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.

God is Moving in the Earth

 

sky earth galaxy universe
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I want to share a dream I had which I believe is from the Lord. When it comes to dreams from the Lord, some dreams are very clear while some have an element of fuzziness or haziness. I always try to do my best to recount the dream as best I remember it. With that, here’s the dream…

Recently, I dreamed that I was in a house and I was beckoned to go outside to the porch. From the porch, I looked into the horizon, into the sky just above the earth. What I saw from the earth was the earth itself. The earth appeared to me in the sky as a large planet, not too different than the picture in this post. It appeared much closer and much larger than how the moon appears in a normal night sky.

Then, it was as if the cover of the earth was peeled back and I saw inside the earth. Inside I saw at least two large golden rings. The rings were as wide as the earth, like three-dimensional wedding bands. The backdrop of the rings was heavenly in nature. The rings were spinning and turning in motion but not in the same direction. The picture was bright and shining. That’s the dream.

I believe the interpretation of the dream is this: When we look at the earth, we see it in its normal state. From a distance, the earth does not appear to be moving, it generally appears still. Also, the earth in its normal, sinful state, has so many things that are wrong with it. Up close, we see wars and rumors of wars. We see pain and violence. We see mass shootings and destruction from cataclysmic weather events. We see protests, political bickering and scandals. We see government corruption, greed, dishonesty, and deception. We see intense persecution of Christians. We see so much anger and hate. Things are much as Jesus described they would be in Matthew 24. These are the obvious things.

What we may miss, if we are not careful, is what is going on beneath the surface. Despite what we see on the surface, which unfortunately is normal for our planet, God is moving. Underneath the surface, God in His glory is at work. He is not still. He is bring forth His royal purpose. He is moving in power, wonder, and magnificence. However, what God is doing is not always obvious to the naked eye. It’s rarely reported in the news.

And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come. -Matthew 24:14

I recently read a book entitled DREAMS AND VISIONS: Is Jesus Awakening the Muslim World? by Tom Doyle. In the book, Mr. Doyle shares beautiful stories of how Jesus is visiting Muslims in their dreams, drawing them to the Father. On the surface, much of the Muslim world may seem in turmoil. We are confronted most with the ugly side of the Muslim religion. Yet, behind the surface, God is moving in the hearts of individual Muslims whom He loves.

I don’t know exactly what the rings mean, but here’s my thought. God is at work in two ways. First, He is working to prepare His bride for His return. The other ring could represent God calling many who are not saved to a covenant relationship with Him. A ring symbolizes the covenant relationship we have with God. It also may symbolize the authority we have on this earth as ambassadors of His kingdom. We have a part to play in bringing forth God’s purpose on the earth.

Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. -2 Corinthians 5:20

It would be short-sighted for us to be so focused on earthly things that we miss out on what God is doing. It would also be short-sighted for us to become so discouraged by the painful things we see that we miss what God is doing. We need to step back and see the big picture, the real picture. The real news is that God is on the move! Satan is author of the fake news – the messages that bring anxiety and fear. Despite what we see on the earth, God is at work. He is moving in the earth!

Lord, gives us eyes of the Spirit to see as You see. Open the eyes of our understanding that we may see that what You are doing is much greater than what we see in the world around us. Although Your work may seem hidden, it is a work of eternal value. Help us to build our lives on Your kingdom, seeking You first and Your righteousness.

He’s got the whole world in His hands!

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Photo by Porapak Apichodilok on Pexels.com

A Promise on a Promise

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What do you do when you are waiting on a promise?

There was a time in my life where I seriously questioned God’s faithfulness. I felt like He was not coming through for me. One evening in my apartment, I made an impassioned declaration of God’s faithfulness. Through tears, doubts and questions, I affirmed my faith in God. As I remember, it was not long after that that God’s promises began to manifest in my life.

It is the nature of God to call things into being before they happen. God “gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did” (Romans 4:17).

So, what do you do when you are waiting on a promise? You need a pr

omise on a promise. The promise on the promise is this: “He who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:23).

The first promise is that God is faithful. God promises to be faithful. It’s a promise, a guarantee, a promise on a promise. We need to have faith in the overall promise that is greater than the specific promises yet fulfilled. This faith is in the absolute faithfulness of God.

When faced with delay, we need to declare God’s faithfulness. Then, we need to step into all He has for us, by faith. Don’t hold back. Jump out of the boat and walk on the water. The wait may be long, but when He says go, go!

“[Abraham] contrary to hope, in hope believed

, so that he became the father of many nations…And not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body, already dead (since he was about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah’s womb. He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform.” -Romans 4:18-21

Abraham stumbled (i.e., Hagar and Ishmael), but he did not waver in his faith.

We tend to see what we don’t have rather than focusing on who He is.

For me, God’s promises have come gradually. I hop

ed for marriage and a family, but waited until I was age 34 to be married. Waiting on that promise was difficult, but God was faithful. Then, we waited on children and God promised us a little boy. We endured 2 miscarriages, but God was faithful. Now we have a little son. I didn’t plan to be a first time father at age 39. I had hoped for marriage, a large family and a fruitful ministry earlier in life, but God’s plan was different than mine. Nevertheless, He has been faithful. The waiting has enriched my life with greater treasures found in the darkness of dreaming.

Now, we hope for a house of our own, we desire

 more children. I have career and ministry goals that burn within me but are yet to be realized. All of these things are tied to promises God has given me.

With each step, we sometimes stumble, but we do not waver in our faith as we press towards the goal of the high call in Christ Jesus. Though we long for the fulfillment of our dreams, we fix our eyes on what is eternal, our home in heaven, “the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.” (Hebrews 11:10).

God is faithful and He will do it (I Thessalonians 5:14). He will do all He has promised. That’s a promise. When you’re waiting on a promise, you have to rest in the Promise that He is faithful. It’s a promise on a promise.

“For we walk by faith, not by sight.” -II Corinthians 5:7

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You are Valuable to God

cross-in-mexico-e1537670483673.jpgYou are valuable to God. He sees past your sins and struggles and sees a person of incredible worth and value. 1 Corinthians 6:20 states that “you were bought at a price.” That price was the precious blood of Jesus. God gave His best for you. Jesus gave His all for you. He gave His all so you can have eternal life with Him in heaven. God wants to spend forever with you, that’s how much He values you.

Imagine being imprisoned in a foreign country with no hope of release or escape. How would you feel if I traded my son to that country in exchange for your life so you could return to the United States? It would be hard for me to do that. In fact, I probably would not! I love my son so much, I wouldn’t trade him for anything. He is precious and valuable to me. But this is exactly what God did for you and me. He exchanged His Son so we could be purchased from the enemy’s prison.

Several years ago, the Lord reminded me of a rummage sale that my mom and I went to when I was a boy. As I recall, we drove out of town to a small building that was filled with clothes and perhaps other sundry items. We rummaged through lots of clothes to find something worth purchasing. The stuff was discarded  by someone, but we hoped to find something that would be useful for us. When the Lord reminded me of this, I felt the Lord speak to me, “love her like you loved that rummage sale.” At that time, I was dating a girl while in Bible school (whom I did not end up marrying), but I believe God was actually speaking to me about my future wife.

When God brought Leslie and I together, she had some “junk” in her life (and I did too). We both brought hurts from the past and anger into our marriage. Marriage has been a healing journey for us, and we’re still on that journey. Yet, God has called me to see past her problems and see her heart, to value her because she is valuable to Him. Often Leslie has to look past my problems and see my heart as well.

God sees past the junk in our lives and sees that within us that is of value. God sees the heart. “For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (I Samuel 16:7). My wife has a heart of gold, a beautiful heart full of love and generosity. Will I love her on the basis of her problems or will I love her on the basis of the value God places upon her?

This is how God loves us. He doesn’t look at our problems, hurts, or bad attitudes. He looks at us through the lens of the blood of Jesus. He looks at us based on the value He has placed on us. He looks past the “junk” in our lives – the sins, mistakes, wounds, and failures – and sees a person of incredible value and worth. His love makes us valuable. His grace makes us beautiful. He gives us “beauty for ashes” (Isaiah 61:3).

I Peter 1:18-19 says,

“you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.”

God gave His best and Jesus gave His all for you – you are valuable to God!

Assignment:  Read Ephesians 1:15-23 and make a list of who you are in Christ. Spend 15-30 minutes this evening, before you go to bed, meditating on these truths and confessing them over your life.

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.