To the Lost and Abused


You are not forgotten. 

You are not irrelevant.  

This world of sin and sinners is often a place where young girls are sexually abused.  Where little boys are ignored by their fathers or beaten by their fists.  Where the small or disadvantaged are trampled by the anger or selfishness of warped men with warped hearts.  

Creation groans under sin.  

And Satan delights in it.  

He hates truth, hates Jesus, and loves pain.  

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made.  He said to the woman, ‘Did God actually say, You shall not eat of any tree in the garden?

Genesis 3:5

And behold, there was a woman who had had a disabling spirit for eighteen years.  She was bent over and could not fully straighten herself.  When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said to her, ‘Woman, you are freed from your disability.’  And he laid his hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and she glorified God.  But the ruler of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, said to the people, ‘There are six days in which work ought to be done.  Come on those days and be healed, and not on the Sabbath day.’  Then the Lord answered him, ‘You hypocrites!  Does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger and lead it away to water it?  And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?’  As he said these things, all his adversaries were put to shame, and all the people rejoiced at all the glorious things that were done by him. 

Like 13:11-17

This is a world where Satan often whispers a violent and treasonous song over the most helpless of people, and then dances to their fear and their pain and their bewilderment.  And it is a world where others join his twisted song.  

But it is not his world.  

Hear me.  

Let Hell and death and sin clamor for your soul.  Let them.  But their loudest ragings will not prevail if you will despair of all other hopes and instead call out to Jesus, like a lost and helpless child.  

Let your anxieties and all your most jagged memories creep up on you like old ghosts with sharp teeth.  They will not get to claim you if you are ransomed by the King of Kings.  

Let pain be pain and fear be fear.  Neither will have the last word if you will believe in Jesus.  

I know you have been wounded to the bone.  

You don’t trust people.  You don’t trust God. And you don’t trust “the world,” by which you probably mean people and God.  

You have heard that God is different from the one who abused you, but you don’t believe it.  

Believe.  

The one who violated you?  I know he used you.  But this is a God who was obliterated to bless people just like you.  

He lied to you.  But this is a God who speaks only truth; He can do no other.  

He promised to change, to be better, only to hurt you time and time and time and time again.  But this is a God who endured Hell and shame and death and agony to keep His promises. 

This God is different from the one who hated and harmed you.  Unimaginably different.  This Jesus will never leave, never forsake, never forget you.  He would rather die than lose those He claims, and the Cross stands as a vertical proof of it.  This is a Lord with a heart for the lowly and the bruised, and who breaks all the violent who refuse to repent. 

You have suffered.  

So has He.  

And at the place your suffering and His meet, namely your faith, a new song starts.  One that sin and death and Satan hate to the core.  

And one that is no whisper, no lie, and that never, ever ends.  

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.  Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. 

1 Peter 5:8-9

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10 Seconds On Joy


Just straight Scripture, here.  

Jesus, to His disciples the night before He was led to the slaughter to save His people: 

When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. 

John 16:21-22

No one will take your joy from you.  

Amen and amen.  

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.

A Truer Story

  
Kudos to Julie Roys of Moody Radio for saying something very true very succinctly on a recent Christianity Today podcast.

Mrs. Roys pointed out that there’s a worldview difference between the mindset of the big-government political left and the mindset of the Bible-believing Christian.  

The left maintains that the cause of suffering we see around us is an unequal distribution of goods and services.  The Bible teaches that the cause of suffering is sin.  And so the left, or present-day political liberalism, and the Bible are telling two different stories about how we got here and what can best fix us.

Where the current mainstream culture and climate would say that our biggest problem is one of opportunity, or that our biggest problem is economic or educational in nature, God says that our biggest problem is that all who aren’t in Christ are dead sinners, evil doers who are hurting each other and deserving of His wrath.  God says that our biggest problem is spiritual.  Where your average school textbook contributor or public school administrator or newscaster would probably say that this or that policy, party, or person is the fix for what’s most fundamentally wrong in our society, God says that only His Son and His Spirit can resolve what’s most tilted in our world.  

This is no small difference we’re talking about, here.  We are seeing humanity and creation cast in two very different lights in these narratives.  

Guys, we can only ultimately bend our knees to one savior.  And make no mistake, we are all bowing to one.  I was talking with a Christian from another country a few weeks ago who commented that in Cuba all education of any kind was free.  Leaving aside the question of accuracy for a second (nothing is free, folks), what I found so treacherous and possibly deadly in the glee that someone might have at that prospect (“Let’s all move there!”) is this:  

The desire for Daddy Government to come and provide for us all.  

Hey, what we need most, after all, is education, right?  I mean, not education so that we can appreciate the God-made world, but so that we can get a job and then make money so that we can buy stuff, right?  That’s what we learned in school, anyway.  “Good” education leads to “good” job leads to “good” life.  I mean, sure they also told us we were all just atoms that happen to have started breathing (thanks, natural selection!), and so I guess I’m not totally sure how collections of atoms that happen to be breathing buying collections of atoms that don’t happen to be breathing is really “good,” but, well, I won’t think that far ahead.  

And the President/Governor/Prime Minister/King is telling us he can provide all that schooling and those jobs and that money.  He can give us what we most need.  He can fix what’s most wrong.  

Hallelujah!

But no government can be a savior.  Samuel gave some pretty prophetic words to the Israelites once:

So Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking for a king from him.  He said, ‘These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you:  he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen and to run before his chariots.  And he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots.  He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers.  He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his servants.  He will take the tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and to his servants.  He will take your male servants and female servants and the best of your young men and your donkeys, and put them to his work.  He will take the tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves.  And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.’  But the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel.  And they said, ‘No!  But there shall be a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.’  And when Samuel had heard all the words of the people, he repeated them in the ears of the Lord.  And the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Obey their voice and make them a king.’  Samuel then said to the men of Israel, ‘Go every man to his city.’

1 Samuel 8:10-22

God’s Old Testament people wanted their king.  They were just certain that would be the ticket.  They were sure that would be their solution.  The right cause, the right government, the right earthly hands pulling the right earthly lever, would heal the land and mend the people.  They knew it.  They were dead set on it.  

And then right there with Samuel you can see that it always takes the word of God to remind people how the world really works and who we really are as human beings.  

Even when they won’t receive it, only the Word can tell people the God-honest truth about creation, sin, pain, and redemption.  There is only one Savior who can rescue us from sin.  And sin is what we most need rescuing from.

Samuel had a better story to tell his neighbors, because he had a truer one.  

And so do we. 

60 Seconds On Death and Easter


Death will not get the last word.

It spoke what it had, every last syllable of its harshest lie, and couldn’t keep Him behind the rock.

Him.  The Christ.  The God-man come for sinners.

In a world with dead bodies, there is no hope unless there is resurrection.  God made a world of trees and turtles, of starlight and fireflies and men, and sin unleashed death upon all of it, upon everything that breathes.  It all groans under the weight of the spoil of our sin.

But God took death into Himself, Jesus our Redeemer, and rose again with the skin and bones and heart of a man who cannot be killed.  The lie was undone.

Every carcass since Abel’s was a horrifying, stinking reminder of what sin did and does to us (“It’ll smell,” Lazarus’ sister said), but the risen body of Jesus is a reminder of what God did and is doing for us.

We will be raised.  All who have believed in Jesus will be raised to an unbreakably eternal life.  An eternal embodied life.  One in a new creation free of sin and death and decay.  All will be well.  And death’s shadow will be swallowed by the fire of God’s anger, His good wrath towards all the murders sin once wrought.

Death does not get the last word.  That’s reserved for the King.  It is His to speak.  He created by His Word, He will recreate by His Word, and, unlike the serpent, everything He speaks is true.  And, of course, final.

And so Easter is a reminder that He gets the last word.

And it’s one that will never end.

Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned…  For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.

Romans 5:12, 6:5

Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?  But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised.  And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.  We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised.  For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised.  And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.  Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.  If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.  But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep…  But each in his own order:  Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.  Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power.  For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.  The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 

1 Corinthians 15:12-20, 23-26

30 Seconds On Grace

  
Christian, the grace you extend is the grace you really believe in. 

If you do not forgive the sins and mistakes of others, it is because, regardless of what you say, you do not approach God with the posture of one who has been forgiven of wrongdoing.  

Instead, you see yourself as more righteous than those who have wronged or inconvenienced you.  And so, unlike Jesus Christ, who truly was holier than those who wronged Him, you refuse to extend them mercy.  While Jesus spent Himself on His enemies’ forgiveness and rescue, you plant yourself on a throne of judgment and refuse to be gracious.  

What do you really believe about grace?  If you want to know how you really see yourself in relation to God, don’t look at your words.  

Look at how you forgive.  

And this could just as easily be a letter to myself.  

“Just for Believing the Wrong Thing?”

  

I’ve heard an objection to Christianity that I was mulling this morning for reasons that probably aren’t interesting enough to mention.  It goes something like this:  “If the Gospel is that God offers eternal life to all who believe in Jesus, then I have a problem.  Because I don’t believe God would send someone to Hell simply for believing the wrong thing.”

*Quick sidebar:  I always want to ask someone when he says something like that, “Where do your ideas about God come from.  How do you know what God is like?”  Because in our day and place I think it is very common for people to think God must simply be like whatever they feel God should be like.  But if God is a real being (and He is), that’s totally incoherent.  Barak Obama and Michael Jordan and my father are all who they are regardless of what I feel they are. Only fictional beings can be re-written based on your own personal desires.  

Here’s the snag with that, though:  There’s an incorrect premise in the argument.  By objecting that the Gospel Christians preach is morally flawed because it means God would be sending people to Hell simply for believing the wrong thing, the person is assuming that we’re morally neutral people (or even good people) who are simply asked by God to pick the right religious option.  

But that’s not the case.  

As it is written: ‘None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.’ But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.

Romans 3:10-12, 21-22(a)

No one goes to Hell merely for believing the wrong things.  Every single person who has ever entered God’s eternal wrath and judgment has done so because he is a sinner against the perfect God who made him.  And God gave His Son to redeem us from us our own lawless suicide.  The Gospel is God’s offer of restoration to those who don’t deserve it.  To not believe on Jesus is to not receive the medicine God procured (at an unimaginable cost) to heal you.  If I refuse the treatment, it is not the medicine’s fault, or the doctor’s, that I die; it’s the gaping, self-inflicted bullethole in my head.

We are not blank slates commanded to fill in the right bubble on God’s spiritual ACT exam.  We are willful rebels against the good King, idolaters and liars and adulterers and hatemongers all, and rather than wipe us from the face of His good, green Earth He chose to bleed out on a shameful Roman Cross that we might be made eternal sons and daughters.  

If you think the Gospel is that some morally neutral people believe the right thing and go to Heaven and other morally neutral people believe the wrong thing and go to Hell, you’ve totally misunderstood our situation, here.  

You, I, and our first father Adam tried to kidnap the glory of the only good King and hold His innocent world ransom, all while clawing our brothers’ and sisters’ eyes out as we tried to be kings ourselves on His free soil.  But He has offered to ransom us from our own suicidal treachery.  

The Gospel isn’t “Believe the right thing, good man, or you’ll get worse than you probably deserve.”  The Gospel is, “Believe, wicked man, and be my son forever; I offer with open arms more than you could ever deserve.”

Don’t be deceived:  A man will reap what He sows.  And everyone reading this (and the man writing it) started adult life having sowed a gallon of poison into his own veins.  

But the unfathomable Good News is that Jesus went to a cross to spill the antidote from His own side.