness and giving God the pain, those weights are removed leaving us free to embrace any future situations fresh.

This is why forgiving 70×7 times is possible. The pain is not felt all at once as the past wounds have no bearance on the future. Imagine how many relationships could be saved if there was no build up of unforgiveness and the past wounds had no impact on the present reality!

When we forgive someone, it doesn’t snap them right back into a category of trust. When there is no repentance on the side of the other person, it gives us awareness of where they stand with God. We may very well have to practice turning the other cheek, but it is not out of blindness but obedience that reconciliation happens (if beneficial). The presence of unrepentant sin will continue to separate us after we have forgiven the other person. Our forgiveness does not cancel their need to repent, and as always sin separates us from God and others.

I was reminded by a friend this week that pursuing reconciliation between brothers and sisters in Christ is the call. At times the vulnerability of that pursuit is difficult for me. Taking another punch and forgiving again without sharing how it impacts me is easier for me than sharing the impact with the one who wounded me. I often need the reminder that God actually desires I be loved by those he has chosen to walk with me. Without pursuing reconciliation, that option is not on the table.

There was a moment in my life when I had a word from the Lord to not trust another leader. I ignored this word giving him the opportunity to create difficulties, division, and sin in the lives of the people I led. God was so gracious in healing those wounds, but it didn’t have to go as it did. There are people that are compromised by sin and lies. These people cannot be trusted. It does not mean we have grounds to withhold forgiveness, but it does mean we should withhold trust and partnership.

Forgiveness is a command and not a choice on our behalf. The decisions which follow are not always as clear. How we manage the relationship after forgiveness requires discernment, obedience and an understanding of whether the heart of the person is repentant. I am sure a future blog is in order to focus on how to navigate those relationships, but for now we need to see the clear choice of paths.

There is no option on the path to life but forgiveness. Unforgiveness will always take us on a hard turn off the narrow path and bring about disaster in our lives. As all sin does, unforgiveness takes root in the heart and spreads to corrupt everything within us.

A Choice of Two Paths

I often reflect on the dynamic contrasts presented in scripture. We can sometimes miss this when we read scripture in small chunks. As we read larger sections, we see the drastic contrast between the path of Jesus and the path of sin.

Scripture presents many forks in the road. One path leads to life and the other leads to death. Some see a third alternative made up of a balance of the two, but in many cases this is impossible. A person cannot allow part of himself to follow the path to death and another part to life. We were not created fragmented like this.

This is why writers like Paul list practices that send someone down the path to death next to a list of actions on the path of life (Ephesians 4:17-5:21). Life and death do not share a path. They cannot. As we come to know the way of Jesus, the path comes into greater focus. We learn to stay on it as the distinctions are clarified. There are not individual paths for each contrasting characteristic or choice. It is one path we walk on that leads to life or death.

In my scripture reading recently the postures of pride and humility have become as distinct as east from west. The way of humility is on the path to life while pride leads to death. It becomes so clear as we see the path chosen by Lucifer contrasted against the path of Jesus. Is there a clearer life and death analogy than the chosen path of God and Satan?

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Philippians 2:5‭-‬8

In Philippians 2 the story of Jesus coming to Earth is told through the lens of God giving up his place of divinity to be born without status and to go on to die a shameful death. The humility shown is astounding. God clung not to position, power or wealth, but gave it up although he deserves all honour and praise. In the end Jesus is elevated and will be praised on the lips of all created beings.

In Ezekiel 28 the fall of Lucifer tells the opposite story:

Your heart was proud because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor. I cast you to the ground; I exposed you before kings, to feast their eyes on you.
Ezekiel 28:17

Lucifer reached for the status of God. His own beauty and wisdom led him to elevate himself. That led to his exile from heaven, cast out of the presence of God to endure eternal death or existence apart from God and his goodness. There is not a lot told to us of the battle in heaven and eventual exile of Satan and his followers. What we do know is equality with God was not his place and he reached for it.

In both of these contrasted narratives there is an exodus from heaven. One is chosen and the other forced. For Lucifer it is exile from heaven, he is thrown to the earth. For Jesus it is voluntary with a planned elevation back to eternity in Heaven.

Although our starting place was not heaven we are faced with the same choice and the same ending. The way of Jesus presents us with service to all in humility. We are never to look to our own elevation here in the eyes of the world (or even other believers) but for the sake of others, just as Jesus gained nothing for himself in descending to earth. He being God was already the highest authority but gave it up.

Pride is to think of oneself much. Humility is to think of oneself little. The result then of humility is to think of the interests of others. Our own way and legacy ceases to be priority. Pride is not just when we reach for equality with God, but when we look to our own elevation. It is when we act entitled, our thoughts thinking of what we deserve and where we should be. This does not mean positions of power or leadership are evil. A role of power still has the path of humility available. Does Jesus not model this perfectly?

While on earth, Jesus welcomed those who had nothing to give him instead of embracing people in power. He invited the children, the sick, the poor and despots to him and gave them life. Though power he had, he used it not for himself even though being God he is deserving of all honour, power, and glory. Humility is the path of service fueled by love of others.

The heart is where the divide really happens. A person could have actions of service while they are only doing it to be seen by others. They might post to social media of all of the good they are doing. This reveals the prideful heart. Rather than doing it in quiet for the sake of others, they need to be seen. They are thinking of themselves. A humble heart will perform the same actions in secret looking to the interest of the one they serve.

Humility doesn’t desire recognition or reward. It is important to search out our hearts posture. As we see through scripture, one path leads to death and the other to life. Stay far away from pride. Humble yourself before God and repent if you see the orientation of your heart towards your own elevation. It is not too late to get onto the path of life. His grace sustains us on the path in our ignorance, but when conviction comes, the choice must be made.

Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you.
1 Peter 5:5‭-‬6

This topic which seems so clear is at times so difficult to see our error. So with this I close; be vigilant in humbling yourself before God, prudent in guarding your heart, for the path is narrow and many voices will attempt to lead you astray.

Somebody Save Me

Do you feel at times you need saving? We often see individuals and groups in the media crying out, “We need to be saved!”.

I have found both in scripture and in life that looking to a saviour apart from Christ leaves me empty. Trusting in a man, a group or a philosophy ultimately leaves me hollow. This is the opposite of what I have found in Christ. There is no let down in him at any point in time.

What is it we let rob our peace? Do the happenings of our day cause us to call out for salvation to anyone who will listen? Or do we trust in the goodness of the Saviour we already have? Don’t get me wrong, receiving charity from a person or relying on others can be a very good thing, but not at the expense of our peace. This is not to say we should go through life numb and without anything rocking us. That would in fact remove us from the one above as well.

This is why Paul so adamantly shut down the comparisons and praise of the people. People wanted to make Paul their saviour. They mistook him as a God (Acts 14) and compared him to Apollos (1Corinthians 3) as the saviour to turn to. It took a concerted effort for Paul to fend off these attempts. This is still an issue today that religious leaders are looked to for saving rather than Christ himself.

So how do we navigate receiving, and expecting things from people without rejecting God in the process? Treating God as Saviour and Lord are both required. Surrender is how we know him as Saviour, not to be saved as we would desire, but how he chooses to do it. The story of God hardening Pharaoh’s heart, sending 10 plagues (Exodus 7-12) and then delivering the Israelites, is not how any of us would choose to be saved. But it was the way of God, and in the end, all of Israel (and Egypt) were in awe of God. Israel to this day knows God as the one who saved them from Egypt.

This is the essence of the first commandment — having no other Gods beside the Lord. Looking to a man or institution as an answer to a problem is fine, but not for salvation. What is the distinction?

Will we be saved by a vaccine or by a political party that restores our freedom? Are we waiting for these things? Are we like the Hebrew people who didn’t know their God and wanted Pharaoh to deliver them from the oppression he had placed upon them? Where did that get them? It was in finally turning to God as Saviour as they followed his instruction on the day of Passover, that they were saved from death.

Every time I hear or see a follower of Jesus use the term “Make America Great Again” (MAGA) I picture the Israelites crying out to God to give them a king. It is a statement of rejection of God and desire to trust in a man for their salvation. I am not making a political statement but an assessment of who we trust with saving us. The statement MAGA implies there is both a man and nation who can bring salvation. A vote for a person should not be a welcoming of a saviour.

Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah and said to him, “Behold, you are old and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint for us a king to judge us like all the nations.” But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to judge us.” And Samuel prayed to the Lord. And the Lord said to Samuel, “Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. According to all the deeds they have done, from the day I brought them up out of Egypt even to this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are also doing to you. Now then, obey their voice; only you shall solemnly warn them and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them.”
1 Samuel 8:4-9

In the final days of Judges leading Israel, there came a cry from the people for a king. They desired a man as saviour and king instead of God. This was a rejection of God and not just an addition of another. They already had a system with leaders enacting the words of God, but they wanted to be like the rest of the world who didn’t know the God who brought them out of Egypt.

Looking elsewhere for a saviour reveals a rejection of Jesus. Just like Israel asking for a king, it comes down to us not understanding who Jesus is. Our seeking a saviour elsewhere is heartbreaking to God. It means we don’t really know Jesus. How could we search elsewhere if we did?

I think most Christians, if they were to give a quick gut response, would claim Jesus as Saviour. But if they were to take the proper time for introspection, they would realize they look elsewhere. I think there is often a divide between the songs we sing on Sunday and who we cry out to during the week.

The narrative of this world will always be that we need saving. It is what their hearts are screaming. It is the reality they live in. If they are self aware, it will be their reaction to their life situation because they do need a saviour. Since the fall, creation itself speaks to a need for a saviour. The heart of man is scrambling, searching for something or someone to cling to for salvation. We should not be surprised when politicians or social movements use this to build themselves up as a saviour. Have you noticed a political debate often turns into “if you vote for my opponent you are asking for destruction but if you vote for me you are asking for life”?

Are you seduced by this talk? Support for a person or recognition of the benefit they bring is not a bad thing. We should care about the place we live, but desperation for what one man could bring, or fear of what one man could provide reveals you are still looking for a saviour.

Does this mean we don’t take aid from others? No not at all! We receive it with thanksgiving of the person/people/organization, but also God. For we know that every good and perfect thing comes from above. Our provision is ultimately from him. So we are thankful for the vessel of blessing and the one who provides the blessing. The answer is not to become numb or go through life carefree. The answer is to put our faith in the Saviour who is always worthy of our trust, the one who is always faithful and merciful.

The narrative of the church should always be “we have found our Saviour and his name is Jesus”. The church has no need for another saviour, but only that which he provides. You will notice in Paul’s writing to the Ephesian church he makes a point in showing that God has gifted the church with apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers. They are not saviours but people provided by God to serve necessary functions. In turn, the Great Commission sends us out to make new disciples of Jesus. It is he who is saving them.

I leave you with a hymn that reflects my heart’s response to this topic.

“Great is Thy faithfulness, ” O God my Father,
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not
As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.
“Great is Thy faithfulness!” “Great is Thy faithfulness!”
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided—
“Great is Thy faithfulness, ” Lord, unto me!
Summer and winter, and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon and stars in their courses above,
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.
“Great is Thy faithfulness!” “Great is Thy faithfulness!”
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided—
“Great is Thy faithfulness, ” Lord, unto me!
Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!
“Great is Thy faithfulness!” “Great is Thy faithfulness!”
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided—
“Great is Thy faithfulness, ” Lord, unto me!
William Marion Runyan

Is God For You?

I have heard the statement “God is for you” so many times recently. These words bring much hope to the listener especially in times of difficulty, but I can’t help but wonder if these words are true.

This saying is derived from Jeremiah 29:11. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Yes, this is the verse you often see tattooed on arms, or written in profiles on Instagram. This verse has become the mantra for many. But is this verse understood correctly and can it be attributed to everyone?

Let’s press pause on that question to explore whether we can take promises given to a specific person in scripture and receive them for ourselves. Often when I see a promise in scripture I put it through a simple test. I ask, “Could this verse as I understand it apply to Stephen (martyr), Paul (often beaten, shipwrecked and imprisoned because of obedience to God) or Job? If it can’t, then the promise isn’t plug and play in the way I understand it.

It is really hard to know what promises are true for us if we don’t know the full story of God. We end up with an a la carte God. It is not the “I AM” but our own fabrication. We can’t know how he deals with us, or what he has planned for us if we don’t know Him.

Let’s take for example the promise God gives to Abraham. “Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations.” (Genesis 17:4). Can we take this promise and claim it for everyone? I think not. Think of the population growth.

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
and before you were born I consecrated you;
I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”
Jeremiah 1:5

The book of Jeremiah itself begins in chapter 1 with God speaking to the unique call to Jeremiah. In fact the whole book contains moments of God speaking directly to Jeremiah dealing solely with the life of Jeremiah and his call. In other parts God delivers messages directly to the nation of Israel. Jeremiah 29:11 is one of those. Spoken to a specific people, plan and timeline.

Jeremiah 29 begins with this explanation: “These are the words of the letter that Jeremiah the prophet sent from Jerusalem to the surviving elders of the exiles, and to the priests, the prophets, and all the people, whom Nebuchadnezzar had taken into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon.” The entire chapter, including verse 11, is addressed to these recipients.

So back to that question, is God for you? Absolutely he is for you. The Gospel screams he is for you. He took the punishment you deserve upon himself while you were still a sinner so that you may know life. If that doesn’t mean he is for you, I don’t know what else he can do.

But is he for everything you do?

The heart is deceitful above all things,
and desperately sick;
who can understand it?
“I the Lord search the heart
and test the mind,
to give every man according to his ways,
according to the fruit of his deeds.”
Jeremiah 17:9-10

God is not for our plans. He is not completely for our thoughts and desires. Many of our desires are harmful for us and he is not ok with plans that lead to death. Often when we hear “He is for you” we receive it as he will bless me absolutely, or in whatever I want to do.

Paul in writing to the church in Ephesus makes a point of reminding the believers God has prepared tasks for us to walk into. He tells us, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10) That means it is Christ who commands my steps, who prepares a way for me. We can know these plans are good, but they often differ from our own plans, and at times are not our interpretation of what is good.

Our understanding of God being for us and prospering us is usually applied to how we want to prosper and not viewed through the lens of what God knows is best for us. We hear he is for us and the path of “drinking from the cup of suffering” (Mark 10:38) or “picking up our cross” (Matthew 16:24-26)doesn’t fit that narrative. We may think we will prosper despite acting in rebellion to God. God does not enable us in our sin, but allows us to feel the refining fire that we may repent and turn back to him.

The place to start understanding a God who is for us begins with surrendering our assumptions of what that means. It begins with studying the stories of how he walked with the faithful before us. We need to read the entirety of scripture, not just select stories we like.

Walking in the Lord’s favor means walking in right standing with God. It means walking in repentance and laying down our own lives in obedience to Jesus our Lord. Remember it is not about us. We are living for Jesus. Jesus is not a butler waiting to act at our will and prosper our lives. We are in fact the servants tasked with advancing the kingdom of God through the works he has prepared for us.

Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.
John 15:20

The same God who told Israel of his plans not to harm them, promised us we would be persecuted. Jesus over and over promises his followers will be persecuted as he was. This does not contradict any other promise he gives us. Our view of God being for us must be defined through this lens. It must be consistent with what Jesus calls us to. It must be understood through how he has walked with his people and not as we desire it to read.

Joshua (in Joshua 5) confronts the commander of the Lord’s army asking whose side he is on. The commander replies he is on the Lord’s side. Life is not about us. It is not our glory we are to seek but God’s. It is not our plans he blesses but his plans we follow. Like Joshua we must decide who we are living for, ourselves or God.

The question we should ultimately be asking is not Is God for me? but am I for Him?

Peace I Leave With You

Do you know what you were made for? The answer to this question is one which many men and women search their whole lives to find. This question comes from a place of unrest. The conflict within a person causes them to seek meaning, often from many different sources.

Finding your purpose through relationships, activities, work and even helping others will not lead you to the peace you seek. For a while one may be satisfied feeling the high in the newness of something, but they will find themselves again searching for meaning. Most people have numerous crisis points as they discover themselves or assess their lives, often in their teens, midlife or even retirement.

A life of crisis was never in our design. It is a result of having no peace, or Shalom. Shalom is wholeness. It is the state of something being aligned, harmonious, unbroken. It is the way we were created and what our souls long for. Without this peace, we will forever have chaos within and create chaos around us.

We translate the word Shalom (Hebrew) and Eirene (Greek) to peace, but there is such depth to the word shalom that can be missed in translation. The word peace in English has a fairly narrow focus. When first created or translated from Anglo-French in the twelfth century, the word peace was used to mean a freedom from civil disorder and spoke to a unified nation. It evolved to include “friendly relations between people” over the next hundred or so years. In all these cases it spoke to a relationship between separate entities.

The Greek or Hebrew word has more depth to it. It speaks to something being as it was made to be, whole, in order, prosperous. As believers, we know sin has impacted every created thing and thus peace is only made possible through Christ. Nothing, not even creation itself was untainted by the fall. So nothing can be at peace without the blood of Christ.

Peace is accomplished from the finished work of the cross. The restorative work of the cross brings us to a place of peace. That is why the peace of Jesus is complete whereas it fails from any other source.

Peace is the result of living as we were created to. We were created to live for Jesus. In all we do, we are to do it with our eyes fixed on Jesus. We do all things with and for Christ. Peace only exists when that focus is unbroken, when each action is “what we see the Father doing”.

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. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
Colossians 1:16-20

One could say the Gospel summed up in one word is peace. The message we bring to the world is that of peace. Our message is that through repentance there awaits restoration in Jesus to the way you were made. You can find peace through calling Jesus Lord. By placing your hope and trust only in Jesus, you can find rightness with God and be made fully whole.

True Shalom is not primarily about circumstances although that is included. It is about an alignment of creation with its natural state. Shalom was created by and for Jesus. Since the fall of man, the concept of peace has always been accompanied by hope, hope in the one that would restore what was corrupted.

Jesus does not just bring peace in circumstances, but rather a holistic peace that remains beyond the experience. He in fact is our peace. We were created by and for him so our wholeness is dependent upon him being our focus. That is true for all. The inner chaos of a life not centered on Jesus will soon bubble over to the outside. Likewise, the peace Jesus gives will in turn bubble over to the world around.

26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.
John 14:26-27

This hope for peace was realized in the person of Jesus who in turn sent the Holy Spirit to bring us a peace within that cannot be touched by the outside world. Jesus was and is the answer for a world without peace. He is the one that can restore us to the way we were made for he is the word that spoke us into being. The word that became flesh to dwell among us is the one that spoke creation into being. (John 1) The Holy Spirit in turn reveals Jesus and makes known his instruction to us producing the fruit of peace in our continued obedience.

If we try and pursue peace apart from aligning under the Lordship of Christ, it is not peace we pursue. Pursuing an end to a conflict, for example, is not the same as pursuing the biblical concept of peace. We must also understand the world’s pursuit of peace without Jesus is a fool’s errand. There can be ceasefires for a time and an end to specific external conflict but the chaos can only be stilled through the blood of Christ.

We have used the word peace in such a narrow capacity that we haven’t allowed the true fruit to ripen. This word with such depth of meaning, which for so long has been used as a blessing in coming and going, has lost its meaning.

We as believers can and should seek an end to world conflicts, but always alongside the message of the peace of Christ. We must acknowledge that our pursuits apart from Christ are pure vanity. We could stop wars and rescue millions of slaves but without Jesus they will eternally be without peace. This doesn’t mean we stop doing the work of the kingdom, but we must know there is no peace apart from the blood of Christ and repentance of sin.

We were made by Jesus and for him. He didn’t stop there, however. Knowing our peace would be lost to sin, he took the form of his creation and through his blood spilled on the cross welcomed us back to peace and a state of living for him. Therefore, let us stop searching for peace apart from Christ and discover it is only through the Lordship of Christ that peace is found.

How beautiful upon the mountains
are the feet of him who brings good news,
who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness,
who publishes salvation,
who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”
Isaiah 52:7

Finding Treasure

Did you know the treasure I have found in Jesus is worth everything to me? The sacrifice Jesus paid is worth life itself. To be made right before God and brought into relationship with the living God, let alone the inheritance I will receive, is worth everything. What Jesus has done is good news, and remains good news even when we find out  the cost is to give our lives as a living sacrifice. To live in full obedience to a good God demands we lose our lives so we might receive life eternal.

For the past few months, I haven’t been able to move away from contemplating the cost of following Jesus. It is important to know what we are gaining in following Jesus but also the cost. It costs our lives to follow him but in this we are not paying for all Jesus has done. There is nothing we could give that can pay the cost of salvation.

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”

Matthew 13:44

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.”

Matthew 13:45-46

In both of the parables about discovering the kingdom of God, the cost to acquire it is everything they had. They found the treasure and got rid of everything to obtain it. It was of that great value and importance to them.

I think when we read these stories we get caught up solely on the great value and miss the part where everything else in their life is now gone. It has been taken away but they leave rejoicing because of what they have found.

It reminds me of the story of the rich young ruler who approaches Jesus with a desire to follow him (Matthew 19:16-22). He faces the cost of having to sell his possessions and give everything he has to the poor. This was a high cost and we are left wondering, why did this guy have such a high cost of entry into the kingdom of God? 

The conclusion I have come to is this is what Jesus requires of us all. He does not always require us to give all of our physical possessions and wealth away, but the things of this world are no longer to have a hold of us. To enter the Kingdom of God we must surrender the entirety of our lives to him. Jesus just pointed to that big idol and said you need to give that up to follow me.

He does the same thing with each one of us. I know this isn’t a popular topic. But Jesus doesn’t just add to your life, he tells us to remove things we pursue and find comfort in apart from him. It blows a hole in how we often view the blessing of God. Please never forget that what we inherit in this is far greater than anything we give up. What we give up is good for us, but it is a cost when it is demanded we hand it over.It is a cost because we are blinded by the trappings of this world. Our eyes are fixed on the here and now, and it is hard for us to see what God can give beyond the physical things in front of us.

I am reminded as I write this of Jesus’ response to James and John (or more specifically their mother in Mark 10:35-45) following their request for seats of power beside Jesus. His response is not of granting this request but of asking if they are prepared to drink from the same cup of suffering he is to endure.

There is a constant warning of persecution that Jesus gives his followers. These are not just empty words but a promise of what is to come for those who follow him. There is no expiry date on this. There will always be people who hate Jesus and take it out on those who follow him. 

I think it is time we start acknowledging that words like blessing have to be understood not through a lens of the world but through that of God (particularly found in scripture). We should maybe start looking at the heroes of the faith who were persecuted and without worldly wealth as living a blessed life.

I am not making an argument to search out persecution intentionally. I am trying to set up a life that holds everything of this world with a loose grip, willing to let it go as directed by God, even if it is painful trusting in a good God who sees the need for us to be rid of certain things, or enter into certain situations.

There is an inherent cost to following Jesus. It is renouncing all other masters, for with Jesus there can only be one master. That is not the way we are used to living. We treat ourselves and many others as Lord of our lives. We experience the cost when we reach a situation where we confront a love of money and have to let go of it. The cost is letting go of the way our lives pursue that love of money.

We see the cost in the lives of the disciples, giving up occupations and leaving their homes to follow Jesus in scripture. But the cost doesn’t end there. Frequently they are faced with a worldly desire they have to let go of to embrace Jesus.

It is the same for us. Not only was there an initial cost to follow Jesus, but our lives ongoingly present a cost to following Jesus. We no longer serve the gods of wealth, power, status, or family. We come into moments of conflict regularly where we must count the cost as followers of Jesus and believe the treasure of Jesus is worth more than what we see in front of us. 

The pursuits and desires we are bombarded with in this world are no longer what we follow. We have given those up and are set on the path of the Kingdom of God. It is narrow with many seductive offshoots, but we must not turn away from the path. For the treasure that lies ahead is of value beyond comprehension. We get to experience a taste of that treasure here, but what awaits is unimaginable.

Deny Yourself

“If anyone wishes to follow me, he must deny himself, pick up his cross and follow me.”
Matthew 16:24

How practiced are we in denying ourselves? To abstain from making a purchase, avoid an impulse buy, not watch every football game, and choose not to embrace your “best life”, is very countercultural. Between the values pulled from consumerism and individualism which heavily govern our lives, there is not much room for self denial.

When Jesus made the invitation to follow him there was always a cost involved. There was an invitation to give up your life and deny yourself. What you desire is to be sacrificed. For the rich young ruler it was his wealth. For many it was leaving their occupation. For some it was following before their father died. In all cases, Jesus zeroed in on a desire and made it clear that following him had a cost.

As I have observed reactions in this pandemic, I realize it has exposed our lack of practice in denying ourselves. If we were practiced in it we would not be throwing tantrums when something is taken away from us by someone else. If we were used to saying no to our own desires then when someone else calls us to it, we wouldn’t find it overly difficult. In fact, we could find joy in the act of denying ourselves.

Have you ever thought of the persecuted church in this light? They understand the cost when they choose to follow Jesus. They give up everything in this life to follow him. Everything can and often is taken away from them, yet they still follow and find joy in obedience to God. Have you ever noticed Paul is able to rejoice from prison? He doesn’t even ask people to pray for his release.

It is interesting those we once most revered in the faith were monks that essentially gave up every pleasure of this world and martyrs who gave up their lives. I am not going to get into a discussion here on that extreme but they surely understood there was freedom in letting go of the desires of this world. There was a clarity that came with denial and an openness to the desires that God gives.

If we are able to deny ourselves in obedience to God, then when a situation comes where we need to give something up or something is taken from us (even our “freedoms”), we are content. If we haven’t learned the freedom that comes through self denial it will feel like punishment and we will be filled with grief or anger.

To be honest, if we do not practice self denial we will be prone to the responses of a toddler who throws a temper tantrum in the store when they can’t have the toy they wanted. A good parent knows giving into every desire of your child isn’t good. That’s why you limit screen time and the amount of sugar they consume. I would say many recent posts on social media have resembled a bunch of toddlers at a toy store whose parents just said no.

I expect this behaviour from the world, but not from believers. We should be able to rejoice in denying ourselves. How often do we read the grumblings of the Israelites in the wilderness and think, “Look at the way God is caring for you. Why are you complaining?” And then sports are shut down and we can’t leave the province so we complain just as badly. Self denial helps deliver us from the state of entitlement which was the posture of our old self and into a state of contentment. “It is well with my soul” can only really be understood through learning Jesus is truly enough. That’s why he requires us to deny ourselves the things of this world. Our whole self needs to discover this peace that only comes through the practice of self denial.

I have gone through seasons of my life where I have been convicted about the amount of time I spend focused on things of this world. I remember years ago when I had to give up watching sports for a time, not just because of the amount of time I spent on it, but because it had become an idol in my life. The act of denying myself this thing I loved was necessary to discover what had eternal value.

We all start following Jesus with a set of beliefs, values and desires. The cost of following Jesus is giving those up in surrender to follow Jesus. That is not to say there won’t be some desires that are good and will be encouraged by God, but they are to be laid down regardless. Our walk with Jesus is going to be filled with constant disruptions. Some of these will be from what Jesus requires of us, and some are because of a fallen world with hardened hearts.

We know from the Gospels that when Jesus invites someone to follow him he has them lay down the things of import at the start. This however is just the start of a life learning to deny themselves, not the completion of the sacrifice.

15 Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. 16 For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world. 17 And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever.
1 John 2:15-17

When we don’t deny ourselves we get tricked into thinking this world is enough. We begin to live for what happens in the here and now. When we deny ourselves we begin to remember the eternal and begin to experience the peace that comes in living for heaven and not for earth. What comes is a peace in the storm as we become aware this life is but a breath for the purpose of imitating Christ and being transformed into his image.

I posted something on facebook the other day which I think is a good gut check: Nothing exposes our lack of self denial in obedience to God quite like our reaction to prolonged forced withdrawal (AKA long suffering).

I will not ignore the fact some things taken away from us we cannot just roll over on. If the state takes away something commanded by God it cannot be a healthy form of denial but will steal us away from him. We see this in the early church as well as in the persecuted church where they must discern where obedience to God is at odds with obedience to the authorities of this world.

When denial is not a voluntary act and something is taken away from us, we panic because our eyes are fixed on this world. When we are used to denying ourselves, we still need to surrender to God and possibly mourn, but it is a practiced habit and a place of peace, not internal chaos.

Denying ourselves is a practice for us until the day when our only desires are those which God has. The life of a believer is one in which we should ever be getting closer to this but will never attain until Jesus returns or calls us home. I long for that day, but know that while I am here I must continue to surrender my desires and practice the discipline of denying myself.

What Guides our Speech?

Does anyone else remember the time when everyone wore bracelets with WWJD written on them? For those of you who don’t, WWJD stands for What Would Jesus Do. It was supposed to be a constant reminder to ask yourself in any given situation, “What would Jesus do here?” Everyone who attended a youth conference at the time sported the bracelet.

The memory came to me as I was reflecting on the words of Jesus in John 5:

19 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise. 20 For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he himself is doing. And greater works than these will he show him, so you may marvel.
John 5:19-20

These words keep coming back to me as I scroll through my social media feed. I think, would Jesus post these words or share this link? Is this something the Father is about? I know these are words about Jesus who is both fully God and fully man. He has an awareness of the plans of God we will not on this side of heaven be able to fully grasp. But that being said, is our life’s goal to only do what we see the Father doing?

You might say this is an impossible goal, and we would be idle all the time if this were the case. This is a possible response when facing the question of holiness and obedience to God. It is not what the result should be but some people treat the words with fear rather than freedom.

Scripture is chock-full of instruction on how to live and what business God is about. There are numerous words given on how to act in the workplace, treat the people around you, and pursue success. I think the place we must start is in the word. We must be looking for understanding of how Jesus would attack the situations we are facing. What advice would he give to a friend or co-worker?

We are told to stay away from certain things because they do not agree with the character and promises of God. This doesn’t mean we should try to defend our position with scripture, but be transformed by the word, allowing it to change the advice we would give. How could we ever say we are about the Father’s business when we ignore the instructions he has already given us?

Words like those found in the Sermon on the Mount, or any of Jesus’ teachings, when applied will transform much of the advice we give and actions we take.

Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.
Ephesians 4:29

These words in Ephesians, if made a grid for every social media post, would pretty quickly clean up our feeds (both in quantity and quality). A sign of maturity is our every word and action being inspired and guided by God. Worldly platitudes no longer come from the lips, and slander has no place in the heart. Only a word that is acceptable before God, one that would pass the lips of Jesus, flows from ours.

There will be a point in time when we are so free from the hold this world has on us that out of our hearts will pour only what the Father is about. That is what we are aiming for! Until that day we must take care to root out that which pulls us away. We must search to know God completely, taking care with our word and actions to represent Christ.

For me, the process of surrendering actions helps. Before making a decision, writing a text or email, making a phone call, I attempt to take the moment it requires to say, “God I surrender this to you. Would you lead me into what is good and relevant and cleanse my heart and thoughts from that which is not of you.” We still need to know God and his ways in this process. As he exposes falsehoods, we need to know them as such. We must be able to recognize truth from lie even in our desire to only be about his business.

Let us always look to the example of Jesus. Just as he, being fully God and man did only as the Father did, let us imitate Christ in our actions. Let our goal be to imitate Christ with consistency, acting and speaking in accordance with his way and plans according to the need of the moment.

Victory in this Season of Grace

Having just come through Easter, the victory of the resurrection should be fresh on our minds. The words out of Isaiah “death is swallowed up in victory” accurately sets the scene of Easter. Complete victory was won. This is the testimony we walk in. This is the good news of the gospel.

So how does this apply to the season we are in now? Are we walking as victors in Christ or hiding out waiting for the season to pass? Is the kingdom of God on defense or is his kingdom advancing?

God is not sleeping through this season. He is not waiting until this pandemic stops. In fact at no point in our lives is that the case. There is no season in which God turns to us and says, “Let’s just make it through. We are in this together.” Thinking of this, I am reminded of when Joshua asks the man in front of Jericho, “Whose side are you on?” It turns out it is the commander of the Lord’s armies and he replies, “I am on the Lord’s side.” (Joshua 5). Whose side are you on? Being on the Lord’s side, is there any reason to cower or fear? What could make us just wait out a season?

God is not taking a break or treading water. He is very active! His kingdom isn’t rebuffed but ever advancing.

There is a season for everything as Solomon learned. But there is no season where the gospel has no say. There is no season where God is not present and active. We need to stop looking at life through the lens of the world and start seeing it through the lens of the gospel. We need to understand God has plans he is accomplishing right now and he is inviting us to join him.

I am finding when I take time to listen, his wisdom, warning, direction and correction is abundantly clear at this time. He is revealing things I have held on to and freeing me from the burden. He is giving me insight for what he wants to accomplish and inviting me to join him. He is revealing truth in scripture in new ways, giving incredible wealth in revelation. I am hearing testimony of the same thing from those who have sought the Lord regarding what this season is about. He has given such a grace to see him clearly and clear out the temple (we are temples of the living God).

It is time to stop consoling each other and grieving the life that was. (Grieving is not a bad thing. If you have lost a loved one, please take the time to grieve the loss with God.) But grieving life as it was? I am finding what this pandemic has done is expose all of the things we anchored ourselves to instead of Jesus. Our health is in question, finances uncertain, job security has disappeared, support networks destroyed, and friends and family made distant. So many things we placed our hope in and relied on for security just got ripped away. If you ask me, this is a wave of grace exposing where we hadn’t allowed the gospel to transform our lives, where we haven’t surrendered and trusted Jesus and have not believed the truth of the gospel.

“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”
Matthew 7:24-27

The gospel is unshakable. It is the anchor that cannot be swayed by the storms of life. When the waves hit they are rebuffed because our security is not in this world. We need to stop consoling each other as believers when we are distraught from these things being taken away. We must see this as an opportunity to repent, confess how we have not trusted Jesus, and allow him into whatever area was exposed. If anxiety comes over a stock portfolio collapsing or job loss we say, “God I confess that I have relied on myself and the wealth of this world for my provision and security. I surrender this area to you. Would you expose the lies I have believed that have kept me from the gospel, and reveal the truth?”

Let’s look at it this way. Before this season hit, we had the same issues. The pandemic just exposed them. There wasn’t some massive victory by the enemy causing us to suddenly not trust God or cast a shadow over the gospel. The issues were just “manageable” or hidden before. The answer is not to stay hidden and wait for this season to finish. WE NEED TO STOP TRYING TO CONSOLE ONE ANOTHER, AND MANAGE OUR WAY THROUGH THIS! This is a window, by the grace of God, for freedom and to learn to trust God through our surrender in all of the exposed areas.

I have said this before and this probably won’t be the last time. I really like conflict. It is actually a place of comfort for me. Conflict is when something is “incompatible or at variance”. It activates my hope because I know it is what allows for growth. This season is one of conflict for all of us. We are being hit with a realization we are not as secure as we thought we were. We are being hit with the reality we were placing our security in things that are being wiped out. Don’t avoid this conflict. Conflict is what inevitably happens when anything new is introduced. It challenges the old way and forces us to change or remain, depending on what we decide.

The act of allowing God in through repentance is what sparks the spiritual growth in us. These moments of conflict where what is inside is exposed provides opportunity for freedom. We need to start realizing we can’t ignore it when we see the gospel at odds with our hearts and behaviour. These moments of awareness provide opportunity for us to become anchored in Christ and free of the chains attached to the false anchors of this world.

There are ample opportunities for spiritual growth at such a time as this. We need to start looking at these circumstances as the grace of God because the freedom the gospel offers is way better than anything we had before this season.

There is no going back to how things were. Thank you Jesus for that! I don’t want to lose the freedom I have found in this season. I want my testimony to be: I used to fear and toil in vain on my own but Jesus saved me and now I am free, and free forevermore.