Holiness Made Its Home Among The Cursed

At Easter, it is natural to reflect upon the death and resurrection of Christ. This year, I find myself also thinking upon the broader scope of His life and its meaning for us. What does it mean that He was Emmanuel? What does it mean that God not only forgave our sins, but came to dwell among us, the sinners? It means God was not merely after forgiveness, but restoration. Restoration of the world in its entirety. Restoration of the human condition in its entirety.

You don’t have to look far to see that we live in a broken world. There is pain. There is injustice and evil and grief. We can find that even our greatest joys can be tinged with sadness as if we know things are still not what they should be. We can be haunted by the dauntless specter of death, our one shared and final fate though something tells us it shouldn’t end that way. Why? Why is the world fraught with sorrow? Why does life end in death? Because we are fallen. We bear the curse of our sin and every square inch of creation bears it with us (Romans 8).

Yet in the life of Christ, we see mercy dawning. We see God retracing the steps of the Fall. We see the Holy One enter the cursed womb and set into motion our ransom, our rescue. The first place He sent sin’s curse was the first place He sent sin’s cure. And there is nowhere else He has commissioned His curse that He has not also commissioned His grace, no scars of His judgment that He has not also touched with the healing of His redemption.

The incarnation means that Holiness made its home among the Cursed. Yahweh, a name too sacred to be spoken by our tainted lips, became Emmanuel, God With Us. How astounding that the holy, eternal God entered into the wasteland of our transgressions. How astonishing to see Him be born of a sinful woman, labor among the thorns and thistles of our cursed ground, touch and heal the sick and perishing, and finally, die the shameful death of a common sinner.

Christ, the God-man, our lamb and conqueror, subjected Himself to our curse that He might defeat our curse. The Lord laid on Him the iniquity of us all (Isaiah 53:6). Who could but falter under such an unfathomable burden? Yet, He never did. He carried it to completion and finally, cast it off, hurling our iniquities into the depths of the sea (Micah 7:19) and with them, our condemnation. Now we find the wrath of God is quenched, spent, satisfied like a fire which finds nothing left to burn. Its cup is emptied. Not a drop remains for He drank it all for thee.

What, then, remains for us to fear? What part of our curse shall hold terror for us still? Shall we fear the womb, be it emptied or filled or aching with the pain of loss? No, for our Lord has been there. Shall we live in dread of sickness? Jesus has taken up our infirmities (Isaiah 53:4). Shall we falter under the burdens of loneliness, grief, persecution? He has been well acquainted with them all (Isaiah 53:3). Shall we tremble as we face our final breaths? No, for Christ has breathed them before us.

He has lived and hurt and died, not merely pardoning us from afar, but entering fully into our human experience and leaving grace for all and in all in His wake. Yes, this ground we tread is cursed still, but now Holiness has been here, sowing the seeds of redemption. For now, they may seem to lie dormant as in winter, or barely shooting up, as in the first, fledgling moments of spring, but someday…someday, they will burst into full bloom. They will chase away the curse forever. All will be made new. It will. It will.

“The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom. Like the crocus it will burst into bloom; it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy….” Isaiiah 35:1,2

“But only the redeemed will walk there, and the ransomed of the LORD will return. They will enter into Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.” Isaiah 35:10

jesus walking

For the Mother Whose Life Feels Small

It has been a while since I’ve written. I’ve wanted to write, but honestly, I just haven’t had much to say and don’t want to write something just to write something. With the New Year, I’ve been reflecting back on where my writing took me in 2015. I don’t regret a single thing I wrote, but it has caused me to sort of re-examine why I write and what I want my writing to achieve. I think the ultimate answer to that question is that I’d like my writing to enlighten or encourage and, in the best of cases, both.

I remember driving back to school the summer before my junior year of college and calling my dad to tell him I didn’t want to study Microbiology anymore. “I want to write,” I told him. It was a little crazy, but I changed my major to Philosophy halfway through school and as I got into my studies, I knew I had made the right decision. I felt so assured of God’s purpose for me. My strengths, my passions, and God’s plan all seemed to be in perfect alignment. And they were, although in a different way than I thought at the time. I saw myself doing what I loved, thinking and writing, and doing it for the glory of God. If I was honest though, I envisioned more than a little glory for myself too.

It’s funny how as we get a little older, we realize that our lives are not going to be quite the movie or biographical material we thought they would be. It can come as a bit of a shock to our individualistic American sensibilities that we are after all, quite common. Growing up, I was a star. I say this not to applaud myself, but more to laugh at myself retrospectively. I was a star athlete, a star student. Man, I had potential. With my perfect GPA and variety of extra-curricular activities, I felt as if I was on an upward path to something really special.

Now sometimes, I feel more like a rocket that failed to launch. My days are quiet, as quiet as days with a one year old can be. Each day is a repetitive cycle of diapers, dishes, and laundry. My greatest recent achievement is teaching my son where his nose is, which he points to and inevitably starts picking. I love being home with him. I treasure the moments of tickle-induced giggles and sleepy bedtime snuggles. I wouldn’t trade any of it. I know I am so incredibly blessed.

But sometimes, my life just feels small, so very insignificant. I look at people who I went to school with, out conquering the world and doing big, important things and think, What am I doing? Putting on real pants if I’m having an especially motivated day, that’s what. “I know what I’m doing is important,” I told my husband the other day, “but it just doesn’t feel very important.”

What I’m learning, really re-learning and then re-re-learning, is that importance cannot be measured in audience members or applause or even in difficulty. The greatest of tasks can be cloaked in the humble and ordinary. Purpose is not always tangible and it’s often delayed in fulfillment. The one who sows the seed waters bare ground for days before he sees any reason to. And then it is many years until that seedling becomes a great tree. So it is, I think, with being a parent of little ones.

My husband and I met with our pastor today to get some advice about starting to discipline. On the way home, I was thinking about the end goal, the vision of the godly man I hope my son will grow to be. I was struck by what a great task the Lord has given us and how very important it is, but that that importance is only felt in light of this far-off vision. What this world needs most apart from Jesus Himself is men and women who are like Him. And so it needs fathers and mothers who do the mundane task of watering and nurturing our children like the tiny plants they are. That is my task, my great, great task which for the moment, feels so very, very small.

So for now, I’ll teach my son where his ears and feet are. I’ll make sure he has a clean diaper and keeps his fingers out of outlets. I will do these menial tasks to meet his basic needs, to love him. But someday…someday, I will teach him greater things. I will teach him to love what is good and to hate what is evil, to cling to what is honorable and right and true. I will point him to Jesus, to life. And someday, I pray, he will be like a tree, planted by the stream which is Christ (Jeremiah 17:7), bearing much fruit and offering shade to the weary. I hope that day comes and that then he will know what I am learning: the most important things in life are often what make us the least self-important and the greatest life is the life which is given away.

 

How Should We Respond to Gay Marriage? Like Jesus.

A few days ago the Supreme Court of the United States of America ruled that gay marriage will now be legalized in all fifty states. I think this was surprising to no one. We all knew it was coming, but the announcement revealed just how polarized our nation has become. Some celebrate it as a great victory for civil rights while others lament it as a sign of our nation’s moral depravity. For bible-believing Christians, the question is, what do we do now? How do we respond and how do we do it like Jesus?

Why We Must Speak

Some argue that we shouldn’t care at all, that we shouldn’t speak. Some think this ruling will not affect us and so we should just be silent and go about our business, keeping our opinions to ourselves but this most certainly does affect us. It is not just that our nation does not hold to biblical Christian values. It is that it is becoming increasingly anti-Christian and hostile to those who hold biblical world views. Already, Christian bakeries have been forced to go out of business because they did not want to participate in a gay wedding. So, it is naive to think that gay marriage will exist in some kind of a vacuum and have no effect on religious rights.

But how it will affect us is not the main reason we must speak about gay marriage. None of this is ultimately about us. Sin is ultimately about God. Marriage is ultimately about God. If our choices only had horizontal results, how they affect others, then I suppose the general rule of thumb would be as long as it makes you happy and doesn’t hurt anyone else, it’s fine. Indeed, this seems to be the general moral philosophy of our day. However, I would say that the other and more important aspect of our choices is a vertical one. Our sin is against God. It dishonors the holiness of God and that is why Christians simply cannot be silent.

Jesus held to every word of scripture. Jesus zealously defended the holiness of God. Jesus never altered His views or message to make it more culturally palatable. Jesus did not fear the scorn and derision of man. He had one authority. He lived to please one Person and so should we (Galatians 1:10).

Why We Must Grieve

To see sin embraced and celebrated this way should break our hearts because we know what sin does and where it leads. Satan is a master deceiver. He promises joy, happiness, satisfaction, fulfillment, peace, but he ultimately comes to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10). Many are blinded. Many are in bondage.

Jesus wept over Jerusalem because it was not willing to turn to Him and find peace. Just as he said to Jerusalem, Jesus says to America, “How often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! (Luke 13:34). Our nation is in reckless rebellion against God. It grieves the heart of Christ and it should grieve our hearts too.

Why We Must Not Fear

I think a lot of Christians now feel a sense of panic and fear. We fear persecution. We fear for our children and the world they will grow up in, but let’s be reminded of the God we serve. He is not surprised. He is not worried. He didn’t wait for the Supreme Court decision and then think, “Darn, what do I do now?” Our God is sovereign over all. The Lord is in His heaven. Jesus is on His throne.

“Have you not known? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? It is He who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers, who stretches out the heavens like a curtain and spreads them out like a tent to dwell in. He brings the princes to nothing; He makes the judges of the earth useless (Isaiah 40:21-23).”

Let us lift our gaze to our mighty God. Let us “lift up our voice with strength, lift it up and be not afraid (Isaiah 40:9)” and say to the people, “Behold your God!” He is greater than any ruler. We should not fear man or circumstances, but look to the God who is more powerful and supreme than any supreme court here on earth.

Persecution may come, but if it does, “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you” (1 Peter 4:12). We must remember that nothing happens to us outside of the will of the loving and sovereign God who works all things for His glory and our good(Romans 8:28). This should also cause us to remember that this world is not our home, but we are “looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God” (Hebrews 11:10).

Why We Must Preach the Gospel

In many ways, nothing has really changed. The world is still the world. We are still the Church and our calling is still the same, to “go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation” (Mark 16:15). I think we must resolve along with Paul, “to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2). We must be careful not to proclaim our own self-righteousness, but Christ’s righteousness. We must fight having an “us and them” mentality, but remember the only thing that distinguishes us from them is the grace of God. We have to cling to the Gospel, the whole Gospel, and be sure that it is the message we send to the world. If we declare sin, let us also be sure to declare grace for “where sin abounded, grace abounded much more (Romans 5:20).” Sin is abounding in our nation, but there is more than enough grace through the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

We have been recipients of this amazing grace and now we are called to be “ambassadors for Christ” (2 Corinthians 2:20). To preach this Gospel is our one task (Acts 20:24) and to be like Christ as we do it should be our greatest ambition. And how did He do it? Think of how He spoke to the woman at the well. He boldly told her her sins without fear of giving offense and also lovingly and freely offered her living water so that she would never thirst again (John 4:6-14). To the woman caught in adultery, He cast no stones, but He did commission her, not to go and keep on sinning, but to “go and sin no more (John 8:11).”

Jesus loved even when it was offensive. He loved when it was costly. He loved when it hurt. He loved perfectly and effectively. On our own, we fall so short of this perfect love, but He lives in us and He will love through us. What an opportunity we now have to be the hands and feet of Jesus, to be light in the darkness. What an opportunity we have to love as He loves and not as the world does. So, let’s do it. Let’s cling fiercely to the truth of His word and proclaim boldly the grace of His Gospel.

“Do Not Judge.” What Jesus Really Meant

One thing I learned from my post about Bruce Jenner going viral is that Matthew 7:1, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged,” is the favorite Bible verse of many. I also think it might be one of the most grossly misunderstood and abused verses. This led me to do a little research on it and hear what some respected Bible scholars have to say. I found this article by Sam Storms to extremely helpful and clarifying so I thought I would share.

http://www.samstorms.com/all-articles/post/matthew-7:1-6

As he says, the misunderstanding mostly stems from relativistic thought that has pervaded the American psyche. “To their way of thinking, this verse demands that we never exercise ethical discernment in our evaluation of others, indeed that we never evaluate others at all. We are told we must always manifest complete and uncritical tolerance toward every conceivable lifestyle or belief.” -Sam Storms  But this is completely contrary to the immediate context of the verse and the teaching of the Bible as a whole.

Moreover, it is completely absurd and contradictory. We hold this command not to judge as a standard for all and cry “foul” when it is broken. Yet, in so doing, we abandon our relativistic ways for an absolute standard by which to judge others. You see, none of us really live by relativism. We preach tolerance and subjectivity, but we live by absolutes.

What this verse really prohibits is self-righteousness where we see ourselves as sinless and others as sinful and therefore set ourselves as arbiters of justice and condemnation. We all have this self-righteousness in us. None of us has completely pure hearts. Christ is the model of which we all fall short. He boldly told people their sins, but then forgave them unconditionally, not blessing them to continue on sinning, but freeing them to “Go and sin no more.” I pray that as I grow in Christ, He will remove the dross from the silver that I may be more like Him: perfectly loving and perfectly truthful.

The Gospel for Bruce Jenner

A few days ago I wrote a post about Bruce Jenner. My main point was that I don’t think this man is a hero. It has received over 2.5 million views and I have received some 4,000+ comments, many of them accusing me of being a hateful, judgmental, idiot. I am only human and I think we are all judgmental at times, but I really don’t think anything I said was hateful. I’m not sure when disagreeing with someone became the same as hating them, but there you have it. Nonetheless, it has compelled me to write a follow up post.

I have two goals when I write. First and foremost, I aim to exalt Jesus Christ, to show Him as the supreme treasure that He is, and secondly, to shed the light of the truth of His Gospel on issues here on earth. I have been accused of not showing God’s love to Bruce so that is what I want to do now in the best way I know how. I want to share the Gospel of Christ for Bruce Jenner, the Gospel for all of us. I will speak it all. I will not add or subtract. I will not be ashamed of the Gospel for it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes (Romans 1:16). So, Bruce, this is God’s message of hope and love to you.

Bruce, you are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). You are God’s idea. You are fearfully and wonderfully made, woven together in your mother’s womb by the very hands of God (Psalm 139:14-15) You have intrinsic value and worth not based on your self, but on your Creator.

But Bruce, you have a problem. You and I both have a problem. Because we have sinned, because we have broken God’s law and marred his image, we stand guilty before a holy God. None of us is righteous (Romans 3:10). We all have fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). This sin has infected our souls, our bodies, even the very ground we walk on. It has so skewed our perception of reality that we cannot see the truth of God (Romans 1:21-23) nor can we see who we were meant to be. That is why we struggle to find our identity.That is why we look for it in all the wrong places, in money, in sex, in materialism, in fame, and even in altering your body to become a woman. We think these things will liberate us, but the truth is, they only keep us in bondage.

Not only that, but because God is holy and just, His wrath is aimed at us (Romans 1:18). Because of our sin, we are by nature objects of this wrath (Ephesians 2:3). Bruce, some people will try to tell you differently. Some will say that God is love and therefore, He just wants you to be happy and do what pleases you. Well, God is love, but if we don’t first see His righteous wrath, we will never understand or receive His amazing grace. The Gospel is meaningless and powerless to save without this truth. If we didn’t have a sin problem Christ would not have needed to die. But He did die. Why? Because the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). Yet, God has shown His love for you, Bruce, by dying in your place while you were still in sin, while you were still rebelling against Him (Romans 5:8) in order that He might give you eternal life (Romans 3:21, Romans 6:23, John 3:16) and set you free from the bondage of sin (Romans 6:18). You see, His love does not affirm us in our sin but liberates us from it.

Bruce, Jesus died as a sacrifice for your sins. He rose from the dead in victory over them.  He stands now, arms open, calling you to Himself so that He might freely pour out His grace and love upon you. All you need do is go to Him, but one thing you must know. You cannot get near the mercy of God without also getting near His holiness. You cannot come to the cross on your own terms. You cannot have him as Savior without also yielding to Him as Lord. Christ died to put your sin to death so you must put it to death too (Romans 6:5-14).

No, I don’t think you are a hero, but Jesus is. Bruce, are you weary? He will give you rest. Are you confused? He will give you truth. Are you struggling to find hope and meaning? Jesus will give it to you. He will give you life. He will tell you who you were made to be.  You were made to be His. Listen to Him. Answer His call.

Weary, burdened wanderer, there is rest for thee at the feet of Jesus in His love, so free. Listen to His message, words of life, forever blest. Oh, thou heavy-laden, come to me, come and rest

There is freedom, taste and see. Hear the call, come to me. Run into His arms of grace. Your burden carried, He will take, yeah yeah, He will take

Bring Him all thy burdens, all thy guilt and sin. Mercy’s door is open, rise up and enter in

There is freedom, taste and see. Hear the call, come to me. Run into His arms of grace. Your burden carried, He will take, oh, He will take

Jesus, there is waiting patiently for thee. Hear Him gently calling, come, oh, come to me. Come, oh, come to me. Come, oh, come to me

Won’t you come? Won’t you come? There is freedom, taste and see. Hear the call, come to me. Run into His arms of grace. Your burden carried, He will take

Marriage Is Not A Right. It’s A Responsibility.

This past weekend I was a bridesmaid in my sister’s wedding and as I watched her walk down the aisle it got me thinking about the issue. Marriage is a hot topic in our country right now. Everybody’s worked up about who and who doesn’t have a right to it. I wonder sometimes though if we are asking the right questions. It occurs to me that part of the reason the issue is so muddled and discussion so futile is that we are talking about different things. We do not agree on who has a right to marriage because we do not agree on what marriage is or what marriage is for. To frame the controversy in terms of the nature and purpose of marriage I think will help bring clarity if not resolution.

So what is marriage? If as some believe, it is nothing more than a man-made institution with the purpose of making us happy, if it is only about the two people getting married and has no meaning beyond this life, then I suppose there is no reason why anyone should not be allowed to marry whomever they choose. I suppose we do have a “right” to it. If however marriage is made by God not just to make us happy, but to make us holy, that changes things entirely. If it is meant to be a picture of the Gospel, a temporal union that foreshadows the eternal union of Christ and His Church, then I believe we must change our language. Marriage is not a right at all. Marriage is a responsibility. It has meaning and purpose that goes beyond us and our earthly happiness and we are answerable to the God who created it.

And this is not just about homosexuality and marriage equality. It is about sexual purity before marriage. It is about adultery and divorce and internet pornography (though there is grace for all these things). It’s about loving and serving your spouse as Christ has loved and served us. It is easy for Christians to get caught up in the issue of homosexuality, but that is just one sin among many that is breaking our marriages and marring the image that we are supposed to display, the image of Christ’s love for his beloved church. I am all for defending biblical values, but it seems to me that it will speak more to a lost world if we fought less over marriage and fought more for our marriages, fought to make them more like this picture they are supposed to display.

This picture has become so distorted by the sin of the world sometimes it seems that it is lost. As I stood in the beautiful outdoors last weekend, and watched my sister and her husband make vows to each other, I thought of the first marriage in the garden and how it and every marriage following was marred by sin. I know in my own marriage, I have become all too aware of my sinfulness, of how short I fall of loving as Christ loves. The good news though? Because Christ has come and died and defeated sin, He is restoring all things. He heals everything that sin has broken, including our marriages. He is taking us back, back to the garden. We who know this truth, have the privilege, not the right, but the responsibility, to portray this to the world.

So let us fight, not so much to change the world’s mind about marriage, but to show them the heart of God and the power of grace through marriage. Let’s walk down the aisle arrayed in white, not because it’s pretty, but because it means something. Let’s solemnly vow to love our spouses for better or for worse because the worse will come as well as the better and we must choose to love as God has chosen to love us. And let us keep these vows as long as we live because it shows the supernatural power of Jesus Christ who has committed to never leave us nor forsake us, to love us and be with us in all things and through all things even to the very end.

“I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’ He who was seated on the throne, said, ‘I am making everything new!'” Revelation 21:2-5

Lessons of Motherhood: The Little Life I Never Dreamed Of

The words to an old Switchfoot song have been playing through my head lately. “This is your life. Are you who you wanna be? This is your life. Is it everything you dreamed that it would be when the world was younger and you had everything to lose?” I think that song was out when I was in middle school or high school. I always liked it, but the words hit me differently now than they did then. I recently turned twenty-six. To my pessimistic self, that means I’m basically thirty, which means I’m basically old. Okay, I know I’m not really old, but I am older. My youth is passing away.

I remember when I went to college how big the world seemed, how full of endless possibility. I had dreams and visions for my life: who I was going to marry, where I was going to live, what I was going to do. I, of course, was going to do big, important things. By twenty-six I’d probably have gotten my Ph.D., written a best-selling book that changed the world, you know, those kind of things. I wanted to live my life for God, but I assumed that meant I had to live it loudly.

The funny thing about choices though is that they have a way of narrowing our lives and eliminating possibilities. I’ve made my choices. This is my life. I’m certainly not unhappy with it, but it is smaller than I expected. It mostly consists of the four walls of my home where I pass my days with my baby boy. I don’t have a Ph.D. I haven’t written a best-selling book. In fact, I haven’t done anything of much notoriety at all and perhaps I never will.

What I’ve been learning is that it is harder to be faithful in the mundane, to find the glory in the ordinary, and to follow God through the thickets of the everyday. It is more difficult to lay down your life in the small ways when no one is taking any particular notice. It is likely that few will remember me when I die. No one will chronicle my life with a biography, but my hope and prayer is that my son and any future children will be able to say that they learned grace and wisdom and integrity because I was their mother. I hope they will learn to love the word of God because I taught it to them. I pray that they will know Jesus because they knew me. I pray that I can be faithful with my little life and the little lives entrusted to me.