He Doesn’t Control Some Things

  
That’s right.  He controls all things.  

Is a trumpet blown in a city,and the people are not afraid?  Does disaster come to a city, unless the Lord has done it? 

Amos 3:6

Who has spoken and it came to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it?  Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and bad come?  Why should a living man complain, a man, about the punishment of his sins? 

Lamentations 3:37-39

For truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.

Acts 4:27-28

And this is very, very Good News.  

The greatest comfort I can give a child of God, and I can only give it to a child of God (meaning someone who has been adopted by God through faith in Jesus Christ), is that God is in total, absolute control of your pain.   And the reason why that’s comforting for the Christian is that God promises to work all things together for the good of His elect.  

This is a God whose hand predestined the worst sin in history for His people’s rescue.  

He does no evil, but neither is He perplexed or surprised by any evil.  And He will work all things together for His good purposes.  

From the other side of Christ’s return, there will not be one moment of history, from Eden’s tree to Calvary’s Cross to Hitler’s Holocaust to Hell’s shut doors, where Satan will be able to say, “Well, at least He didn’t get to work that one out for His purposes.”  When all is said and done, God’s glory and beauty and His people’s good will be pulled from every page of history, even the bloody and awful and scary ones.  And the greatest proof of that is Christ’s bloody and awful Cross.  

Some of you who are born again and in chaos or agony need to internalize this.  

What is frustrating to the unbelieving heart is peace to believing one:  There is no sovereign but God.  

I am telling you to pray to the God who will roll up the sky like a blanket, who set the Milky Way spinning as though it were a top, who fashioned all our souls from His own creative heart.  This is not a God who will win at the last second on a Hail Mary.  I am here to tell you there is a King in the Heavens.  A King.  God is not a powerful figure with good intentions who can only do so much.  This is the King of all creation, and He is taking audiences with all who will call upon Him in faith.  

There is nothing that befalls us that is not ordained by the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. 

Keep all your gods, America.  I have met the only One who can save a man like me.  

This God is in control.

30 Seconds On Idols

  
One of the duties of a child of God is to call the people of his day, of his nation, to stop worshiping their idols.  
Their idols, mind you.  Not somebody else’s.  It wouldn’t do any good for me to tell 21st century Cincinnatians to stop falling down before a golden calf, and it wouldn’t do any good for me to have told Moses’ brothers and sisters to stop worshiping their smartphones and square footage.  

But to stand here, in this day and place, and to magnify Jesus for the people around me who put their identity and emotional weight into gadgets or political battles or job successes or social media following, that is a Christian calling on my life.  

We have idolatry in America.  We worship many false gods.  We seek meaning and ultimate hope in many, many things which we were not made to seek them in.  

And no idol, Egyptian or American, can do what God can do.  

The Republican or Democratic party cannot bear the weight of your soul.  

Your Facebook likes cannot truly and throughly satisfy you.  

Success at work cannot give you deep, abiding peace.  

All of the things of Eden that we seek, restored relationships and contentment and perfect love, can only be had through the Cross of Jesus Christ.  

And so, if you have never come to Jesus empty handed, looking for what only He can give, my word to you is this:  His Father is seeking worshippers.  He is adopting many sons and daughters.  He has much to give away.  

Come to His altar.  

He can deliver on all of His promises.  

A Mother’s Day Plea

  
One of the greatest gifts that God has given women is the ability to bear children.  My wife just listened to the rapid little heartbeat of our fifth child (3 living, 1 in the womb, 1 we lost last December in the womb) using one of those home Doppler devices on our living room couch.  And our oldest, our 5-year-old daughter, listened in awe.  My wife smiled and took a picture of her.  My daughter talked about the baby as she listened to the heartbeat whir on the monitor.  

It was a lovely little image, that moment, of childbearing and mothering:  1 child listening to the heartbeat of another as the mother smiled, cherishing them both.  

These are human beings made in the image of God that we see in ultrasounds and listen to with heartbeat devices.  They are tiny people with all the worth and dignity that come from being stitched together as humans by the Creator.  

And in our nation it is legal to murder them.  

Please stay with me for just a minute.  

God is wonderful.  I mean He is just wonderful.  Look at the beauty that He’s made.  Despite all the deceit and greed and destruction we sinful people wreak on creation, still, look at sunsets, morning dew in the early summer, mists in the Appalachians, robins and monarch butterflies and humpback whales.  Look at His might and His goodness written like a title page on all of His creation, not least of all on our own wearied hearts.  This is a beautiful world that He has spoken into existence around us.  And we deny little babies, helpless and small and silent children, the gift of entering this creation He made them to enter and to taste and to seek Him in.  We kill them.  We stop their hearts and their brains and their lungs and then find something to do with their tiny, lifeless bodies.  

How many who might read this are pregnant and considering abortion?  I don’t know; probably not many.  But I wanted to write it anyway, because if I can persuade one, it was well worth my time.  

I’m writing to you and you only, now, anonymous mother.  

Yes, I said “mother,” because by God’s providence that’s what you are.  No matter how it happened to be that this baby was conceived, the little person within you was knit together by Him.  This baby’s small form was created, and is sustained, by the power and plan of God.  Do you love him or her yet?  You probably do, but even if you don’t, or if you perhaps don’t love like you thought you would, no matter.  The baby is loved.  By God.  

The proof is that he or she is here.  

I don’t know your situation.  It could be that you are scared, it could be that you simply don’t want the baby to inconvenience your life.  But, and I say this with Christian charity for your God-made soul, it doesn’t matter.  If someone were prepared to murder you because it would somehow ease his life, I would say the exact same thing to him:  “It doesn’t matter.”  We do not get to end the life of another human simply because we want to or because we feel we need to.  

It may look dark from where you are.  I can empathize.  If you’re worried about how to pay for the child’s needs or how you’ll live and work, I can empathize with that, too.  But murder is not the way forward.  Paying someone to kill this baby will not better your life, despite what some may tell you.  There is a cost that comes with the killing of an innocent, and it is always greater than whatever the sin promises to give you in return.  

Mother.  It’s a beautiful word, isn’t it?  It speaks so much.  There’s a world of weight in that word.  Mother.  It’s His design that women should bear children, and, again, He is so wonderful.  

The lie is that the world knows better.  That murder won’t be murder, or that even if it is it’s somehow just necessary.  

Don’t believe it.  

That’s my plea to you, Mother.  Don’t believe it.  You have been given this marvelous little life. This small one is growing in your womb right now by His hand.  

He has made you a mother.  A mother.  

And you always will be.  No matter where they would put his or her little body after the abortion, no matter how far they might go to hide the little hands and feet and face, they can never clear away that word from your soul.  And neither can you.  

So please, don’t try.  

You are a mother.  

And so this day, like this plea, is for you.  

Love and Hate


A Christian should have many loves, because the God He sees and knows as beautiful is the God who made this world.  And, like everybody, all of his hatreds flow from his loves.  But with the healthy  Christian, this principle works out for the benefit of the wider world.

The Christian whose heart is in rhythm with God’s hates lies because they obscure truth. He hates death because it assaults life.  He hates suffering and injustice and idolatry because he loves men and God.  He has holy hatreds.  They are like a good knight defending a sacred castle, or a good husband defending his beloved.

A person who is still living in the flesh will have things, maybe many things, that look like deep loves, but when they’re fully unraveled will be shallower than they might’ve been, because they had something other than the Father and Son and Spirit for their center.  And so when those loves are assaulted, the hatred that defends them is anxious or bitter or self-righteous or joyless.  It’s hollower than the full-throated hatred for death and Hell and false gods that the saint who’s in the grip of the Holy Spirit has.  His are hatreds that say, “Come, join me in fleeing the wrath to come!  God is good, and He will wipe every last scar and tear away!  Come meet Him!”  The carnal man’s hatreds say, “Away from my beloved thing!  I will fight you tooth and nail to protect it!  Because I know, see, deep down, how frail a god it is…”

A Christian should love the sunset and summer and marriage and Gospel songs because the God who spoke light and love and song into being is His adopted Father.  He loves them because he loves Him.  

His loves are deeper, his hatreds are holier, and his heart is open and hopeful.

And so he has a good message to give his neighbor.

Sentences (Part 3)

  

*For previous installments, see here and here.

Brevity is a skill I’m trying to hone.  I think it’s good to be able to say something you believe to be true and meaningful plainly and in just a few words.  With that in mind, for the third time, here are a few simple theological or moral propositions I contend are true, none longer than a single sentence:

  • The natural position of a human is to see his good deeds as examples of who he really is and his bad deeds as deviations from who he really is; the God who says we are born sinners is going to take some umbrage with that.  
  • The most freeing thing in the world is not being loved for who you are, but being loved despite who you are, and that is precisely what the Gospel offers you.  
  • Doing what’s right is better than doing what’s successful; if they’re the same thing, great, but they won’t always be.
  • The more God makes a man like Jesus, the more the man will love God’s people; becoming more Christlike will always, by definition, mean loving true Christians more and more, because Jesus loves them more than you can imagine.   
  • There are virtually no new heresies, just old heresies with new publishers.  
  • Faith is thoroughly good only when the faith’s object is real and is itself good; faith in false religions and in false prophets is not a good sort of faith.  
  • God made men and women to be and do some things differently, and God is good and knows very much what is best.
  • It is impossible to depend on your having been a good person or having done good things to get to Heaven and actually get there.  
  • We do not live in a day and place that is too afraid of God; there have been such cultures, but ours is not one of them. 
  •  Under the heading of providing for our children we should include the task of praying for their salvations.  
  • It is as comforting to the believer as it is offensive to the hard-hearted that there is not one set of knees on Earth that won’t be bowing to Jesus at the end of all things.  
  • The New Testament doesn’t prescribe a form of government (unless you count the coming absolute kingship of Jesus Christ), but it does command submission to governing authorities.  
  • The hardest thing in the world is also one the most freeing:  Repentance.  

Grace, all, and happy Monday!

    Texting Romans 5:14

      
    Just in case it’d be helpful, I’m passing along my answers to some questions someone texted me about the Romans 5:14.  The person was reading the NIV translation of it.  

    Happy Monday!

    Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who is a pattern of the one to come. 

    Which translation are you reading?  

    Romans 5:13-14 “For sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law.  Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.” (ESV)

    The Law given via Moses showed human beings just how convicted they were.  One of its purposes was a sort of public reading of what we’ve done and reading of our sentence.   We were already convicted murderers, but now a town crier was announcing it from a mountain top, so that we’d hear and angels would hear and everyone would know.  We were already convicted.   Already sentenced.  Death already reigned.  But because of the Law it was all the more plain now just how sinful we each and all were…

    Yeah, I think they’re doing a little more interpretation than translation there…

    The trespass caused the death.  The sin caused the death long before the Law revealed just how awful it was.  But now the awfulness of what we are and what we do and what we’ve done is plain as day, because it’s published on Mount Sinai and delivered to a million of God’s people and recorded in His unbreakable Word and held in His holy Ark of the Covenant. 

    Sin reigned before the Law, death reigned before the Law, but now it’s public knowledge just exactly what our sin was and and what it deserves…

    The literal language is just “who did not sin in the likeness of the offense of Adam.”  The NIV guys are trying to help you by interpreting that for you as “did not sin by breaking a command.”   But in my opinion they’re probably just making it more confusing…  That’s what preaching is for.  I’d prefer a translation to simply translate…

    FYI: Paul uses a word there in the “their trespass was not like…” clause that specifically means “transgress,” not the normal NT word for sin, which would be “hamartia.”  So I think he’s saying that what they did post-Law was an additional layer of wrongdoing.  It was a trespass of a now-public edict…

    Paul is saying Adam was a sinless human who sinned, thus death reigned because of him.  Over everyone, pre-Law and post-Law. “But, all my Roman Jewish Christian friends,” he says, “Out father Moses read out an even greater condemnation of us then [sic] Seth or Enoch or Noah had.  We’ve heard from Moses just exactly what we are and what we do.  The Law condemns, it can’t save, and it can’t wind back Adam’s death.  Noah was dead in sin, we’re dead in sin and KNOW just how and why, and we’re all screwed.   

    Except that there’s a free gift.  And it ain’t like the trespass…