Jesus is rest.

Jesus is rest.

“For I satisfy the weary ones and refresh everyone who languishes.” (Jeremiah 31:25, NASB)

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28, NIV)

A prophesy from Jesus about Himself:

The Sovereign Lord has given me an instructed tongue,

to know the word that sustains the weary.

He wakens me morning by morning,

wakens my ear to listen like one being taught.

The Sovereign Lord has opened my ears,

and I have not been rebellious;

I have not drawn back.

I offered my back to those who beat me,

my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard;

I did not hide my face

from mocking and spitting.

Because the Sovereign Lord helps me,

I will not be disgraced.

Therefore have I set my face like flint,

and I know I will not be put to shame.

He who vindicates me is near.

Who then will bring charges against me?

Let us face each other!

Who is my accuser?

Let him confront me!

It is the Sovereign Lord who helps me.

Who is he that will condemn me?

They will all wear out like a garment;

the moths will eat them up.

Who among you fears the Lord

and obeys the word of his servant?

Let him who walks in the dark,

who has no light,

trust in the name of the Lord

and rely on his God.

But now, all you who light fires

and provide yourselves with flaming torches,

go, walk in the light of your fires

and of the torches you have set ablaze.

This is what you shall receive from my hand:

You will lie down in torment. (Isaiah 50:4-11, NIV)

Right & Wrong and the stopping point

Is there set-in-stone right and wrong?

I got to hear a group of children talk about the story Jack and the Beanstalk.  When the question was asked, “Was it right for Jack to steal the hen from the giant because he was poor?” the answers leaned greatly on the side of yes.  The few who thought it was wrong thought so because the giant had almost caught Jack, not because they felt stealing was inherently wrong.

I’m reminded of a class I took in college–I’m really not sure what it was, psychology, I think, though philosophy would make more sense–where a series of deeply thought-out scenarios were posed to challenge the idea of set-in-stone right and wrong.  When they are invented, they feature highly improbable circumstances that pity the wrong choice and make the right choice seem like climbing Mount Everest.

I only remember one of them.  I believe I was told this one was true.

A man’s wife is dying of cancer.  He can’t afford the medicine for her treatment.  He double mortgages his home and still can’t pay for the expensive medicine.  He decides to break into the pharmacy to steal the drugs.  Is he wrong?

My question, I think, aggravated at least one person in the class as seeming Bambi-ish.  But Bambi-ish or not, I would still ask it: Why couldn’t he raise money?  If he explained to his friends, coworkers, and neighbors that his wife would die without these treatments, they wouldn’t give him a dime?

That could be true, but the story becomes even more improbable.  I went through a stage in my life where I didn’t have many close friends, and I would still like to think that, if tragedy had struck, many people would have chipped in to help me.  Maybe that is naive, but I hear about fundraisers that raise a great deal of money for different causes.

But let’s say there really isn’t anyone to give him money.  Should he break in the pharmacy?  Is the only other option to let his wife die?

I am not here to condemn a man for breaking into a pharmacy, if this really happened.  I don’t know what it feels like to have someone I love dying of cancer and be unable to pay for the treatments.  But I still think breaking into the pharmacy would be wrong, because God says that stealing is wrong.

There are an untold number of things that can go wrong when sin comes onto the scene.  What if the man is caught breaking in and is shot?  What if he is taken to jail, the medicine confiscated, and his wife dies without ever seeing him again?  What if someone else is blamed for the break-in and goes to jail?

But there’s more than just the untold number of things that can go wrong.  What is really happening is a total distrust in the love of God.  It goes something like this: God won’t do this for me, so I will sin to get this done.

Things like this never turn out the way we think they will.  They sure haven’t in my life.  Or Sarah’s.

Sarah had a great plan.  Abraham didn’t seem to be able to have any children through her.  Yet he’d been promised by God to have a child.  In came Sarah’s plan: Abraham would have a child by Sarah’s slave.

How did this turn out?  Sarah’s slave had the child, but God was good on His promise.  So Sarah had a child, too.  Sarah’s slave, Hagar, scorned Sarah, and Sarah mistreated her.  God intervened to protect Hagar from Sarah.  Then He intervened again to protect Sarah’s child from Haagar’s child.  All this was caused by Sarah’s “great plan”.

After my father died of ALS, a petition came around to sign for embryonic stem cell research.  Friends seemed to think I would be the first to sign.  But to sign such a thing would have been to spit on my father’s grave.  My father never wanted to live by the death of an unborn child.  I want a cure for ALS. But I can’t look for a cure in destroying the lives of others.

A friend of mine had a small son who was struggling with cancer at the time of the petition.  He’d missed a great deal of work as his son went through chemo after chemo.  The four-year-old boy had no idea why he was suffering so much.  My friend quietly refused to sign the petition for stem cell research.  He told me something like this: “I want my son healed.  But I won’t do it this way.”

I have come to see that all things come to us as they are either given or allowed by God.  As Kerrie Roberts sings,

Before a heartache ever touches my life

It has to go through Your hands.

I can’t invent bad ways to try to bring about good.  If something has come into my life that I can’t fix without doing something evil–then I shouldn’t try to fix it.  It isn’t diseases, disasters, criminals, war, or doctors who give or take away life.  It is only God.

I do believe right and wrong are set in stone.  More than stone, really.  The nature of God is good, so goodness (or rightness or righteousness) are set by God’s very character.  Anything that goes against God’s character is bad (or wrong or evil).  I know this will make some furious, but it doesn’t change the Truth.

I’d like to leave with one more analogy.

Under the regime of Hitler, doctors experimented on Jews.  A great deal of research was done, scientific research.  After the war, what was done with the research?  Some scientists found it vile, reprehensible, and didn’t want to touch it.  Others have used it.

Professional modern medicine has had little difficulty condemning the Nazi doctors as evil men. But what is being said of the continued use of the Nazi doctors’ medical research? Many scholars are now discovering in reputable medical literature multiple references to Nazi experiments . . . [these references] frequently bear no disclaimer as to how the data was obtained. In recent years several scientists who have sought to use the Nazi research have attracted and stirred widespread soul-searching . . . (Baruch C. Cohen, “The Ethics of Using Medical Data from Nazi Experiments”)

The same article includes this quote from Dr. Howard Spiro (Yale University) about using this research:

[W]e make the Nazis our retroactive partners in the victims’ torture and death.

If our morality is not set in God’s character, we can use research that has been gotten by horrific means.  And once we use research that has been gotten by horrific means, we are only one step away from doing that research ourselves.

The man who tries to rescue his wife by breaking into the pharmacy . . where would he stop?  What if she needed chemotherapy he couldn’t afford?  Would he hold the clinic hostage at gunpoint?  What if she needed a kidney transplant, and there were no kidneys available?  Would he kill a stranger whose kidneys were compatible?  What if he thought a cure could be found if only there were cancer patients to experiment on?  Would he force strangers to be experimentation victims?

Once evil can be justified by its end, where is the stopping point?

How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked,

Nor stand in the path of sinners,

Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!

But his delight is in the law of the LORD,

And in His law he meditates day and night. (Psalm 1:2, NIV)

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The Ethics of Using Medical Data from Nazi Experiments, Baruch C. Cohen, Jewish Virtual Library, http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Judaism/naziexp.html, accessed May 12, 2012

Tiny Tim

“Somehow he gets thoughtful sitting by himself so much, and thinks the strangest things you ever heard. He told me, coming home, that he hoped the people saw him in the church, because he was a cripple, and it might be pleasant to them to remember upon Christmas Day, who made lame beggars walk and blind men see.”

–Bob Cratchit, A Christmas Carol

Jesus made the lame walk and the blind see.

As the sun went down that evening, people throughout the village brought sick family members to Jesus.  No matter what their diseases were, the touch of his hand healed every one. (Luke 4:40, NLT)

There is something unsaid in Tiny Tim’s statement, something we are left to wonder.  Why isn’t Tiny Tim healed?

Tiny Tim has no doubt that Jesus can heal.  And from the story, we can guess that he loves Jesus very much.  Yet Tiny Tim is not healed.  At no point in the story does he receive a miraculous touch from Jesus and go running through the streets, shouting his good news.  As a matter of fact, according to Dickens’ story, Tim recovers because a transformed Ebenezer Scrooge pours money into doctors and he improves little by little over time.

I thought it was very interesting to see a Christian adaptation of the Christmas Carol that had Tiny Tim’s family praying for Tim’s healing instead of Scrooge intervening.  Tim’s father then says that he is sure God has answered their prayers and will heal Tim.  In the next scene, Tim is able to take off his crutch and walk and run.

Why was this adaptation made?  Clearly to give God more honor, to give God credit for Tim’s healing instead of Scrooge.

But is this what actually happened?

To answer this, I have to go back to the difference between who I might want God to be and who He is and why, when I try to mislead people into believing my story about God instead of the true story, however much I mean to do good by it, what I actually shield is the love of God I am trying so hard to manufacture.  The love of God does not need to be manufactured.  It does not need to be altered.  It does not need to be added upon.

For the entire approximate two-year span after my father’s diagnosis with Lou Gehrig’s Disease, our church prayed for him.  And not just our church.  His boss, a deeply godly man, fasted one day every week to spend in prayer for my father’s healing.  If it’s a matter of needing faith, my father had it from all appearances I could see.  He was sure God would heal him.

But my dad died in 2004.

Now, this is an easy story compared to others.  What about the preschooler who dies of cancer, or the baby born with AIDS?  What about the kindergartener with cerebral palsy or the teenager without limbs?  Why doesn’t God heal them?  Surely it is not because He’s waiting for the right prayer to “unlock” His mercy.  God doesn’t play “Mother May I?” with us.  There is no formula of words or concoction of “good works” that gets our prayers answered.

So why doesn’t God heal all the Tiny Tims of the world?  Well, when we ask that, why not ask why anyone gets sick in the first place?  And when it comes to it, why does anyone die?  Why doesn’t God just sustain us forever on this earth?

Well, first of all, would I want to be sustained forever here?  Even if God did not allow anyone to ever be sick or die, what about all the violence?  People could go to war and repeatedly shoot and stab each other, never to die.  People could beat each other without ever killing them.  Is that a world I want to live in?  Certainly not.

The heart of the problem isn’t disability or disease or even death.  The heart of the problem is sin.  As long as we sin, we’re doomed.  And God has put in place natural consequences for our sin–an imperfect world–and unnatural consequences–death.  God can do that because He’s God, of course, but beyond that, He is perfectly right to allow us to live in the life we have chosen.  And He can in absolute justice curse us with death for our disobedience to Him.

But God’s will goes way beyond that.

For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.

“There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him. But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son. (John 3:16-18, NLT)

God uses even disease, disability, and death to draw people to Him so that they may be saved.  I believe that with all my heart.  How does He know who to choose for what circumstances?  God knows every possible outcome of every possible circumstance.  And I believe He allows disease and disability and takes us in death in the full brilliance of His plan.  I believe that plan is for as many people as possible to come to salvation through Jesus Christ.  Here is what I know for sure:

For God has imprisoned everyone in disobedience so he could have mercy on everyone.

Oh, how great are God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge! How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his ways!

For who can know the Lord’s thoughts?

Who knows enough to give him advice?

And who has given him so much

that he needs to pay it back?

For everything comes from him and exists by his power and is intended for his glory. All glory to him forever! Amen. (Romans 11:32-36, NLT)

Charles Dickens’ Christmas Carol is pretend.  But does it insult God by laying Tim’s recovering health on Scrooge rather than on God?

Well, wait a minute.  Why does Scrooge want to help Tiny Tim, anyway?

The story is pretend, but if it was real, the only way Scrooge could have been transformed that Christmas Eve would be through Jesus Christ, no question.  Jesus is the only true change that can happen in our lives.  So if Scrooge was saved by the love of Christ that night, and then he poured a little of that love out on Tim so he could see good doctors . . . who would really get credit for Tim’s recovery?

I don’t believe Christ would get any less credit for working through Scrooge than if He had instantly healed Tim with the touch of His hand.

And Christ doesn’t get any less credit if He doesn’t heal our bodies, either.

“He told me, coming home, that he hoped the people saw him in the church, because he was a cripple, and it might be pleasant to them to remember upon Christmas Day, who made lame beggars walk and blind men see.”

Tim didn’t say this because he felt sorry for himself, or because he was bitter with Jesus.  He said this because he loved the God who, by the touch of His hand, healed the sick . . . the same God who, by the piercing of His hand, took upon Himself our eternal sickness . . so that our souls could be healed forever in Him.

He was despised and rejected by people. He was a man of sorrows, familiar with suffering. He was despised like one from whom people turn their faces, and we didn’t consider him to be worth anything.

He certainly has taken upon himself our suffering and carried our sorrows, but we thought that God had wounded him, beat him, and punished him.

He was wounded for our rebellious acts. He was crushed for our sins. He was punished so that we could have peace, and we received healing from his wounds. (Isaiah 53:3-5, GWT)

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See Copyright Page for Bible translation information.

Health, Wealth, Lou Gehrig’s Disease, & Why My Father Didn’t Get Healed

Panic clamped its talons on my skull, and I was waiting for my brain to burst out like yolk in an egg.

The room was framed in a fuzzy blur.

College, 2003.

I thought the world was going to end—no, not the world, but me.  I thought I was going to end.  I thought my soul was going to be squeezed until it detonated like a grenade.

I shouldn’t have gone to class.

I knew now that I shouldn’t have gone to class, but it was too late.

I’d been upset in the commute over, of course, but I told myself I’d be all right.  It’d be okay.  So what that my father was going to see a faith healer?  So what that he had been waiting, longing for the day when this man of “god” would come to town?  So what that his dementia had made him nuts and he was a totally different person and he now watched junk “religious” shows on TV?  So what that he was going to find out he wouldn’t be healed by this con artist?  So what?  He wouldn’t listen to me.  So what?

I’d walked down the long sidewalk to class, and I told myself I was going to be all right.  I was going to be okay.  So what that my father had begged people to take him (since he couldn’t drive) to see this “faith healer” after my mother refused?  So what that my father didn’t know what he was doing?  So what that, had he only been in his right mind, he would have stopped this “healing trip” in an instant?  So what that he’d told me my whole life how health-and-wealth teachers were a fraud, and now, in his weakest and desperately pitiful longing . . . in his confusion and dementia brought on by this illness . . . he’d been tricked by some wealthy, healthy “preacher” who made a living off of broken and dying?

So what?

Yeah, so what?

I’d sat down in class all right.  I’d felt a little funny, but surely it would be okay.   I opened my laptop.  I wasn’t going to tell anybody.  How could I?  How could I tell people that my father, devout to the Word of God, had been trapped in one of the most vile heresies that has ever haunted the Christian church?

And as I sat there, classmates started coming in.  People were talking.  People were laughing.  The laughing sliced through me like claws.  Why did they have to be laughing?  Why did I have to be in this room?

I was dizzy, disoriented, lost.  I knew I was too sick to excuse myself, too sick to stand up, too sick to make my way out of that horrible room.

And then the professor started the lesson.  Casually.  She was looking at me a little funny, but then she looked away, thinking I guess I was lost in thought.

And it was suddenly too much.

I didn’t hear anything.

And I started screaming.  Hysterically.  Hysterically screaming.

I woke up on the floor.

I woke up to two college professors huddled over me.  One had her hand on my head.  They were praying for me.  I had tears streaming down my face, and snot stringing from my nose, and I remember one of them hugging me, and me thinking, How could she do that?  How could she do that, when I’m so gross?

And they took me into an office, and I cried.  And cried.  And I told them my father was going today to see a faith healer.

And he wasn’t going to be healed.

I went home that day like shattered glass set together with the wrong kind of paste, fashioned in the wrong kind of way.  I felt so fragile that a mere touch would crumble me into fragments too small to see.  And yet I felt ferociously angry, ready to tear the health-and-wealth movement apart brick by brick.  And yet I was so wounded I felt as if I could not last much longer unless I hated God with as much hate as I could secretly store away.

God had done this to me, hadn’t He?  He had done this to my father!  What was this, anyway?  Cruelty?  Vengeance?  Wicked humor?  God had taken away my father’s good mind and given him this messed-up, wrecked-up one.  God had given my father Lou Gehrig’s Disease, hadn’t He?  What for, to prove He could do whatever He wanted?  To show how much He hated me?

Why is it, God, you would let wicked, awful, filthy rich people stab the frail hearts of the sick and dying?  How could You let that happen?  What kind of a God are You?

I can’t write this without tears running down my face.  Not because I still believe this.  But because the hurt, the injustice, and the absolute abuse that health-and-wealth man dealt to my father and my family . . . wounds me still.

I found out that my mother had secretly gone to the church to watch over my father (who had gone with a kind friend—my father could not drive and he was in a terrible position—how could he refuse when, to my father, it was a rejection of all hope for his healing?).

My mother sat in the balcony, tears streaming down her face.  She watched as my father, who had stood in line for hours at the door, had been rejected for the “healing platform”, slowly staggered up from his seat, walked down the long aisle, and tapped the security guard to try to get through to go down for healing.

The security guard brusquely told him he could not pass.

And my father staggered back to his seat.

And then this health-and-wealth pastor preached about money and healing.

And my father staggered up from his seat, hobble down the long aisle, and tap the security guard on the arm to try to get through to go down to healing.

And the security guard told him, no remorse, No.

And my father stumbled back to his seat as the chosen people waited on the front rows for their “healing”.

And then the health-and-wealth pastor kept preaching about money and healing.

And, yes, my father got up again.  And again.  He got up every time he had an “opportunity”, and every time he was rejected, and that security guard sent him back to his seat with not one touch of compassion.

And my father put money in the offering plate.

And then the service was over, and my father realized the horror of what had happened.  He sat there, tired from the long standing, wear from the effort he had made and the appeals . . .

And in my father’s eyes, he had missed his chance.

My father came home from that.

He wasn’t healed.

My heart breaks even now to think about my father stumbling down that aisle.  My heart breaks to think that this fraudulent movement has associated itself to Christianity to feast on naïve victims.

For a long time after that, I was far, far away from God.  My stance was, if God approved of such practices, He could just leave me alone.  And if He allowed such practices, He could count on my lack of endorsement.

My father died in 2004.

I’ve talked in other blogs about God’s hand stretched towards me, always waiting, and how God has called me to nest in His love, how He has spread His grace around me like wings.

God had to tutor me, one-on-one, in His love.  I was way behind the class.  But He did a masterful job of catching me up.  And when I realized how God is love as 1 John 4:16 says, God very graciously began to give me answers to the hard accusations I had made about Him, until they dissolved into only wonder that He had been so good and so patient with me.

God hadn’t made that health-and-wealth “preacher” do that to my father.  God hadn’t even wanted him to.  God’s desire is for us to pursue Him and, as we follow, to learn love, justice, honesty, mercy, kindness, patience, and grace from His path.

But then why had God allowed this man to hurt my father so?  To hurt me so?

I don’t know God’s total plan.  But I do know that every second He delays before Jesus returns, He is waiting for more people to come to Him because He is love.  At the moment Jesus returns there will no more chances.  God has been waiting for people . . . people like that health-and-wealth teacher . . . and people like me.  If God had ended the world before my father had gone to that meeting . . . I wouldn’t have been saved.  The very thing I wished for would have condemned me eternally.

Really, of course, I didn’t want for the world to end, just for that preacher to be “stopped”.  But what if this experience hadn’t happened?  Would I have ever come to the point where I finally saw how much I needed God?  Could God allow this to happen so I could have time to come to Him? And, if so, how could I complain about that?

And what about the people I have compassion for because of my experience?  What if one person, even one person, comes to Christ because of the empathy God taught me through that experience (that experience which Satan and our choice to sin, not God, instigated)?

I can’t play “God”.  I can’t decide which things to stop and which things not to.  I don’t know what will lead to what.  Certainly if God stopped all evil, the world would come to an end!

I believe, “All things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (from Romans 8:28, NIV)

I forgive the health-and-wealth man and the security guard who did this to my father.  I pray God will draw them near, by His grace, and they, too, will see the love of God, which makes all wealth look as dirt on the ground.

The hardest thing for me was knowing my father had struggled to get out of his seat, staggered down the aisle, and again and again pleaded to be allowed past to walk up to the platform for healing.

But let me tell you something.  Something I know with all my heart.

On September 22, 2004, my father walked up to the gates of Heaven, and the Lord Jesus Christ let him in and nobody, not nobody, will ever again block my father from the altar of healing, because he is with the Healer.

And he didn’t pay a dime for the privilege.

Rather, his Healer gave His body, His blood, for my father.

And I know how God could allow my father not to be healed.

Because God Himself healed my father.

Forever.

And now, dear brothers and sisters, we want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died so you will not grieve like people who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus returns, God will bring back with him the believers who have died.

(1 Thessalonians 4:13-14, NLT)

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See Copyright Page for Bible translation information.

What I thought: I can forgive

What I thought: I can forgive

What I learned: I can’t forgive.

I never knew this.

For years, I tried to forgive.  I would think,

If I try hard enough . . .

If I have enough willpower . . .

If I make myself . . .

But I never could forgive, not the kind of forgiveness Jesus talks about when He says

forgive your brother from your hearts (Matthew 18:35b, GW)

I could try to manufacture forgiveness, I could try to distract myself from thinking how much I hated someone, I could order myself to keep repeating words of forgiveness over and over in my head . . .

But it never worked.

When Christ woke me up out of my spiritual coma in 2010, I did not right away think about my lifelong problem of unforgiveness.  I was on vacation in the radiance of His glory.  I realize now He was strengthening me, I’d like to think something like how He strengthened Elijah with food before he would climb Mount Sinai to speak to God (see 1 Kings 19).

It wasn’t until this year that my old wounds of unforgiveness began to fester again.  I have always been amazed at how the pains we receive from others can be as fresh twenty years down the line as they were the day they were made.  This is a silly little example, but I can still remember in preschool a girl telling me to “bug off”.  She was walking on plastic cup stilts and she didn’t want me bothering her.

All the years I had tried and tried to forgive, I wasn’t living in God’s love like John talks about in his letters (see 1, 2, an 3 John).  But then, even after I was living in God’s love, I was confused and troubled by how the unforgiveness in my heart hadn’t magically evaporated.  I went back to my old ways of repeating prayers of forgiveness over and over again and trying to will myself into forgiving, but nothing worked.

In the midst of this, I heard about a play that was going to be going on at a little theater not too far from my house.  Somebody told me it was about forgiveness.  I decided to go more because I was going to spend the afternoon with my grandmother, who was going along with me, than because I actually wanted to see the play, truth be told.

The play was based on a book I’d read as a teenager, The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom.  The play began with Corrie as an older woman giving a speech about what she had learned from her experiences in prison camps in World War II.

The man who was sitting next to me in the theater suddenly gets up, speaking in polite German, and works his way out of our row and down the aisle.  He walks up on stage and says,

“How grateful I am for your message, Fraulein.  To think that, as you say, He has washed my sins away!”[1]

As the man reaches out his hand to shake hers, Corrie pulls back in frozen horror.  This man is one of the men who stood at the showers at the Ravensbrück prison camp, mocking the naked, emaciated women as they came out of the showers.

Corrie silently calls on the Lord Jesus to help her forgive this man, but she cannot find one drop of forgiveness in her heart.

So then she cries out in her soul, “Jesus, I CANNOT forgive him.  Give me YOUR forgiveness.” [2]

Even through all the heartbreak and horror Corrie witnessed and lived, when the guard from the Ravensbrück prison camp comes to shake Corrie’s hand, this is her thinking:

Even as the angry, vengeful thoughts boiled through me, I saw the sin of them.  Jesus Christ had died for this man.  Was I going to ask for more? [3]

The first time I watched this play, I was deeply affected by Corrie’s act of forgiveness.

The second time I watched this play, I was deeply affected by my lack of forgiveness.

I felt igneous rocks of hate inside me melt into intense, furious hatred.  The old wounds split open and I began to experience all the things I had been suppressing for so many years: the lust for vengeance, the wild anger, the consuming wrath that very nearly left no place for love.  I for the first time allowed myself to see how large the ferocious hate inside of me really was and how absolutely cold I really felt.

And it became incredibly clear to me that I had never forgiven—not these things.

In violent anguish, I screamed out in my soul, Lord Jesus, I CANNOT forgive . . .” And I named the people who have deeply wounded my soulWe all have names.  I did not name them all at once, but one by one.

And I ended with Corrie’s plea, “Give me YOUR forgiveness.”

(To be able to use Corrie’s prayer, to be encouraged to do so by her testimony, when she suffered so much, and I so little, speaks of the wondrous grace of Christ in her life that she shared with others.)

In that moment of vulnerability, just as I had most feared all along if I ever really opened myself up to forgiveness, I opened myself to the pain others had let in my life, and Satan came along and stomped me into an abyss.

But Jesus caught me.

And as the pain of what had been done to me crushed into my bones, and the years of unforgiveness ground them to fine dust . . . For the first time, I let myself experience the full hurt of what had been done to me.

And I became so ashamed.  Because I realized that all the hurt I had endured had been nothing compared to the hurt I had given over the years.  Although I am able to bear all the hurt that others’ sins have caused me, I would never be able to bear the full hurt of my own sin.  The weight of that is Hell.  I cannot imagine what Hell will be like.  I praise Jesus I do not have to go there!

So all those years, in my soul, I had tried to drink from God’s mercy and then spit it out in the faces of my adversaries.

But even knowing this, I could never have been able to forgive.  Never.  I had to receive the power to forgive in the same way I had to receive forgiveness: from the supernatural power of Jesus alone.

I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.

(Philippians 4:13, WEB)

[1] From The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom

[2] From The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom, the words in all caps were not in all caps.  But I wanted to do justice to the anguish in her heart based on the performance I saw at the Stained Glass Theater and, more importantly, her personal testimony.

[3] From The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom

Resources

The Hiding Place, Stained Glass Theater Presentation, DVD

The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom, first published November 1971

The Corrie ten Boom Museum website, http://www.corrietenboom.com/history.htm

Photograph by Ben Ostrowsky, profile on http://www.flickr.com/people/sylvar/

See Copyright Page for Bible translation information.

Job 42:3

Job is a man who loses everything except his wife, his life, his determination to prove before God that he is innocent, and his faith in God.

From Job’s wife:

“Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die!” (Job 2:9b, NASB)

Job on his life:

“Why didn’t I die as soon as I was born and breathe my last breath when I came out of the womb?” (Job 3:11, GW)

Job on his determination to prove his innocence:

But I desire to speak to the Almighty

and to argue my case with God.

(Job 13:3, NIV)

Job on his faith:

Even now, behold, my witness is in heaven,
and he who testifies for me is on high. (Job 16:19, ESV)

I have been drawn towards the book of Job at times of loss in my life and times of fear.  Job questions God, in many ways, many times.

But I had never seen this until my Sunday school teacher brought it up this week, Job 42:3.

At the end of the book, when God answers Job with questions Job cannot answer, Job responds in humility.  One of his responses is in Job 42:3:

You asked, ‘Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorance?’ It is I–and I was talking about things I knew nothing about, things far too wonderful for me. (Job 42:3, NLT)

Job says

too wonderful (see also ASV, ESV,  HCSB, KJV, NASB, NIV, YLT, etc.)

When Job gets to speak to God Himself, when he gets a glimpse of the Almighty’s plan . . . Job, who lost his wealth, his animals, his servants, and even his children . . . says the things of God are

too wonderful

I find that very comforting.

I had heard rumors about You,
    but now my eyes have seen You.   

Therefore I take back [my words]
    and repent in dust and ashes.

(Job 42:5-6, HCSB)

See Copyright Page for Bible translation information.

Published in: on August 2, 2011 at 9:19 pm  Leave a Comment  
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If God didn’t ever allow us to suffer

Sometimes I have something called, Aw, that’s not really gonna happen psychosis.  You know what I’m talking about?

As a kid I kept a radio in my bathroom to listen to music while I showered.  I guess there were waterproof radios at this time, but I just had a cheapie regular one.  The radio would get condensation on it and sometimes water drips, but it seemed to be doing all right.  Electrocution, smlectrocution.

And then came the day when I went over to mess with the radio, my hands soaking wet, and a current of electricity volted through my body.

The circuit breaker in that bathroom may have saved my life.  After about three excruciating seconds of electrocution, I heard a loud pop and the GFI circuit breaker kicked in, shutting off the electricity.

I stood there in a daze.

You know, if that hadn’t happened, I probably would have gotten more and more careless with electricity, and I might have found myself somewhere without a circuit breaker and in deep trouble.  Truth be told, even with that happening, I can still be reckless about electricity and water, so can you imagine how I would have been without this experience?

When Adam and Eve sinned, God placed the world under a curse, and that might seem mean, but it really wasn’t.  If God had left the world the way it was, the consequences of sin would probably have been seen much more slowly, and, by the time people realized how bad off they were, they would have eaten from the Tree of Life and made themselves a permanent inhabitant of a broken world.

At the Creation Museum in Cincinnati, Kentucky, these two lambs represent the first death after the fall. Adam and Eve needed covering for their sin. Animal skin could only temporarily cover them. God was foreshadowing the once-and-for-all-time covering Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, would freely give.

God immediately enforces the consequences of sin, slaughtering animals to clothe Adam and Eve, because He doesn’t want them to think that what they’ve done is okay, or that we can go our own way without losing our soul.  He also shows by clothing them that He has a plan for their salvation: one day, Jesus will clothe anyone who believes in Him with His righteousness.

As the animal is removed of its protection in order to clothe Adam and Eve, so Christ was removed from the protection of God when He chose to die for us by His choice.  When Peter tries to kill the people who are arresting Jesus, Jesus says,

Don’t you think that I could call on my Father, and he would send me more than twelve legions of angels now? (Matthew 25:53, ISV)

As a skinned animal is hardly recognizable to what it once was, even more so Christ was not recognizable as He gave His life up for us.

his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man and his form marred beyond human likeness (from Isaiah 52:14, NIV)

If we never suffered the consequences for our sin, we would have no idea the kind of Sacrifice required for our redemption.  Even as we suffer, we only get a tiny taste of the agony which Christ underwent for us.  Allowing us to suffer is an act of mercy from the One Who Suffered Most, because it lets us know our world isn’t right, our actions aren’t leading to happiness, and our time on earth is dwindling down.

Like that circuit breaker broke the electrical current circuiting through my body, so Jesus broke the power of sin, suffering, and death when He gave His body to be broken.

Listen to the reason why God is allowing this suffering world to continue for longer before He returns:

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. (2 Peter 3:9, ESV)

See Copyright Page for Bible translation information.

Personal photo.

Alone

I am so struck by the Truth that I am not alone.

It is not whatsoever frightening, because I know who I am with, and I know He loves me.

I want you to understand, it is not that I deserve this privilege.   I don’t.  And from human rationality, it can’t make sense to me why it’s true.  I don’t deserve to be in the presence of love.  I know this.  And yet I am not alone.  And I am loved.

What is the one thing that I wish the world could hear?  What is the one thing I would say, if I could say just one thing and nothing more?

It would be John 3:16.  Not because it is a well-quoted verse or because it sounds good in Sunday School, but . because . it . is . real.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16, NASB)

I love the Lord.

I love Him so much.

But it wasn’t my idea.

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.  (1 John 3:16, NIV)

It was His.

And I am not alone.

I am not alone.

And I am in good company.  I am in the best of company.  I am a friend of God.

How do you say, “I am a friend of God”?  How can my tiny little human mind process such a statement?  I am a friend of God?  Me?  With my flaws, my failures, my ruin?  I am a friend of God?

Yes I am a friend of God.

But how?

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16, NASB)

But why?

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.  (1 John 3:16, NIV)

Jesus Christ did this for me?  For love?

What is love, then?  Can I even say I understand it?  Love is to take a sinner and make a saint?  How is it possible that God can be inclined to feel pity for a sinner?  How is it that the pity God feels can be so great it leads Him to die?  How is it that when I feel sorry for someone, I am at most merely inclined to help, but when God feels pity, He gives up His throne and suffers all the horrors of the world and dies?

Why would He care that I am alone?

How could He care that I am alone?  He is infinite in being, free from space or time, and yet He concerns Himself with me, a person who lives on a globe that is not even a speck in the galaxy[1], a galaxy that is one of what we think are billions?

Or is it that I have it all wrong?  Is it that this little not-even-a-speck-in-the-galaxy is the reason the stars surround us?  Is God showing us how vast and incomprehensible His love like a master artist, leading us from painting to painting, each telling us a little more of His love for us?

How?  How can this be?  That the stars were created around us and not us from the stars?  That we alone in all the universe are made in the image of God, that He should lavish such love upon us?

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16, NASB)

Not perish.

Not perish.

Not perish.

That whoever believes in Him should not perish.

No clauses.

No amendments.

No disclaimers.

Whoever.

That means me, too.

It’s hard for me to believe sometimes that such a thing so good to be possible for so bad a race as the human race, for so bad a person as me.

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23, ESV)

There wasn’t any hope.

But then there was.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16, NASB)

Are you alone?

If you are, why?

There is a Savior.  A Savior who is exactly who we need.  A Savior who gives us His Word He will love us eternally if we live in Him.

This Savior, He is a friend.  He is a friend as I have never had one.  He is a friend as you have never had.

There is nothing in this world, in this universe, in Heaven, or anywhere at all that can compel me to love as I love my Savior, His Father, His Spirit.

I pray you will love Him, too.

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.  (1 John 3:16, NIV)

[1] “How Many Galaxies Are In The Universe?” by Fraser Cain, May 4, 2009, http://www.universetoday.com/30305/how-many-galaxies-in-the-universe/

Photograph by David Woo, profile on http://www.flickr.com/people/mckln/

See Copyright Page for Bible translation information.

Does God even care?

More amazing than anything I know is the care of my God.  Jesus not only paid for every painful sin we have ever done, but He has also chosen to feel the ongoing suffering of this world.

“There are things that Christ must still suffer through his body, the church.” (Colossians 1:24b, NCV)

Jesus is there during our worst and hardest times, and He is more than a witness.  He chooses to feel our pain.

In the Newbery award winning story The Giver by Lois Lowry, a boy named Jonas is assigned the job of being the next ‘Giver’—something he knows next to nothing about.  He discovers that by taking the job, he must receive all the strong feelings on himself for the whole town: feelings of everything from incredible joy to severe pain.  Through this experience, he feels the agony of an infant who is murdered in a ritualized practice, and he realizes he cannot be only a bystander now that he knows the truth of what is really happening around him.

This story is a small picture of what God has done by coming to the earth.  Remember that Jesus is God.  Because God is three Persons, one Person of God is able to leave His glory and immortality and come down to experience the everyday life here on earth.  Jesus walked as a man here for 33 years, not for a half hour tour of the place.  And He didn’t come to a famous empire or magnificent kingdom.  He came to two poor people who lived in a tiny desert wilderness ruled by a cruel foreign empire[see Note 1].

I have heard an atheist, Christopher Hitchens[1], argue that we should be skeptical of Jesus for this very reason: He came to a little place in the middle of nowhere.  He didn’t choose to come to a country known for its sophistication or innovation.

But does this argue against Christ’s Deity or for Him?

When you are suffering, would you rather have a God who chose to come to earth and live on a tropical island  . . . or a desert?  When you are poor, would you rather have a God who chose to come to earth and live in a penthouse or mansion . . . or who had no home?  When you are in bondage, would you rather have a God who chose to come to earth and live in a free country . . . or a restrictive, wicked one?

And would you rather have a God who came driving a Porsche to sign autographs . . . or a God who traveled by foot to heal the sick?  Would you rather have a God in touch with every trend . . . or a God who touched the untouchables?  Would you rather have a God who came for fame and fortune . . . or a God who came for love and grace?  Would you rather have a God who networked with the elite, the Forbes 100, the celebrities . . . or a God who networked with the isolated?  Would you rather have a God who ate dinner at exclusive clubs . . . or a God who ate with sinners?  Would you rather have a God who was known for His success . . . or a God who was known for rescuing failures?

Would you rather have a God who shows off . . . or a God who suffers?   And would you rather have a God who lived a full and happy life, with plenty of time for retirement golfing and social clubs . . . or a God who lived a short life because He would rather die than others die without salvation?

And would you rather have a God who was backed by a group of know-it-all, rich, better-than-thou, highfaluting, brilliant, skillful, successful, refined, bully aristocrats . . . or by a group of mix-matched, heartbroken, stooped over, ordinary, no-talent,  unsuccessful, clumsy, weak men, women, and children from all caste systems, all ethnicities, and with all kinds of messy pasts?

Does God even care?

His life and death answer that question.

“I am the good shepherd ; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.”  (John 10:11, NASB)

On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.  Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” (John 7:37-38, ESV)

Who would have believed what we heard?
       Who saw the Lord’s power in this?
 He grew up like a small plant before the Lord,
       like a root growing in a dry land.
    He had no special beauty or form to make us notice him;
       there was nothing in his appearance to make us desire him.
 He was hated and rejected by people.
       He had much pain and suffering.
    People would not even look at him.
       He was hated, and we didn’t even notice him.

 But he took our suffering on him
       and felt our pain for us.
    We saw his suffering
       and thought God was punishing him.
 But he was wounded for the wrong we did;
       he was crushed for the evil we did.
    The punishment, which made us well, was given to him,
       and we are healed because of his wounds.
 We all have wandered away like sheep;
       each of us has gone his own way.
    But the Lord has put on him the punishment
       for all the evil we have done.

  He was beaten down and punished,
       but he didn’t say a word.
    He was like a lamb being led to be killed.
       He was quiet, as a sheep is quiet while its wool is being cut;
       he never opened his mouth.
 Men took him away roughly and unfairly.
       He died without children to continue his family.
    He was put to death;
       he was punished for the sins of my people.
 He was buried with wicked men,
       and he died with the rich.
    He had done nothing wrong,
       and he had never lied.

 But it was the Lord who decided
       to crush him and make him suffer.
       The Lord made his life a penalty offering,
    but he will still see his descendants and live a long life.
       He will complete the things the Lord wants him to do.
 “After his soul suffers many things,
       he will see life and be satisfied.
    My good servant will make many people right with God;
       he will carry away their sins.
 12 For this reason I will make him a great man among people,
       and he will share in all things with those who are strong.
    He willingly gave his life
       and was treated like a criminal.
    But he carried away the sins of many people
       and asked forgiveness for those who sinned.” (Isaiah 53, NCV)

Does God care? The Last Adam  for a visual of Isaiah 53.

Note 1

The Roman Empire  invented the death penalty of crucifixion.  The practice of gladiators was an inhumane  ‘sport’, and Christians were later thrown into this arena to face lions or other horrors with no defense.  This is also the empire that used Christians as human lanterns in Nero’s garden[2].  And anyone who believes that women or children or infants should have rights should have nothing whatsoever to do with Roman society.  This was a society with a severe caste system where men ruled over women and adults ruled over children and masters ruled over slaves.)

[1] See Collision DVD and Does God Exist? DVD

[2] Spectacles of Death in Ancient Rome by Donald G. Kyle

Photo by Photography_Gal, http://www.flickr.com/people/photographygal123/ is her profile page.

See Copyright Page for Bible translation information.

Scars

I remember a Polysporin commercial that came out several years back about a mother and daughter.  The mother talked about a scar she had gotten as a child and how she didn’t want her daughter’s injuries to turn into scars like hers had.  She used Polysporin on her daughter’s cut so her daughter wouldn’t have a permanent scar.

Scars tell stories of a past we cannot erase.  They interfere with our present appearance and refuse to go away.  We’re often self-conscious about them and usually try to hide them as much as we can.

There are scars on our souls, too, and they are just the same way.  They tell a stories of a past we can’t erase.  They interfere with our present state of mind and refuse to go away.  We’re often self-conscious about them and usually try to hide them as much as we can.  Some scars are so deep and so ugly that we are afraid to allow anyone in that part of our life, lest they gawk at our scars or, worse, reopen the wounds.

When I think of Heaven, I know those who follow Jesus will be free from their scars, for the Bible tells us through the marvelous vision John saw:

And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.  And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. (Revelations 21:3-4, AKJV)

God will heal the scars on His people’s souls, and He will cloth them in new and perfect bodies.  But there is an astonishing surprise, for, though all God’s people will be scar free, God Himself will not be.

We know this because Jesus is resurrected in His new body but He still has scars (see Luke 24:39-40, John 20:19-20, John 20:26-27).

While all who follow Jesus will be scarless, Jesus Himself is scarred.  These scars are an eternal reminder, not of an accident or an imperfection in character, but instead of God’s miraculous intervening love for humanity.

In Heaven, only Jesus’ scars remain.  In Him, we are flawless.

Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand.  They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders.  In a loud voice they sang:

“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,

to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength

and honor and glory and praise!”

Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing:

“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb

be praise and honor and glory and power,

for ever and ever!” (Revelation  5:11-13, NIV)

Photo by Jim Champion, profile on http://www.flickr.com/people/treehouse1977/

See Copyright Page for Bible translation information.

Published in: on July 6, 2011 at 11:25 am  Leave a Comment  
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