No doubt spiritual warfare plays a part in our struggle to overcome whatever evil keeps us from God’s very best, but it plays no part in God’s struggle — because before God Almighty, there is no struggle. There may be something bigger that keeps us from God’s very best, but there is not Something Bigger that keeps God from His very best.
If anything has led to the loss of religious faith in the modern world, it is the idea that “science” has proven that God does not exist. Much of the disdain in our society toward religious faith I spoke about in our last post can be traced back to this idea.
Which may not be obvious. But to the extent society believes that God is an irrational concept, those who believe in God will be seen not only as violators of human freedom but also violators of compassion and justice. Continue reading “The Christian Mind: Irrational”
Christianity is, above all, permission to be at rest. When God comes into the soul, His intention is redemptive. He does not come into the soul to give you more work to do, nor does He come into the soul to make you forever wonder whether you are doing enough. He comes into the soul having wiped the slate clean, and having thrown away anything that could possibly count against you as far as you and He are concerned.
Failed Christian lives are not those that have disappointed God; they are lives that think they have. For God has removed the possibility of disappointment. People have said it is impossible for God to be disappointed because that would mean He would have to come to know something about you He did not already know. Which of course is impossible because God knows all things. More than that, however, God knows all things and still chose to love, still chose to accept. To make blameless. This is a product not just of God’s knowledge but also His mercy. God cannot be disappointed in us not because He knows all things about me but because knowing all things about me, He has chosen to love me anyway.
And that exchange cost Him His life. Have you ever wondered why we, as human beings, have this fear of not being enough? Of not being worthy of love? Of being a disappointment? Of being, before God, condemnable? That does not seem like a beneficial evolutionary trait. The human soul seems to be aware of its need for redemption, and everyone is looking for it: Some, by demanding what they are, believe and do be acceptable in they eyes of society (and condemning those who do not agree); others, by embracing the idea that God is an illusion and so there is no such thing as acceptable. Christianity has a different solution: God, becoming a man and dying in our place and paying for the penalty we rightly deserve.
I read a book recently by a Christian author who claims that our need for redemption is not real, and the Cross was not really necessary apart from our own distorted view of God. Jesus went to the Cross, in other words, not because it was necessary in the eyes of God but only in our own. He went to the Cross ultimately to demonstrate how unnecessary going to the Cross was. Not only is such an idea not Biblical, it is also nonsensical. God sent His own Son to die a horrific death over a misunderstanding: What does that say about God?
Not only this, but it is not helpful. This is an attempt to find redemption not through consensus or denial but in a belief that God is simply too nice to condemn us in the first place. Like the others, it is belief that our need for redemption is merely an illusion.
And that is a problem, because the soul needs redemption. It needs truth in the innermost parts if its being. When faced with its own sinfulness, it needs to know a God who was good enough to pay for it by His own blood, not too nice to care about it. Manufacturing a redemption of our own apart from the truth will never satisfy the soul.
The beauty is that redemption has been provided. We can either find a way for our own redemption, or accept the free gift of redemption Jesus purchased for us by dying on a Cross for our sins. Sometimes the hardest thing for us is to accept a gift we do not think we deserve — or need. But that gift is the only path that will establish in the soul that we are not only loved and forgiven but truly free. This is the rest the soul desires.
Does God promise us a blessed life, or does God promise us peace through the storms of life?
The answer (in my humble opinion) is that God promises us a blessed life in every moment of life, and that very expectation grants us not only the peace to weather any storm but also the power to overcome every storm.
Whatever the storm that faces you, its power is not its presence but what it seeks to convince you of: That you are on your own, that it is in control, that God is nowhere to be found. The truth, however, is that you are not on your own, that God is in control, and that God is right here with you.
The storm only has the power God allows. And that means there is no telling what God might do in the next moment on your behalf. When Jesus says, “In this world you will have troubles. But take heart: I have overcome the world,” he was not saying “life will suck, but here’s a consolation prize: Ultimately I win.” No, He was saying, “Troubles are not what you think they are: In their midst, I am bringing about your deliverance.”
When not devoting myself to life’s duties, I have spent my waking moments these past few months crafting a novel. Writing a novel is like remodeling a home: You have to keep at it, even when you are working through the tedious, difficult parts like sanding the cabinets you wish to repaint or figuring out why there is a quarter-inch crack in your foundation while installing flooring and what to do about it. Writing a novel takes persistence: You got to keep at it. It must become the priority.
Despite this, I have made exceptions. Like last weekend, I joined my son and daughter on a camping trip that nearly ended in disaster. While we were away from our campsite for the day, a forest fire erupted out of nowhere. And by the time we returned, the only road back to our campsite was blocked. We started to think of what we left behind: Camping gear, of course. Oh but wait: My business laptop. Oh that’s not good. And wait: My son’s car! It has been a full seven days now, and the fire is still burning, holding our precious belongings hostage.
The ironic thing is the trip was still really good. We just switched gears, got a hotel room, awoke the next day and continued our itinerary, which was to visit Sequoia National Park with my oldest daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter. We were a bit tired and inconvenienced but overall, we had a fantastic time.
After the trip, the question came to mind why the forest fire did not kill our joy. I honestly was scratching my head about that because it definitely put a dent in our plans and, let’s be honest, our overall sense of peace and well-being — or at least it should have. After all: We had worked really hard to put this trip together; how dare Nature ruin our trip! How dare it be anything less than perfect!
But as I thought about it, I realized we had been given a gift. I mean, I would like to take credit for our response, but I think I have to give credit where credit is due here: It was a gift from God. And that gift might be called the gift of peace in the storm which looks something like this:
- Be Willing to Adapt: Sometimes we have a perfect idea of what our vacation should look like, but some of the best vacations are those that do not go perfectly as planned.
- Stay Focused: When our campsite was held hostage, we simply got a hotel room and continued on with our plans. How we achieved the objective was not as important as that we achieved it.
- Embrace the Adventure: Speaking of perfection, it is easy to lose sight of the fact that it is the Kingdom of God to which we belong, not the Kingdom of Earth from which we are being saved, that cannot be shaken. If we confuse the two then our vacation is always in for a shaking. But if we don’t, the the shaking is merely the adventure we are a part of.
- Be Willing to Leave Your Precious Possessions Behind: Our camping gear (and yes, even the laptop and car) can be replaced. We can value our possessions as a gift but we need not depend on them for ultimate happiness or security.
- It is not the Vacation You Are On: It is the People You are With: Looking back on our trip, I realize our vacation was a success because we made people the priority. We gave grace to those who needed it when they needed it; we were open and honest with what we needed. We were slow to anger and quick to understand. In short, we loved one another. That was probably the greatest gift of all.
If you read between the lines here, you will notice these are not just good vacation lessons: They are good life lessons. In a way, we are all this year in the midst of the worst vacation ever. A global pandemic is holding our precious campsite hostage. Or is it? Be willing to adapt, stay focused, embrace the adventure, be willing to leave your precious belongings behind, and above all: It is not the vacation you are on but the people you are with. For the Kingdom that matters cannot be shaken. The apostles would agree.
Now back to that novel . . .
In bringing many sons and daughters to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through what he suffered.Hebrews 2:10
I am a warrior, but God has called me first to be a son. The difference is when God calls a warrior to do a thing, a warrior says “yes” without hesitation but also without counting the cost. When things get difficult, the warrior finds himself on his own. He does not mean to be, but his “yes” binds him to continue at all cost, with only the recourse to endure. A son, on the other hand, though still saying yes, talks to his Father about what is difficult for him and what he is uncomfortable with. He recognizes that on his own he is nothing and that the battle cannot be won without God’s help. A son maintains intimacy throughout his yes.
I can be both a son and a warrior, but I cannot be a good warrior without being a son. I have permission to say, “this is difficult for me” or “I do not feel comfortable with this: Help me, because I cannot proceed here without your help.” This often marks the difference between success and failure in the Kingdom, because the currency of the Kingdom is intimacy. If we forget we are sons and daughters, we can often find ourselves suffering needlessly instead of benefiting from the one who suffered on our behalf. God has called us into battle, but the secret of the Kingdom is that it is always His victory.
Pour out before the Lord your heart: Tell him all you are going through. Here is where you will not only find comfort but also find His power.
My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done.
— Revelation 22: 12
Most, I would hazard to say, are comfortable with the idea that we are rewarded for what we do. It seems to be a basic fact of life that we get out of life what we put into it. If I sit idly, I may starve. If I go out and get a job, I won’t. If I apply myself and work hard, chances are I will make a comfortable life for myself. Continue reading “Eternal Rewards”