Tag Archives: God

A Father’s Love (Reflection for 9/18)

“For the LORD will not cast off forever,
but, though he cause grief,
he will have compassion
according to the abundance of his steadfast love;
for he does not afflict from his heart
or grieve the children of men”
Lamentations 3:31-33

ROTD:   God’s reactions to our actions are always perfect.

Why?
This is one of the hardest things for anyone to grasp. Why would a God who is so good send trials? Why say no? Why delay the fulfillment of our prayers? Why is there still consequence?

There are many factors into these, but we can look at at least one aspect here in Lamentations. The narrator speaking in chapter 3 is a man who has directly felt the wrath of God, who has seen his punishment firsthand. The best way to explain this, I think, is with an illustration we all can understand.

Parents. (Yes, this is where I am going with it. Hear me out.) As kids, parents have rules for us to follow. They love us and inspire us and better us as people, but there are still rules of the household. What are the worst words you could ever hear when you got caught breaking one of those rules?

“Just wait till your father gets home”.

Terrifying. Because you knew that there was some type of consequence to your action. And dad gets home, and punishment is doled out, and reconciliation occurs as you tearfully swear to neverevereverever do it again. But of course you do. And the cycle continues.

Look at the nation of Israel throughout the whole Old Testament. They are constantly disobeying God, leaving His commandments, following other gods or people, complaining, whining…and then when God acts accordingly, they shape up. And so it continues. To read, it looks like Israel is really, really, stupid. Just follow God and it’s all good!

But don’t we do the same thing?

God is our Father. He is also a perfect Father. So while many of us have had horrible, terrible experiences with parental discretion here on earth, we need to be able to look past those to see what God is doing. Because we constantly are disobeying Him, sinning, blowing off His words, not talking to Him, trying to do life without Him. We disobey our Father all the time.
“He does not afflict from his heart” is such a cool statement, because it shows that God doesn’t bring punishment because He enjoys it. He brings correction to discipline us, to grow us, to help us to better understand Him and draw closer to Him. And, thanks be to God for His Son, we have the ability to turn around, repent, and continue to follow hard after Him.

Being a Christian does not mean that your actions no longer carry weight to them. God is love, yes, but He is also righteous and just, holy, mighty (for more on that, click here). What the speaker realizes is that all of the correction we receive from God comes out of a place of love, not evil sinister joy. Punishment doesn’t last forever. The trial you are going through does have meaning and purpose. All things do. So if God is trying to teach you to let go of some recurring sin, it might hurt a bit when that sin comes to light in the worst possible way. Or if He is trying to grow your patience, life might become quite stressful for a time. Finance and trust issues? Money might be a little tight for a while. We may not always understand the method, or the timing, but we MUST KNOW in our hearts that God knows perfectly how we learn and what we need to push us forward. These things always move us toward a deeper relationship with God, if we let them.

Now, I realize this leads to some bigger questions that have harder answers. Why do people suffer in general? Why is this world full of evil? My sister got raped, is that part of God’s plan? Why do babies die? How much does God send, and how much does He allow to happen to us?

These are questions that I have heard over the years, and some I struggle with to this day. We will dive into some of these later on, and look at the different aspects of God’s relationship to us, and sin’s affect on the world as a whole.

For now, though, rest in this: That just because it seems like God is angry at you, He’s not. He derives no joy from our pain.God loves you more than you can fathom, and with love does come discipline, and correction. Anything that God is using to teach us and correct us-any trial ,situation, person, circumstance-is done in love. We just have to open our minds and hearts to see it as such.

Prayer:

Lord, we do not always understand the means and ways that you work. We struggle to grasp that a loving God can also punish and correct and discipline. God, help us to know that you love us. Help us to recognize Your hand in our lives, in every situation. We pray for forgiveness, for we know we are a sinful, messed up people. Show us where You are at work in us, and correct us in whatever way you see fit. However loud You have to shout to get our attention, do so. However fall You let us fall before we face our eyes to You, let us. However much You have to strip away from us in order to build us up correctly, break us down. Whatever You need to do, do in our hearts today.
In Jesus’ name, amen.

Where is Your Hope? (Reflection for 9/17)

“But this I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope”
-Lamentations 3:21

ROTD: Just because you can’t see God doesn’t mean He isn’t there.

Why?

Life can beat the absolute crap out of us. Sometimes it’s due to choices we have made, and sometimes it’s out of our control, and sometimes it’s both. This is one of my favorite chapters of the Bible, because it deals with just that. The first half (v.1-20) are basically this man crying out because of all the pain and affliction he has faced in life. And there is no correction of his thought. He cries out, “God, why? Why is all of this stuff happening to me? Why do you seem so set against me, so far away? Where are you?” Don’t we do that as well? When we don’t see where life is headed, or when we can’t possibly comprehend how God could be at work in our situation, we get down. Frustrated. Angry. Bitter. Depressed.

Then, the turning point.
“But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope…”

What words.
You see, we get so caught up in the before-the woe is me, life sucks, when will this end way of thinking-that we seem to forget all that we know about God. Listen to what the speaker recalls.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” The speaker then goes on to describe the goodness of the Lord-how compassionate he is, how His justice is true, how He DOES hear our cries and see our tears. How, even in the midst of suffering, He is eternally merciful, he responds to our anguish.

We need to stop polarizing God-forgetting the good in the bad times, and the righteousness in the good times. But specifically, when things are hard and life has us beaten down, we need to call all these things to mind. Just because life is dark around you, and you can’t see God moving, doesn’t mean He’s gone. He’s always right there. So have hope.

Prayer

God, we pray that you help us to remember who You are at all times-good and bad. God, we know that sometimes life gets out of control, and you feel very far away. Help us to pursue You even then, even more. We need you, Lord, always. Show us Your goodness, God. We won’t let go until You do. Teach us to be patient in tribulation and to have joy amidst the pains of life. We love You, and we thank You for being who You are.
In Jesus’ holy name, Amen. 

How Long Will We Forget His Might? (Reflection for 9/16)

“He has cut down in fierce anger
all the might of Israel,
He has withdrawn from them his right hand
in the face of the enemy; 
He has burned like a flaming fire in Jacob, 
consuming all around”

-Lamentations 2:3

ROTD: We must not forget to fear the Lord.

Why?

Another prevailing attitude of the day, among Christians and non alike, is a lack of the fear of the Lord. Going along with our lack of forethought of the consequence of our sin, it appears as though we have set out to deny that God is a God to be feared. We overemphasize His love, mercy, grace, tenderness, forgiveness (ALL of which are good things) but we forget that God is equally a God of wrath, of justice, of righteousness, of holiness, of perfection. This deserves and demands our respect, reverence, and fear.
But what does it mean to fear the Lord?
The best way I have heard it explained is in Eshon Burgundy’s song, “The Fear of The Lord“. He says, pretty simply, that

“To fear the Lord is to stand in awe of the reality of God”

So this means that we don’t necessarily go around quaking, wondering if our next wrong step will earn us a lightning bolt from the Man Upstairs. It means that we recognize and are humbled by the sheer magnitude of who God is.
Have you ever just taken a moment to consider God? Who He is? What He is capable of?
That’s why it is a good thing to fear the Lord. If we make God into someone who is not to be feared, what reason at all have we to listen? If I am more powerful than the God I serve, who does that serve better-God, or me?

When we begin to look at just who God is, what He can do, and compare that to who we are, and what we have done, it should send a little shiver down our spine. It should humble us, as we look at the reality of God and His majesty. Reading these verses in Lamentations, and throughout the Old Testament, God isn’t just some mean old God who kills people, as some would seem to believe. God is perfect, and holy, and sin is simply unacceptable.  This is what the response is to disobedience, and He told them it would be so. Does not a father discipline His child? How much more so, the perfect God of the universe?

Every other religion in the world is man reaching out-either to God, or just self-enlightenment, or to just living-everything else is us trying to do it on our own. God says, “This is what Christianity looks like as a religion”. It’s an impossible task, and we would inevitably fall to our own destruction trying to reach out to God.  So He made a way for us. Thanks be to God that His power is on display in His pursuit of us, and that when we recognize just how mighty our God is, we see that in all of His omnipotence He DESIRES to be with us. He wants us to be with Him, and He has made a way for us to do so through the death of His Son on the cross.

Prayer:

Lord, we recognize that You are holy. You are perfect, and deserving of all the praise and honor and glory. Help me to recognize the reality that is You. Help me to stand in awe of you, help me to fear you properly. Lord, we thank you that we don’t have to strive to try and reach you, but instead while we were yet sinners and rebellious You sent Your Son to make a way for us to join You. Help us to have a reverence and fear of you all of our days, and give us the joy and peace that come in knowing Christ and being known by Him.
In Jesus’ Name,
Amen.

P.S. to find more works by Eshon Burgundy, here is the album in full: http://www.humblebeast.com/the-fear-of-god/. Eshon and other hip-hop artists write God-inspired, deep works through the label HumbleBeast. God bless!

#Lovethesinnerhatethesin (aka, On Homosexuality and The Overall Attitude Towards Sin)

In light of today’s’ historic events, I would like to state this as simply possible. Even though this is a long post.

Loving people does not mean we lessen truth.

God loves ALL people. This is true.
God hates ALL sin. This is also true.

As a Christian, a follower and disciple of Christ, I am to attempt to do the same. It’s cliche, but I do try to love the sinner, hate the sin.
Hashtag. But it is quite applicable here.

I love everyone, with a deep compassionate love as friends and to see them come to know the saving power of Christ.
But I do hate all sin. Sin is sin is sin, it separates us from a loving God who wants nothing more than to hold us close and be with us. I hate my sin. I hate the things I do that I shouldn’t. As Paul says,

“For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate…For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.” (Rom. 7:15, 18-19).

I sin. You sin. We all sin. This feels uncomfortable to read, I’m sure, but that’s because it’s’ TRUTH. And truth is not a comfortable topic nowadays. We as humans hate to be told we are wrong, because we live in our own broken world.
It’s like if you were always only given puzzle pieces, but never the box. And are punished every time we try to put them together. That’s society. We like our puzzle pieces, we like having a chaotic order. But we need to see the big picture. We need to put the pieces together to realize what we are missing in our lives.

Alas, since Adam, we all sin and fall short. We all have some…desire..some longing deep within us for answers. For a reason to exist. For something more.

And that more, is God.
And while yes, God loves all of us, God also is pure Truth. and the truth of the matter is, that while I can love all people, I cannot condone the sins they do, mine included.

So do I support the decision of the Supreme Court today?
No. Homosexuality is a sin, against God’s design for humanity.
But also against God’s plan is lying. Manipulating. Sadness. Bitterness. Gossip. Stealing. Murder. I could write article upon article on each of these, because they are all things that take humanity away from God.

Unfortunately, a lot of people like to put homosexuality and other such issues apart, as if they are different or worse sins. The only thing that makes them different is the popularity level. I hate the sin of adultery as much as I do homosexuality.

To those of my friends who are in such a place, hear me.
I love you. Dearly and deeply, and you are good friends to me. That will never change.
But if I say I love you, and I believe this so strongly, then wouldn’t the loving thing to do be that I tell you the whole truth? That I love, and have dialogue, and understand, and explain, and not condemn, and not spew hate, and not base my opinion upon emotion but upon the foundation of who I am as a person? I will love you until the end, and I will live my life in such a way as to demonstrate that the love of Christ is truly compelling to any human heart.

To those of my friends in the church, hear me.
Love is good. Love is God. But God did not intend for love to be separate from His other attributes. God’s love is intertwined with His justice, His righteousness, His law, His perfectness, His holiness. We cannot just love people. We must love them in truth, or else we are just giving a false God to people.

You want to love like Jesus loved? Fine. But Jesus did not love in a politically correct manner. He loved fully, and hard, and deep, and if love meant telling someone the WHOLE truth? If love meant that He took a stand upon the truth, and didn’t move just to make someone feel loved? If love means that Jesus called out people who were sinning because of His desire for them to see the love of God in their life?

That’s love.
We need to love fully, not partially. Don’t be willing to love people without truth. Because of the issue at hand, I say this. Homosexuality, and the like, is a sin. It is. And I will stand by that. I will stand by adultery being a sin. And murder and lying and stealing and so on and so on and so on.
It does not mean I hate homosexuals or any other people group. It does mean I love people and I will do my very best to show the love of my God to this world in as true a fashion as I can. There is no hate in God for people. There is no hate in me for people. God is love, and because of that love I will make this stand. God doesn’t stand for sin, so neither will I. I will talk just as much about the hypocrisy of the church as I will the homosexual lifestyle we see now in open legal rule. No sin is good. No sin is more than another, this is just a pressing issue of the times. And so I write because I love, as God loves.

Hand in Hand (Devo, January 26)

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.”
-James 1:5-6

     I’m back in college now for my spring semester, and this verse especially speaks to me. I really do need wisdom this year, to know how to approach a lot of situations that are coming up in my life. There are so many times that we wish we had a bit more wisdom, a bit more insight, into what life will bring. Wouldn’t it be nice to know just what to do with your finances? If you knew the best way to fix your strained marriage? If you could sit down and figure out your best college option, or job option, or career path?

We all want wisdom. But what I think a lot of people don’t understand is that wisdom doesn’t really have anything to do with us. When we ask God for the wisdom to see what’s right to do, we think it will be like flipping on a light switch. But there’s another component: faith. If we ask God for wisdom and don’t really believe that He will come through, then why would He give it to us? It’s like a child asking a parent for something without really believing they will get it. It’s worthless.

     When we come to God asking for ANYTHING, really, we need to come in faith-in the assured knowledge that He is, in fact, God, and that He will deliver what He promised. God is willing to give to all who ask Him! If you want more wisdom, discernment, strength, discipline, He will help you and give you what you desire. It might not look like what you think it should-but it will definitely become a part of your life. But you must come in faith, lest you be tossed about by life. If you had wisdom but no faith, it might even drive you away from God. If you had discipline, but no faith, then your life becomes based on works. If you ask for discernment but have no faith, then you may question whether your intuitions are from God at all.

     Faith is so integral to our relationship with God. We need to be less like the kid who asks without being sure, and more like the little kid who just raises his hands, knowing Daddy will pick him up. There is no doubt in that baby’s mind. We need to be the same way. We need to believe and be confident in the fact that He will do all the things He promised. When we have that confidence that God will come through, then it is God who really can begin the work in us. It has nothing to do with our own power or intellect increasing; rather, it has to do with the infiltration of the Holy Spirit into our hearts to transform us to be more like Christ.

So go ahead. Ask for wisdom! Ask for the things you need. But ask in faith, and believe on God to be faithful. And He will. God bless!


http://bible.com/59/jas.1.5-6.esv

Whose Side Are You On? (Devo, January 9)

 “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places”.
-Eph. 6:12

      There is a war going on out there. A war that, while it is not necessarily visible, can clearly be seen.

People see all of the death, all of the destruction, all of the suffering that goes on in this world. We are in an age where we deal with famines, terrorists, serial killers, violence, uprisings, etc. People want someone to be accountable. They point their finger at God and ask, “Why? Why do You allow all of this to happen? Why don’t you intervene? Why don’t you stop all of this? Why create us in the first place?”

I think, however, that these questions are not well asked. What point is there in asking why we exist? We do. There is no alternative to humanity’s existence that we can orchestrate. We are here. That is fact. And throughout the ages, I think humans would agree that there is something that is fundamentally flawed with our existence. That’s why these questions come up-we recognize that there is something not right with the way things are. Some might call this the angst we feel within our spirit. Why do we recognize this?

Because deep down, I think we all know we are at war.

There is a war going on on this planet. There is a war within our hearts, our minds, and our souls. We are born into it. We are attacked by it, and our lives and the lives of those we love suffer for it. And it may look like it’s against people, and disease, and natural disasters, but we know it runs deeper. We are living out the plot of every big action movie that we create. Good v.s. evil. Light v.s. dark. Love v.s. hate. But the battle we face is so much more real than that.

I think it is important to recognize a few things. First, we do have an enemy. His name is Satan, and he is the Father of LIes, the Prince of the Air. We don’t like to admit that Satan is real, that hell is a real place. We water him down in our churches and in the secular realm, but he is very much alive. And He wages war. Against all that is good, against all that is holy, against all that is God.  The Scriptures tell us that Satan prowls about like a lion, looking for someone to devour. He seeks our destruction; the demons that serve him seek our destruction as well. Because they already know their end-in the Hell that was created for them, the eternal separation from God they deserved when Satan tried to be God. We also need to know that there are evil forces at work in the world, just like there is God at work in this world. Satan isn’t just one to lie down and take it. He is manipulative and evil and cunning and He wants to take as many of us with Him as possible. Things like demonic possession do happen; I’ve seen it happen. It’s real, folks. Satan and his goals are real. That’s why I am adverse to stuff like the occult, and ouija boards, and demonic movies. It’s inviting that kind of presence into your home and into your self, and that’s dangerous territory. We do have an enemy out there.

The other thing we need to recognize is the God that we serve, our Lion of Judah. John 16:33 tells us that “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” When Jesus died on the cross, he said “It is finished”. That meant all of this. The power of sin, the power of death and of Satan. Christ holds the keys to death in His hands, He has won the victory for all of eternity! By the shedding of His blood He has reconciled the world to Him, and He is the propitiation for all of us. He laid down His life and took it up again, When He said “it is finished” He meant it. The victory is done. But while we still live, we have to fight. Jesus told us we would have trials and trouble while we are here. We don’t have to fight alone, though. When you make Jesus your Lord and Savior, when you conform yourself to His image and His ways, we have all the power of Heaven fighting for us. We can heal the sick, cast out demons, see lives changed, see hearts renewed, eyes opened, and spread the news of the Gospel with power and authority.

There clearly is a war out there. The outcome is already determined. Jesus wins. Satan loses. But the meantime is crucial, because there are so many who still suffer at the hands of sin and guilt and shame. This world is still messed up. But we fight for the Most High God, and there is none that can stand against Him!

I pray you take time and consider where you stand in this battle of the ages. Who does your soul fight for?

 http://bible.com/59/eph.6.12.esv

40 Days In The Wilderness: A Journey Through Lent (Day 4)

 “For you are the fountain of life, the light by which we see”
-Psalm 36:9

     The most simplest of phrases, and yet it is so profound. 
     This journey has been a hard one. I didn’t realize how attached I was to that social media interaction, or eating without thought, or laziness, until I had to do without it. I’ve slipped up multiple times-even the first day, I was bored late at night and automatically went to Tumblr, before realizing what I was doing. It was an unconscious act-and that’s scary! To think that there are habits we develop that become so second nature that we don’t even recognize what we are doing. In counteracting this, though, I am so much more aware of the things that I am doing with my day. Every moment, every passage of time that is a chance to do something, is a moment to reflect on just what I am doing and who am I doing it for? To please myself? Or to give glory to God? 
     I’ve been busy the past few days so I have been occupied enough. I have been eating much better, and sleeping in less and less. Waking up to sit quietly before God is an amazing thing! But my favorite experience, so far, happened yesterday. 

     One thing that God has been showing me is that I need to appreciate the little things more. The basic things, the things that are “normal” in life to me. This entire spring break has been about those little things-spending time with family, or playing with my dogs in the morning. I had dreams of a nice trip away that I wanted to take, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised to find that I am having much more fun just being at home. But yesterday it was nice outside and I wanted a little adventure, so I went out. I found a park near Concordia University (where I’m going next year) that is absolutely breathtaking. It’s woodsy and secluded and right on the shore of Lake Michigan. I went there to just have some quiet time and take in God’s creation, read the Word. Normal stuff.
     But God just floored me! It’s amazing what spending time away in nature can do. I was so in awe that I just stopped and stood. Looking around it was like everywhere I turned He was speaking to me-in the wind, in the birds that sang, in the stillness and quietness of the place.

     I flipped open my Bible, and the first verse I saw was the one above.

 You are the fountain of life, the light by which we see. Such a simple phrase.

     And yet in it, there is so much depth and such a clear picture of who God is. He is the master and Lord of my heart, the one who guides me in His perfect will. There is no darkness about our God. In Revelation it talks of the fact that there is no need for the sun or stars, because the glory that proceeds from Him is more than enough to see with. He is light, and He is life-both providing us with physical being and also with the emotional, mental, and spiritual strength to live. Not just be alive, but to live life to it’s fullest!  To those who need hope, He is hope. To those who are without love, it says that God is love. For people without a family, He is our Father. To those who are lost, He illuminates the way to Himself with open arms. He raises up the humble and brings justice and peace and mercy with every breath.  Just look at what the Scriptures say about the might of our God!

“20 Daniel answered and said: “Blessed be the name of God forever and ever,
 to whom belong wisdom and might.

21 He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings;
 he gives wisdom to the wise

 and knowledge to those who have understanding;
22 he reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what is in the darkness, and the light dwells with him.” -Daniel 2:20-22, ESV

And again, 

“For behold, he who forms the mountains and creates the wind,
    and declares to man what is his thought,
who makes the morning darkness,
    and treads on the heights of the earth—
    the Lord, the God of hosts, is his name!” -Amos 4:13, ESV

And yet again:

“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” -Romans 8:38-39, ESV

Still more:

“Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.” -Isaiah 40:28, ESV

There is so much that we cannot even begin to fathom. Our God is an awesome, omnipotent, all powerful God. He is the fountain of life, the Creator of the universe and the Lord who reigns on high!

And this is what I have learned, so far. Nothing new. But new all the same. Sometimes, it’s the little things. The fundamental things. The things we know to the point we take them for granted, and forget to really let them soak in to our entire being. God is all-powerful. Good. True. But when you REALLY take time to let that sink in; to let the infinite majesty of God just surround you and drown yourself in His presence and light? 

It changes things. 

Our God is not a distant God. He is present-a mover, a shaker, a bringer of justice and a redeemer of hearts.

He is the fountain of life, and the light by which we see.