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O Ye Of Fickle Faith

Two days ago I got some news that I wasn’t expecting, which ruined for the moment the plans I was making for myself.   My wife, knowing my concern and sadness, sent me the following text while I was driving to work:

I’m sorry honey!!!  God is in control of our lives even when others make mistakes.  Keep your hope in God.  He knows what is best and when it’s best.   I love you.

The past few days I have been asked by a few friends if I could pinpoint one of the primary differences in my life today as compared to the life of 2 summers ago.   My answer, in large part, is found in the spirit of that text.

God is in control.  Hope in God.   God knows what and when is best.  Trust Him.

It is easy to believe God is in control when things are going your way.   When you wake up to a bright, sunny day, when the coffee is hot and strong, when the car starts and has plenty of gas, when your boss gives you a promotion, when you are healthy, when your spouse is on your side and your kids are being obedient – in all these things we give thanks to God, as we ought.

But what about when there is a raging storm outside, when the coffee pot is broken, when the car breaks down on the side of the road, when you show up to work and are given a pink slip, when you get diagnosed with cancer, when your spouse cheats or leaves and when your kids drive you crazy – in all these things we tend to think God is absent or to blame.

Praise-in-Storm

I confess that I often lack the faith to believe God is in control of all things, that all things work according to the counsel of his will (Eph. 1:11).    I confess that I often lack joy when I face trials of various kinds, which are designed for the purpose of increasing my faith (James 1:1-4).   I confess that when I feel persecuted or tormented I far too often become self-absorbed rather than see this as an opportunity to bear witness to the glory and majesty of God (Luke 21:12-13).

In Mary Beth Chapman’s moving book about hope and struggle through the tragic death of their daughter she shares how they, as a family, had their faith deepened.    While the pain was still very raw, she describes how her husband, Stephen, would go into his sound-proof recording studio in their home and scream at the top of his lungs,

You give and you take away!   Blessed be the name of the Lord!   You give and you take away!  Blessed be the name of the Lord! 

He was quoting Job 1:21.   I had tears in my eyes as I read that for the first time, and again as I type them here.   Why?  Because it’s a faith I find so humble, trusting and vulnerable.    It’s one I see so often lacking in myself, and sadly, in much of the church world.

It is a faith that gives God glory in the midst of the storm, even though, paradoxically, it names Him as the author of it. It’s the faith of Job.   Though he lost everything dear to him, he refused to curse God.    His ruminations over what happened to him neither led him to believe God was absent nor that He was to blame (in a pejorative sense) but rather, God is the author of all things and that He is good and trustworthy.    If God is truly good, and if God is truly in control, then whatever befalls Job is re-imagined through that lens.   This is ultimate trust.  This is ultimate faith.    “Yet though you slay me,” Job said, “I will trust in you” (Job 13:15).     Job knows that life and death occur by God’s hand, according to the counsel of His will, and it’s all good for those who love God (Rom. 8:28).

 
And lest we think this God is archaic, one of some ancient, Old Testament understanding of God, Jesus reminds me that it is the God he knows, and trusts explicitly.   Sent to earth to die a horrible death, he prayed that this cup – one predestined by His Father – be spared him.    The pain he was about to endure he did not attribute to an absent God nor did he blame him, but instead prayed, “Not my will, but Thine be done.”    Like Job, Jesus prayed, “Yet though you slay me, I will trust in you.”

This trust resulted in an Easter miracle.

Granted, this God offends our modern sensibilities of what is “good” and “loving.”   It isn’t one that appeases the masses, or tickles itching ears who long to have their best life now.

My wife remembers all too well the many times she was told by a godly woman that the pain her husband (me) was inflicting upon her were opportunities for her to repent, to run to God, to worship Him.   For years she resisted this counsel, believing instead that if God were love He must be absent, or to blame, or did not love her very much at all to allow this suffering in her life.    She couldn’t stand to hear from women who testified that if she would only trust God, she would one day be giving Him thanks for her afflictions (just like David does in Psalm 119, numerous times).

Today, however, she is doing just that.   As her text above demonstrates, my wife has learned that the faith she thought she had was a fickle one, tossed and torn by the events of any given day.    Today, by the grace and mercy of God, she stands as a Job-like example to me of one who strives to pray, “Though you slay me, God, I will trust you!”

Seeing such faith in action leads me, and I hope you as well, to pray, “Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief!”  (Mark 9:24).

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I Killed Him

Due to illness we did not attend church this morning but had family worship at home.   Being Pentecost Sunday I read Acts 2 and we discussed the Holy Spirit and the birth of the Church.   But this post is not about that.   It’s about the conversation that took place because of my 8 year old son’s curiosity and fear over a confession I wrote in the margin of my bible.

I didn’t quite understand the worry in his face when I asked if anyone had any questions following our bible study.   Maddox looked as though he were about to cry as he pointed with a shaky finger to the words I scribbled in the margin…

I killed Him.

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“What does this mean, Daddy?”   The question opened up an opportunity, no doubt initiated by the Holy Spirit, to talk about something every Christian needs to remind themselves of often, for we so easily forget.

I killed Him.  It’s what I wrote in the margin of my Bible next to Peter’s sermon in Solomon’s Portico, where he is rehearsing once more the history of Israel and their guilt over murdering the Messiah.    Acts 3:14-15 reads,

But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and you killed the Author of Life, whom God raised from the dead.

I killed Him.

At some point over the past year during my devotional reading the Spirit spoke those words to me, placing me there on the scene – at Pilate’s sham-of-a-trial, at the walk towards Golgatha, at the foot of Calvary – hissing and jeering the entire time, insisting that I will not allow anyone, not even God, get in the way of my own self-interests.

I was there, driving the nails through the hands and feet of the Author of Life, because my sin and shame made it His passion to let me.

I killed Him.

All of my betrayal, lust, selfishness, pride – all the pain it caused all those I thought I loved, all the depression, anger, loneliness, and despair  – was on his shoulders as I hoisted him up on the cross to die.

I killed Him.

It’s a heart-wrenching thing to realize, that you killed the Author of Life.   If you are so fortunate to have the Spirit whisk you away from your current place and set you down at the foot of the cross I assure you you will never be the same again.    When you see the weight of sin this Sinless One bore for you, for all the world, the veil is torn and religion dies, only to be replaced with what John Wesley called “a heart strangely warmed.”     Religion is replaced with holy passion and yearning, and sin – that which enslaved you the day before  – loses it’s deathly grip.

It’s easy to lay the blame elsewhere. It’s easy to watch the death of Jesus unfold like a bystander then rail against the social powers-that-be, the evils of society, the injustice of a fallen world.    I was once a pastor who was so wrapped up in the social sins I saw, in large part because I did not want to see the personal sins within.   Getting wrapped up in the social evils which make for good Facebook or Twitter fodder was far more appetizing (and crowd pleasing!) than sitting alone at the foot of Calvary, weeping over my own sin which put my Jesus there.

I don’t ever want to lose sight of the cross or my explicit hand in the whole bloody affair.   I don’t ever want to lose sight of the fact that Jesus was on that cross for me, dying for the very things that made me take a hammer to his hands.   I don’t ever want to lose sight of the fact that I killed Him.

And yet, amazingly, He still loves me.   What a Savior!

 

Son, Come to your Senses

Yesterday my wife and I were talking about the radical lengths required for real reconciliation to transpire.     We both agreed that as a couple we both had to abandon our right to have rights and humbly confess that we were both in need.   She for different reasons than I, obviously, and perhaps she will speak to that from her perspective in a later post.

As the outright offender in our marriage, it might seem obvious that the very least I or anyone in my position can do is take a posture of complete and utter servitude and humility, willing to surrender any and all rights for the one betrayed.    Yet you would be surprised to know how many people refuse to come to this place (and how long it took for me to get there myself!).   They are sorry (at least they think they are) for what they have done, and they desire to reconcile with their family but they want to do so on their own terms, or at best, expect some compromise in the negotiations.    The following sentiments are expressed far too often by people who want reconciliation:

She expects me to leave my job!  Is she crazy?  I want to get back together but she’s totally unreasonable! 

She’ll take me back but only if I drop all my friends.   It’s she or them, she says.    I want our marriage to work but her ultimatums are ruining our chances!

She says that for us to work out I need to give up the internet.    I don’t mind cutting back some, but I have to have it for my job.  She doesn’t get it. 

Such negotiations are the exact opposite of the truly penitent.   As Amy and I thought about the sacrifices necessary to reconcile we were reminded of the story Jesus tells of the prodigal son in Luke 15.    When this son “comes to his senses” after living unfaithfully as a son to his father, he determines to return home and say,

“Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you.   I am no longer worthy to be called your son.   Treat me as one of your hired servants” (Luke 15:18-19).

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Absent from this confession and plea are any grasping for rights.     The son returns with head bowed and heart torn, willing to be treated as a slave rather than a son.   Can anyone imagine this prodigal returning home to say that he is sorry for squandering everything and betraying the love and trust of his father, but dad, I want my old room back?    Dad, don’t ask me to clean the pigsty cause I’ve been living in it long enough.   Dad, you need to show me some consideration, as I’ve been through a lot.  

Let me be blunt.  If you have been unfaithful to your spouse and are bargaining in these ways or others you are not truly repentant.  You haven’t yet come to your senses like the prodigal son and are deluding yourself into thinking you still have rights.    The tension and angst your feel and the reason reconciliation seems so impossible is because you won’t die to yourself completely but still hold out hope that you can keep some of the old man around, though perhaps dressed up in new clothes.

If there is any hope for restoration you are going to have to be the first to die.     A necessary part of that death is a dying to self – to your rights, your dreams, your ideas of what the marriage ought to look like, your former life altogether.    This is the path so few are willing to walk.   But I can assure you that you do not walk it alone.    You can know that as a forgiven sinner, as you walk a path of humility before your spouse and others whom you’ve hurt, that you are walking the path of Jesus, who took your sin upon his sinless shoulders like a lamb being led to the slaughter (Isa. 53).    “Consider him,” the author of Hebrews writes, “who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted” (Heb. 12:3).

If the Son of God, who did not deserve it, could endure with patient humility such hostility from us, surely you, who does deserve it, can endure the evacuation of your rights for the sake of true repentance and reconciliation.

If not, then son, may you soon come to your senses.

 

 

Stop Bothering Me! (something Daddy never says)

“Daddy, can i have 40 dollars?”

Brody, my 6 year old, needed a new video game for his DS.    The question came up at dinner last Saturday and continued to be asked until it was time for bed.

Daddy, please? Daddy, I need it!   Daddy, can I?   How can I make 40 bucks daddy? 

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If you are a parent, you no doubt have experienced the incessant and persistent neediness of your children.   There are moments when it feels as though every 3 seconds they are calling your name, wanting this, needing that.    You love it, don’t you?  Or maybe you are like me, and during those moments you just want to cover your ears and lock yourself in a quiet room and eat Oreos.

Sunday morning I was enjoying my quiet time before everyone woke up, doing some dishes, when I heard the pitter-patter of feet behind me.

It was Brody.

The first words out of his mouth that morning were, of course, “Daddy, when can I have that 40 dollars?”

As my flesh reared up and prepared to tell him to go back to bed and not bother me again about that, the Spirit of the Lord spoke into my heart, saying,

You are so unlike your Daddy in heaven, Chad.

Father stopped me in my tracks.  The truth of this revelation had my full attention, then continued…

Your Father, Chad, never tires of his children’s needs.   He never grows weary of their want.  In fact, He is drawn to it.   Unlike you, He does not hide from need but runs to it.

Oh, and Chad, I want you to be more like Me.

There are times when I get lulled into thinking Jesus and I are so alike.  The world’s idolatry of self-sufficiency-as-virtue can easily lure me into loosing touch with the wholly-otherness of God, thus reducing Jesus to a peer I sometimes use to justify the life I’ve already determined to lead rather than surrendering to him as Lord, knowing my every breath hinges upon his word.

And so it is that this word that ruptured my world Sunday morning at Brody’s request is precisely what I needed, because it is through reckoning the great gulf that exists between myself and Father that I can truly appreciate and depend on His Son, who reconciled me, and us, bridging that gulf and making it possible to become like Daddy.

And the truth I am still in awe of today is that our Father in Heaven never tires of us.  He never grows weary of the needs we bring to the throne of grace.   He won’t bar the door and indulge Himself in Oreo cookies and earplugs.  His love, patience, and compassion is so unlike my own, and for this I stand amazed, and humbled.

Perhaps this is why Jesus said the kingdom belongs to children.   Children are constantly in need.  Their very lives hang in the balance of a parent who loves them.    And according to Jesus, age does not relinquish our need, despite our prideful attempts to assert otherwise.   In fact, presupposing we have no needs, that we are doing just fine, thank you very much, is an affront to God, and blocks us from receiving all that our Father desires to give us as His children (Rev. 3:17).

Pride blinds us to our greatest need which is Jesus, and we can do no better than realizing we have this need.  He has never stopped calling to any and all who would listen,

Come to me, you who are weary and heavy-burdened, and I will give you rest  (Matt. 11:28)

How awesome it is to know we have a God who does not respond to need like us earthly parents!  We must come to know this God, and trust that our requests, no matter how trivial they may seem are not annoying God but displaying our dependence upon Him.   It reflects a heart that is willing to humble itself before God as a child, and our Father is waiting for such worshipers!    Run to him with your need!

In his book, Orthodoxy, G.K Chesterton pens this beautiful description of our Daddy who, unlike you and I,  never gets tired of need.

Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.

It is my desire to become more like a child in the hands of my Father in heaven, needy and dependent upon Him for even the smallest details of my life.    I believe this honors God, positioning me rightly before Him and others, serving to transform and renew a mind that so easily falls prey to the pride of life.   I also desire to become more like Him in my response to need around me, to not grow weary or impatient but filled with His Spirit, abounding in grace and mercy.     In my own strength I know this is not possible, but my Daddy does the impossible!

 

 

 

How Psalm 119 Saved My Life (and can do the same for you)

To those who desire to distance themselves from a life of bondage to habitual sin, who cannot seem to muster up enough faith to make it through the day (let alone move a mountain), and/or have lost or never had an abiding love for God’s word nor the discipline of reading it much and often, I offer the following discipline which, by the grace and power of God, helped to save my life (and can do the same for you, too).

My counselor at Pure Life gave me an exercise to do which I thought very little of at first.   He told me to read a portion of Psalm 119 every night for the entire time I was there (7 months).   Psalm 119 is the longest chapter in the Bible.  It is broken down into 22 stanzas, each one a letter of the Hebrew alphabet.   My task was to read 3 stanzas a night and 4 on the 7th night.   This would mean I’d read through the entire Psalm in a week.

But I was to do more than just read.   I was to take note of the verses that didn’t describe me at present and pray that the Lord would make that true of me.    Let me give you an example…

Verse one reads (yes, at that time it didn’t take long to find something that didn’t describe me!),

Blessed are those whose way is blameless,
who walk in the law of the Lord!

My way was anything but blameless and I knew I did not walk in the law of the Lord.   I continually gave over to my flesh, feasting on whatever my eyes desired, and as a result my life was anything but “blessed.”   I was heading towards divorce, estranged from my 5 children, jobless and homeless.   Not blessed!

So, when I read this first verse and recognized this was not me, I prayed,

Lord, my way is anything but blameless and I have walked my own path for far too long.   Help me!   I want to be blameless in your sight.  Make me know and walk in your ways!

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Verse 7 reads,

I will praise you with an upright heart,
when I learn your righteous rules.

Oh how I wanted to praise God with an upright heart!   For years I would stand in church whether as a spectator or a pastor and could not praise God with integrity.   How many times I would hoist up some shallow prayer of confession just before church, promising I’d not look at porn again (knowing I would at the first opportunity on Monday), just so I could appease my guilty conscious for an hour, further deluding myself that my praise was acceptable and pleasing to God.     Dear God, I prayed, teach me your righteous rules!   I want an upright heart!

On and on this inspired Psalm goes, with verse after verse which did not describe me as I was but as I hoped to one day be.    Over the weeks and months I began to see how the Holy Spirit was using these holy words to change me from the inside out.    I began to rejoice as I read these same words which weeks before condemned me.    What a joy it was to cry out to God in praise, “Yes!  Because of You I have an upright heart!   I can praise you with integrity!  I am truly blessed!   Your law is sweet and good, it is a light for my feet!   Your word keeps my way pure!”

Psalm 119 is about falling in love with God’s word.   It testifies to the power and authority of the words of God to change a heart from being consumed with self to becoming consumed with the Word.   Do you believe that God desires to make you new?   He will use his Word to accomplish this task.   Trust it!

If you are struggling with some habitual sin in your life, or find yourself less-than-passionate about reading God’s word, I challenge you to read/pray through Psalm 119 once a week for the next 6 months.   The person who comes to this inspired text with hands open and head bowed will not be disappointed.    You will be blessed.   God promises to do it!

 

 

The Sin of Self-Gratification (Part IV): Putting on Christ

This is the fourth and final part to a series dealing with lust and how to find victory.    Part III deals with the things we need to “put off.”  If we don’t put off, we can’t put on.   I hope you’ll find both an aid in your desire for holiness.

12 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.Do not be conformed to this world,but be transformed by the renewal of your mind (Rom. 12:1-2)

How do we have our minds transformed?   By presenting our entire selves to God in all things.   It is not enough to just throw off the old nature.  We must, as Scripture commands, “put on Christ.”    Below are some of the means I have incorporated in my life which have, by the grace of God, transformed my mind from a lustful, selfish thing to one free to do God’s bidding.    I, and other readers, would love to hear your own ways of “putting on Christ.” Please share in the comments!

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1.  Wonder and Wander in the Word

There is no substitute for God’s word.   Gorge yourself on it.   Read it with the spirit and abandonment of Peter who said, “To whom shall we go?  Only you have the words of eternal life!” (John 6:68)  For those of you who are in ministry it is very hard to read Scripture for yourself.   If you are like me, I felt I read Scripture a lot because I was preparing a sermon, a bible study or even worse, trying to prove my point via a blog post or some other media.

This is not edifying for you!    Pray that God would give you ears to hear what the Spirit wants to say to YOU in this moment, to change you, recreate something new in you that is not currently there.    God’s Word is powerful and effective at changing hearts.  It will come alive to those who come hungry and thirsty.

A nightly practice of mine for nearly a year was to read 3 stanzas of Psalm 119 every night (and 4 stanzas on the 7th night – in this way you have read the entire Psalm in a week).    I read it in hopes of one day being able to identify with it.  Over time I found, to my great surprise, that the Scriptures were working on me and I was looking more and more like what I was reading.

2.  Pray, Pray, Pray

We need regular dialog with our Father.   Set a goal at first to spend 15 minutes in prayer each morning before doing anything else.  Find a prayer rhythm.  I know some who love to sit and pray.  Others write out their prayers.   Others, like myself, like to walk and talk aloud to God.   I take my dogs for a walk and pray aloud.  I never knew this was how I would pray best until being forced out of my routine one day and stumbling upon this exercise.   In other words, be open to change!

Knowing what to pray is important, too.   While at Pure Life I learned the Mercy Prayer, developed and taught by Rex Andrews.   This prayer, I believe, was one of the biggest contributing factors to my own transformation.  Praying this prayer is a prayer directly in line with God’s will for not just your life but everyone.    I pray it all the time even now.  When I am stressed, angry, when my will is being crossed, when I don’t know how to pray for someone who comes to mind, when temptation arises, etc.   When you ask me to pray for you, this is what I am most likely praying.   Learn this prayer and pray it. It will change your life!

Mercy Prayer

1) Lord, I thank You for_________.

I thank You for saving him. Thank you for what You have done and are doing in his life.

2) Make__________ to know Jesus (more). Help him to increase in the knowledge of God. Destroy speculation and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and help him to bring every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.

3) Make__________ poor in spirit. Bring him down Lord, but please do it gently. Help him to see his neediness. Help him to see himself in light of You. Put him in his rightful place Lord.

4) Fill ___________ with Your Holy Spirit. Immerse him in Your Spirit Lord. Come to him in power and in might. Baptize him in fire Lord.

5) Life___________.

Life him according to Thy lovingkindness. Pour out Your life giving mercies into his soul.

6) Bless__________. Lord, bless him in everything he touches. Bless him spiritually, physically, and financially. Bless his loved ones. Do for him Lord, instead of me.

7) Mercy__________.

Flood him with need-filling mercies. Pour them out in super abundance. Find and meet every need in his life as You see it Lord.

3.  Read and Study Religiously

You need to fill you mind and heart with wisdom and instruction from godly men and women.   Seek out spiritual writers who are focused on repentance and holiness and matters of the heart.

A powerful, daily study guide is Steve Gallagher’s Walk of Repentance.  This will take you day by day through 24 weeks of studying the word which will get to the heart of many things in your life and give you a new hunger for God’s word in the process.   His first book, At the Altar of Sexual Idolatry is also must reading for anyone struggling with sexual sin of any kind.

Other books I highly recommend, which helped me see a life of repentance as a daily practice:

Roy Hession’s Calvary Road and We Would See Jesus

Many of the spiritual classics are excellent as well.  Fenelon’s Seeking Heart, for example, is a wonderful devotional that will help aid in spotting pride in your life and putting it to death.

4.  Find a Fast

Victory over lust came for me when I started fasting.    I didn’t realize the benefits of fasting until I actually did it.   I knew all about it (or thought I did), preached about it, talked about it, but never really did it.   And even while doing it I wondered what the use might be.   But God revealed that to me soon enough.

For me a good fast is 24 to 48 hours.   For a number of months I fasted for 24 hours once a week (one of my weekend days).    What I learned during this time was the most valuable lesson anyone struggling with lust needs to learn:

You can say no to your flesh!  (and you won’t die doing it). 

Having lived such a defeated Christian existence for so long, always giving over to my flesh whenever I desired, saying no to food when I was hungry helped build my spiritual muscles.    I was growing in that fruit of the Spirit I lacked most: Self-Control.   When I learned that I could say no to food, I knew I could also say no to lust when the temptations arose.

Through the discipline of fasting I have learned that I am no longer a slave to my old self but can willingly choose to submit my body in righteousness and make good decisions when I’m tempted in other directions.

Speaking of fasting, this will be my last post until Easter.   During Lent I will be fasting from social media and blogging, along with my weekly food fasts.

5.  Journey in a Journal

Whether you type it out on a Word document or like to hand-write in a notepad, it will do you well to write out your trials, struggles, and, as you’ll come to see, victories.   Keep a record of God’s work in your life.  Write down what He is saying to you in your time in prayer and the word.  Talk about what it’s like to walk in victory.   Take note of how your thoughts wander and where.   During your journal time you will notice areas where you might need to tighten off on the “putting off” and other ways you need to “put on.”

Well there you have it.  I pray these bless you as they have blessed me over the past 2 years and continue to do today.

 

Grace and peace,
Chad

Our Killing God: A Lenten Reflection

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We must trust also in a ‘killing God.’   We must declare with Job, ‘Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him’ (Job 13:15)

These words from the Puritan, William Gurnall, have been marinating in my soul since I first read them months ago.  They sprang to life as I read over the text for this Ash Wednesday.  The prophet Joel begins,

Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble, for the day of the Lord is coming; it is near (2:1)

Not everyone in the church today believes there is any need to tremble.   We have so domesticated God that we wouldn’t recognize Him if he came throwing flaming arrows from a war horse, as Joel goes on to describe Him.   God, we have told ourselves, is a cute bobble-head smiling down on us from our dashboards.

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From the beginning there has been a steady push to remove all of this violent, killing imagery from God, as though it is up to us to make God look more respectable and politically correct for mass consumption.   A recent blog from an evangelical scholar questioning the Bible’s goodness and trustworthiness when it comes to talking about a killing God is just one among many attempts to fashion God into the best, nicest, me.   Surely, we argue, God cannot be less loving and compassionate than me, right?    And therein lies the problem:

God is not us.   God is wholly other than us.  

C.S. Lewis, in his wonderful book The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, has this profound exchange,

“Is Aslan safe?”

‘Safe?’ said Mr. Beaver; ‘don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe?

‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good.

And then again,

“People who have not been in Narnia sometimes think that a thing cannot be good and terrible at the same time.”

There was a time when I tried to clean God up for greater consumption.   I gutted Him of the images the prophets gave Him through the Spirit’s leading, the very images that caused people to tremble and rend their hearts.   Today, perhaps I could be found guilty of swinging the pendulum too far in the opposite direction at times, but given the culture I move and breath in, I pray it offers a helpful balance.    Yes, God is good.    Yes, God is love.   But I never want to be found guilty again of emptying God of His terribleness, or His wildness, or His holiness.

Gurnall continues his thought above,

It takes a submissive faith for a soul to march steadily forward while God seems to fire upon that soul and shoot His frowns like poisoned arrows into it. This is hard work, and will test the Christian’s mettle.  Yet such a spirit we find in the poor woman of Canaan, who caught the bullets Christ shot at her, and with a humble boldness sent them back again in her prayer (Matt. 15:22-28)

Somehow we must learn to live within this tension.   Lent, I believe, offers us a time to sit and wrestle with this God who is both good and terrible at the same time.

Though I may want a God who is always blowing kisses my way from the dashboard, I need a God who will also throw arrows, piercing my wicked, wandering heart to a cross.