He Has Come to Judge (Love) the World

COVID Pic“For I will pass through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the Lord. Now the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you; and the plague shall not be on you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.” -Exodus 12:12-13

While God was judging Egypt, He was revealing His love to His people. For some it was a time of wailing and mourning, for others it was a time of redemption and revelation. For those with the blood of the Lamb on their doorposts, it was a time of safety and protection. The fact is, apart from Christ, we would all crumble under the mighty hand of God’s justice. God is a God of truth and justice, but also a God of mercy and love and grace. It is God’s desire that none perish, but that all people turn to Him. His mercy triumphs over judgment!

I’ve realized in my life that during difficult seasons my concept of God has sometimes been wrong. Testing reveals our concept of God. If I see God as a loving Father who cares for me and loves me unconditionally, I can rest in intimate trust of my loving Heavenly Father. I feel secure. I am not afraid. But if I see Him as an angry judge waiting to find a reason to pour out wrath upon me, I fear.

The truth is, there is an element of truth in each concept of God. God is love, but He is also judge. Jesus came “full of grace and truth” and He also came to reveal the Father. At times, Jesus was stern and demanding. At times He was intensely narrow as He called His disciples to walk a narrow road, to forsake all to follow Him. He sternly rebuked the religious leaders and rebuked his disciples for their lack of faith. Truth.

On the other hand, He was moved with great compassion for people, He healed the sick and cast out demons, and He was willing to quickly forgive and welcome repentant sinners into His kingdom. Grace. God’s qualities are not opposing forces but demonstrations of the fullness of His character.

With my son, Joseph, sometimes I have to be stern and sometimes I have to correct him. He’s still working on the obedience part! My motive is always love. My motive is to protect Him because I want what is best for him. Sometimes my motive is to protect what is precious to me. For example, Joseph likes my journals, but these journals are important to me. I know if he gets his hands on them he might tear them. He doesn’t yet know how to handle these kind of things. More importantly, I would never allow him to mistreat Leslie because she is precious to me. It’s important to me that he treats her with respect. At Joseph’s age, he doesn’t completely understand why I don’t permit him to do certain things or to have certain things, but my motive is always what is best for Him.

At other times (most of the time I hope), I show Joseph my love. I hold him, hug him, kiss him, play with him, and take care of him. He’s my beloved son and I am very proud of him. More than anything else, I want him to know how much I love him. I want him to feel safe. I want to enjoy him. But I cannot tolerate disobedience; I am bound to discipline him for his own good. I prefer not to discipline him, in fact, I often hesitate to discipline him because I don’t want to be too harsh and I don’t want to wound his emotions. I would rather enjoy him, but sometimes discipline is necessary. My discipline of him is not in opposition to my love for him.

Likewise, God, whose motives are always pure, sometimes acts with zeal, even anger, to protect His children. Sometimes He acts to punish wrongdoing, as any good judge should. Sometimes He disciplines us to draw us back to Himself, but He always does so in love. As I may act to protect my journal or to require that Joseph honor Leslie, sometimes God acts to protect His own glory. All that He does, He does in love. His anger is but for a moment, but His favor is for a lifetime. He is slow to anger and long-suffering, but abounding in love and faithfulness. God is love. God is holy. He is holy love. He is never one without the other.

Right now the world is being shaken to its core by the coronavirus/COVID-19. For all of this, on some level, we feel the weight of testing. But for those who are in Christ this can be a time of drawing nearer to the love of the Father, a time of knowing Him deeper and experiencing His arms of protection. God is a judge and I believe He is judging the world right now. His judgment is not for the purpose of inflicting pain or punishment, but for the purpose of drawing people to Himself. God’s judgment always is motivated to redeem. God wants to heal, but we must turn to Him for healing. We must turn towards His love.

Stay Close to the Father

I recently dreamed that I was prophesying from a church platform. I stood next to a pastor, his identity was unknown to me. I had a microphone in my hand and prophesied from the stage. The prophecy was like a short rhyme, but I don’t recall all the words. It was something like, “Jesus, Jesus, seek Him with all your heart.” The general message of the prophecy was to seek the Lord, to be close to Him.Head on Chest

Then I heard clearly, “Evil days are coming, walk closely to me so I can protect you.”

Next, I saw a silhouette of the Father. In this vision, He was gathering His children close to Him with large and long arms. He was big, but gently reaching out His arms to bring His children close to Him. It was a picture of strength and tenderness.

Psalm 91:1 says,
Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.

Now is the time to seek God and draw close to the Father. For Him to protect us the way that He wants to, we must remain close to Him.

Proverbs 22:3 says,
A prudent man foresees evil and hides himself,
But the simple pass on and are punished.

God has not called us to be in hiding, but to hide ourselves in Him. If we will take the time to seek God in the secret place, He will protect us in the open spaces of this world. Stay close to the Father!

Blessings,

Jon

Be Still

ThHead on Cheste moments when I feel closest to my son is when he is still on my chest. I think this may be his favorite place to sleep. When he was first born, he liked to be cradled in my arms, but now he likes to be upright with his head on my chest. There is a sense of closeness with him that I feel in these moments, when he is still. Perhaps the Father longs for the same with us?

I am reminded of the scene in the Bible where the disciple John leans his head on Jesus’ breast (John 13:25). To me, this is the most precious moment of intimacy in the Bible. A man laid his head on the breast of God incarnate. John was “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (John 21:20). Perhaps it was not that Jesus loved John more, but perhaps it was simply because John chose to draw closer to Jesus. In fact, he drew nearest to Jesus in Jesus’ suffering on the cross.

God loves everyone, but He is not close with everyone. We can be as close to Him as we want to be. James 4:8 says, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” Or, “Come close to God, and God will come close to you” (NLT).

When my son is fussy, I still love him. When he cries, I still love him. No matter what he does, I am still going to love him and provide for him. But, when he is still, I feel closest to him. It makes my heart feel good as he rests in my arms. I wonder if God feels closest to me when I am still?

Certainly, we can cry, we can fuss, we can complain at times. But how much better is it if we would just simply trust?

Psalm 46:10 says,
“Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
​​I will be exalted in the earth!”

The waters may roar and be troubled and the mountains may shake (v. 3), but “There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God” (v. 4). The nations may rage, but the Lord is our refuge (v. 6, 11). There is a place in God where, no matter what is going on around us, we can be still. Be still and know that He is God. He is taking care of everything.

Isaiah 30:15 says, “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength…” (NIV).

The truth is, everything we need is found in God. His provision is all-sufficient. Right now, everything my son needs he finds in my wife and I (mostly my wife, because she feeds him). Likewise, when we crawl in Father’s lap, lay our heads on His chest, we can rest in His all-sufficient provision. He will not fail us.

We can cry, fuss, complain, get upset, or have a bad attitude. God is merciful. He still loves us. But how much better is it to simply learn to be still and trust? Take your eyes off your circumstances, look to Him, praise Him and trust Him.

Proverbs 3:5-6 says,
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths.”

When we lean on our own understanding, we become self-focused, anxious and fearful. When we lean on Him, we find peace, joy, rest, and healing. If we will take time every day to simply sit with Him, I believe that it not only blesses His heart, but in this place of stillness we also find the freedom and healing that we need.

Your Identity in Christ

 

identity-in-christ-1.jpg

Have you ever felt overlooked or marginalized by others?

Even if not intentional, sometimes others fail to see our potential. One time, I requested a job promotion for a position I thought had opened up. After about four months of waiting and seeing the position had not been filled, I discovered that I needed to speak with the President of the company to find out why I had not been given the position. So, I requested a meeting with him.

In the meeting, I learned that although the supervisor of the department wanted me in the position, the President did not or was at least resistant to the idea. I had been with the company for over ten years, had worked hard and was excellent in my work, and felt that I deserved the promotion. I made my case and he gave me the promotion. It felt good that I got what I wanted, but I also felt a bit hurt and rejected. My supervisor believed in me a great deal and saw my potential, but the President did not. What I’ve learned is that some people, no matter how well I do or how hard I try, won’t believe in me or see my potential.

I’ve learned that what others think about me is not that important. I need to be open to listening to constructive criticism and be willing to receive correction, but what is most important is what God thinks about me. And thankfully God has placed other people in my life who do believe in me.

There’s no doubt that the words of others can hurt, but the most important words in our lives are the words of God. Even if everyone else says you don’t matter, God says you do. If God says you matter, then it doesn’t matter what other people think.

Once, after going through a long season of personal testing, the Lord told me that I had passed the test. Honestly, I did not feel like I had passed the test. But God clearly told me that I had passed. I have learned that if God says “yes” when I feel “no”, “yes” it is! So, in addition to placing God’s words above those of others, we also have to place God’s words over our own self-opinion.

Sometimes we can think of ourselves more highly than we ought (see Rom. 12:3). In this case, we need to temper our self-opinion with the truth of God’s word. Often, however, we think too low of ourselves and we need to elevate our self-thinking based on what God says about us.

Romans 14:4 says,

“Who are you to judge another’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand.”

When you one day stand before God in heaven, what others have said about you will not matter. What will matter is what God says about you. This the way we should live our lives – with a humble estimation of ourselves and with a confidence in who we are in Christ. Jesus was wholly confident in who He was as God’s Son but also lived humbly, knowing He could do nothing without the Father (John 5:19).

As a new dad myself, I want to speak positive words over my son. I want to call forth his purpose and destiny in Christ. I want him to know that I believe in him and his potential. He’s just a little guy right now, but all of God’s potential is presently in him, it just needs to be developed. I don’t want to hold him back. I want to give him opportunities to grow and fulfill his purpose. I want to provide instruction and discipline to help guide him in the right direction. Most importantly, I want him to know that he is loved and that I am proud of him. Our Father in heaven feels the same way about you. He loves you and believes in you. Even if you feel poorly about yourself, He is proud of you!

I have found it helpful to declare out loud who I am in Christ. Declaring what God says about me in His Word increases my confidence in Him and reminds me that I am loved and accepted even if I feel unloved. I want to challenge you to take some time to declare God’s word over your life. Sit by your beside or sofa or pace the floor in your room and declare God’s promises over your life. Absorb the truth of God’s word deep into your soul, let your identity in Christ become ingrained in your soul and spirit.

Assignment:  Read Ephesians Chapter 1:1-14. Make a list regarding your identity in Christ (for example, “I am blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ” or “I am adopted as God’s son or daughter”, etc.). Also, make a list of qualities of God’s character (for example, “God is full of grace” or “God is full of wisdom”, etc.). Spend 30 minutes this evening, meditating on these truths and confessing them over your life.

identity-in-christ-1.jpg

Everlasting Arms

“The eternal God is your refuge,everlasting-arms.jpg
and underneath are the everlasting arms.”
-Deuteronomy 33:27

We all have hurtful experiences and sometimes respond emotionally. The loss of a loved one, a troubled relationship, unkind words or actions, a deep disappointment, a distressing work situation, or a persistent problem we can’t seem to overcome – these are all painful experiences. Sometimes we just need someone to vent to. We need a safe place to express ourselves without fear of condemnation. We need the comfort of God’s everlasting arms.

I had a friend in high school who offered his shoulder as a punching bag to another friend who was going through a hard time. He stood there, lowered his shoulder, and told his friend to hit him and get it all out. Thankfully his friend didn’t take him up on the offer, but it impressed me how willing my friend was to sacrifice his own body for another. It was his way of saying, “I’m here for you. I care about you.”

I think God is like this. He allows Himself to be our punching bag. He just takes it. He takes it because He loves us. He takes it because He knows we’re hurting. He opens up His great big arms of love and just holds us, loving us and comforting us in our troubles. He doesn’t reject us or turn us away.

God is big enough to handle all our grief and anger. He is patient, so patient, to allow us to vent everything. Sometimes, He doesn’t say a word. He just lets us get it all out. Sometimes what we need more than His solutions is His presence. But sometimes we need to hear from Him. He gives us that as well. He knows exactly what we need in every situation.

When I was in high school my girlfriend and I broke up. It was hard to do. After we broke up, I walked to the church parking lot where my friend Joel was. Joel is 6 foot, 8 inches tall. He gave me a hug and I started crying. My head was buried in his chest because that’s where my head comes up to when I hug him. My steady, faithful friend was there to comfort me when I was going through a hard time.

The Bible says,

“The eternal God is your refuge,
And underneath are the everlasting arms…”
-Deuteronomy 33:27

God is a great big God. The entire universe and everything in it was created by His word and is sustained by His awesome power. You have probably heard someone refer to another saying, “He has a big heart.” Well, God has a big heart. The Creator of hearts has the biggest heart of them all. He has big enough arms to welcome us all in and comfort us. He is “the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles” (II Cor. 1:3-4). In turn, we are able to comfort others in their trials, with the same comfort we have received from Him.

A break-up with my girlfriend was not the end of the world. But at the time, it was a big deal to me. I needed comfort. In these last twenty years, I’ve experienced delays and disappointments much more difficult then breaking up with a girlfriend.

One time, I came to a point where my life frustrations boiled over. I let loose a complaint to the Lord. I vented to God, loudly expressing my frustration. As I vented, it seemed the Lord stood before me. I felt Him place His hand on me and comfort me. I heard Him say, “I know…I know…and it’s going to be okay.” My complaint faded as I was soothed by His presence. How can you continue to be upset with someone when they are comforting you in such a loving way?

His simple words, “I know…I know…and it’s going to be okay,” did not give me the answers to my problems. They did not guarantee a certain result. Yet, it seemed that God was saying that He knew everything I’ve gone through and everything I was going through. He knows it has been hard. He knows it’s been a struggle. But it’s going to be okay. It’s going to be okay.

We don’t always need answers. And God doesn’t always explain things to us. But He does give us His comforting presence. We are soothed and our joy is restored in His presence.

For my son Joseph, it’s a big deal when he’s hungry. He cries. Even though my wife has never denied him milk, he still cries. He needs the comfort of mommy’s breast. When he’s tired, he needs the comfort of papa’s arms. Sometimes he cries and I find myself saying, “It’s okay, it’s okay, you’re going to be okay.” He also doesn’t like being swaddled because he can’t move his arms. He fusses. He doesn’t understand that it’s good for him. He doesn’t see it, but we know what is best for him. When he’s tired, he falls asleep best when I hold him in my arms and soothe him with my voice. For him, my presence means comfort and security.

I’ve noticed that I hold Joseph in my left arm. I’ve done this since he was born without even thinking. I’m right-handed, so my right arm is my stronger arm. But when I hold him in my left arm, I am holding him close to my heart. That’s how God holds us, close to His heart.

The second part of Deuteronomy 33:27 says,
“He will thrust out the enemy from before you,
And will say, ‘Destroy!’”

My left arm gives Joseph comfort, but my strong right arm is there to protect him. Likewise, God holds us close to His heart, tenderly and carefully. His right arm is present to push away any enemies that may come against us. He is both comforter and protector.

Isaiah 40:11 says,
“He tends his flock like a shepherd:
He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;
he gently leads those that have young.”

My wife was drawn to this Scripture when we had a miscarriage. During that time, we needed God’s comfort, both His words of comfort and His presence.

We find comfort in His words and in His voice that soothes and reassures. We also find comfort in His presence, in His everlasting arms. He has a big heart to receive us and hold us. Until Jesus returns and restores all things, we turn to God and His outstretched, everlasting arms. We draw near to Him as He holds us close to His chest.