Judging God

“It’s unfair.”  “I don’t deserve this.”  “I haven’t done anything wrong.”  “Why me?”

Have you ever asked these questions or made these statements? Not long after we learn to speak as children, we learn to say “No fair!” as we observe the injustices (perceived or real) around us.  We long for everything to be fair, for our needs to be considered and met, to be granted  a life free of competition that diminishes us, and from the pain that wounds us.  Even when we are in the midst of a good experience, we will often look over our shoulder to see someone who seems to be having a better experience, and wish for that instead of what we currently possess.  With this sense of  justice, fairness, and satisfaction ingrained in our humanity, we are forever attempting to define the parameters of what these things should mean.

What do you do when your sense of justice, fairness and satisfaction seem to be violated by God Himself?  What do you do when your prayer is not being answered?  What solution is there when you are not experiencing the good you feel you deserve in life, and there is no one to blame it on but God?  Well, if you are anything like me, you might just put God on trial.

Judging God is done in the way you think and act.  It takes a few steps.  First, you have to believe that you know better than God what is needed in your situation.  Next you will have to judge Him according to your present knowledge.

“How do you judge God?” you may be wondering.

You hold a mental trial, or a social one.  One is done privately in your own mind, and the other is done in a group, or via internet interface. You would assess your situation and find all of the negatives, weaknesses, struggles, and frustrations. You would then seek to establish a timeline for the reversal of these negatives and place that responsibility on God.  “I would like this all to change right now!” (for instance.) If this timeline you established is not honored, or if it feels ignored, you have grounds for judging God.

But how can God be punished?

You can choose to ignore God.  Stop praying.  Discontinue church attendance. Fill your time with ways to assuage your pain– like numbing through addictions, or escapes.  Close your eyes to the people around you.  Close your heart to the life happening all around you–reserving all of your affection and joy for the moment that your need is met, and your prayer is answered. Refuse to lift your head and give God thanks until He meets your demands. Do not acknowledge the goodness around you. Stop appreciating the air you breathe, the heart beating in your chest, and any beauty around you. Refuse to be amused at the budding of a flower, the laughter of a baby, the kindness of a smile, or the flavor of a meal. Do not open your heart to goodness until your demands are met.

Spend time finding alternative answers for the goodness you find around you in the midst of your pain.  Take opinion polls on whether or not God even exists.  Create new definitions of good and evil with your personal comfort at the center of the definition.

You can only begin to build your case if you make your experience the ultimate reality, and God the superficial one.  When you measure God by your standard of goodness, and your parameters of justice, you will make a compelling case….for awhile.

You will be forced, however, to draw from all cases of human suffering and injustice to buoy your cause and prove that there could not be a good God if evil happens in the world.  Your case will have to rest heavily on the value of humanity–children, innocents, poor and destitute.  You will have to come up with a way to prove that people are valuable in some intrinsic way all the while denying a God who gave them that intrinsic worth.  You will have to prove that your standard of goodness is the one that God is bound to, and you will have to forego the fact that you cannot see the end from the beginning but are willing to pass judgements anyways.

Yet, if you are less than a hundred years old, it is well-known that you could not have possibly established the parameters of goodness.  Goodness had to be here before you or I arrived.  The fact that you know there is such a thing as goodness, tells me that there is a God.  The idea that God should do good comes from the sense inside of you that goodness is what God is and what He should be up to, and that sense did not originate with you since you are new to the planet.

Who then is the one being punished here?  Isn’t it you?  Isn’t it the one walled in by pride who cannot see the beauty around them or feel the warmth of friendship?  Isn’t it you, the one who built a throne of judgement and sat yourself upon it indicting God for all that He has not done in regards to you who is struggling with addiction, anger, lonliness, and the desire to jettison the planet? Who is losing here?

How do you break free?

You  will have to re-calibrate your thinking.  Allowing God to set the parameters of reality, you can bring your needs to Him.  Your pain, your fear, your loss, your frustration needs a good God.  (And that is in fact what He is.) Maybe you have already discovered that there is nothing inside of you that can change your circumstances.  At best you can numb yourself or distract yourself, but you cannot heal or redeem yourself.

When with thankfulness and wonder you open your eyes again to the beauty around you, and express it in worship to the One to whom it is due, when you acknowledge the kindness of strangers, the brilliance of creation, the devotion of love, the faithfulness of friendship, and the wonder of mystery, acknowledging the Source of it all, you begin to break free.  When you look at God’s track record of goodness and faithfulness, and reminisce on the promises He has made and has already fulfilled, and when you acknowledge Him as the ultimate reality, you step down from the judgement throne and take your place at His feet in earnest expectation.

Because God is not a man that He should lie (Numbers 23:19), and because every good and perfect thing comes from Him (James 1:17), you can be honest in your appreciation of all the good in your life that He has established.  You can worship Him in gratitude for what He has given you.  It is reasonable to trust Him for the things you don’t yet understand, because He has proven Himself faithful in the past.  You can wait with expectation because He has promised that even if you do not see the fulness of the justice you are longing for right now, He has promised to set all things right and bring about ultimate justice not just for you, but for all that He has made.

Your evidence of God’s faithfulness and goodness will be the the only judgment of His character you can sustain.  Step down from the place of judgment, and find yourself again at His feet in worship. DSC01817

Photo credit: Bethany Morris

Why Pray?

In Christopher Hitchens’ book “Mortality”, Christopher devotes a great part of his second chapter to the subject of prayer and the futility of it. With the angst of one suffering from a disease that has no cure, that would eventually take his life, Christopher writes the chapters of this  book to process his life and those things that have bewildered him and those things that have made him certain. On the issue of prayer, Christopher decided:  “Those of us who don’t take part in it (prayer) will justify our abstention on the grounds that we do not need, or care, to undergo the futile process of continuous reinforcement.  Either our convictions are enough in themselves or they are not.”

From the “Devil’s Dictionary” by Ambrose Bierce, Hitchens defines prayer:

“Prayer:  A petition that the laws of nature be suspended in favor of the petitioner; himself confessedly unworthy.”

What is missing in this definition are three very distinct issues that give coherence to the act of prayer itself.

1.  To whom is  the petition being given?

2.  How is the recipient of this petition defined?

3.  On what grounds does the petitioner pray?

What follows in Hitchens’ argument is a logical response to this definition of prayer devoid of a real definition.

I would like to propose another response to the definition of prayer with the three questions above answered through the Judeo-Christian worldview.

When one prays, who are they praying to?  I have often said that “prayer is only as powerful as the god it is directed to.” In a world with a pantheon of gods all with differing definitions, power, and accessibility, prayer can become a frustrating spiritual experience in that you have to choose the right god or right saint in order for your petition to be worthy of hearing let alone answering.  As stated, however, my response to fill in the answers to these questions will be framed within the context of the God defined by the Bible.  How is this God defined?

The God of the Bible has through scriptures revealed Himself to humanity with definitions of His character, His desires, His power, and His eternality.  God is eternal.  There never was a time He did not exist, nor will there ever be.  God is a Creator, and holds claim that all that has been made that we see, and even that which we cannot see, yet know exists, was made by Him. The Bible tells us that all that was created was for His pleasure.  It pleased Him to make it all.  In particular, the Bible tells us that when God made man, He formed him from the dust of the ground and breathed within man His own breath that brought him to life.  With man, God  had communion.  Conversation, time together, instruction, and help were all part of the relationship between the first man Adam and God, and was his intent from the beginning.

In Genesis we see this creative God “walking and talking” with Adam in the cool of the day.  We see Adam, a man fresh to the earth giving names to animals, tending a garden, and becoming a husband as God provides for him a wife.  We see God caring for the needs of Adam, and we see Adam flourishing in the communion with God.

When that communion is broken it is made evident by Adam’s hiding from God with his wife Eve.  We see God “looking” for Adam, and calling out to him.  Adam confesses to his sin, and acknowledges his nakedness to God.  God responds to Adam’s feelings of shame and makes clothes for he and his wife–at the expense of the life of an animal.

From this point on and throughout the whole of scripture we see God making himself known to mankind and offering grace, help, forgiveness and restoration to Himself.  Even in the Old Testament that is often criticized by on-lookers as a seemingly vindictive portion of the Bible, if you look closer, you find God giving evil nations time and opportunity to repent of their wickedness.  He never judges people that He did not before-hand offer grace to.  Jonah says it best in Jonah 4 as he is expressing his anger and frustration with God:

Jonah 4:2
New International Version (NIV)
2 He prayed to the Lord, “Isn’t this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.

Later in the New Testament we read in

2 Peter 3:9
New International Version (NIV)
9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

This God loves those He has made and has spared no expense to restore the broken fellowship between man and God.  Not only that, this God listens.

Jeremiah 33:3
New International Version (NIV)
3 ‘Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.’

And Jesus taught us to pray “Our Father in heaven…” showing us that God could be approaches as a child to a Father because that is How God related to us.

Matthew 7:7-8

7 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

1 John 5:14-15

14 Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 15 And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.

But what about the condition of the petitioner?  If he/she is unworthy, does this change how God responds?

The truth is that all mankind is unworthy.  We continue with our free will to disobey God’s laws.  We continue to cheat our neighbor, lie about our behavior, covet other’s possessions, harbor anger in our hearts, and lust privately or publicly in our imaginations.  Yes, we all do.  The Bible says that “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)  This includes the one typing this blog.  So how is it that we can even approach God and ask for help?

I don’t know.

It certainly isn’t anything within ourselves that makes us worthy to ask God for anything.  I’ve looked inside my heart and found only my chest.  I have considered my greatest ambitions and aspirations, and found selfish motives lurking in all of them.

So to answer the worthiness question, we fall back on the answers from questions one and two.  Our ability to approach God is entirely based on His character, and His desire for us.  He has asked us to come.  He has promised to answer.

A Biblical definition of prayer from: http://christiananswers.net/dictionary/prayer.html

“Prayer is conversation with God; the intercourse of the soul with God, not in contemplation or meditation, but in direct address to him. Prayer may be oral or mental, occasional or constant, ejaculatory or formal. It is a “beseeching the Lord” (Ex. 32:11); “pouring out the soul before the Lord” (1 Sam. 1:15); “praying and crying to heaven” (2 Chr. 32:20); “seeking unto God and making supplication” (Job 8:5); “drawing near to God” (Ps. 73:28); “bowing the knees” (Eph. 3:14).

Prayer presupposes a belief in the personality of God, his ability and willingness to communicate with us, his personal control of all things, and of all his creatures and all their actions.”

In this definition of prayer, it is seen that we are not just finite unworthy beings looking for a change in natural events, but we are beings created in God’s image who are engaging in conversation with a God who wants relationship with us. He loves us, He listens, and He answers.

In response to Hitchens’ thoughts on prayer, I would have to say, if I held his definitions to be the coherent example of what prayer is, I could follow his resulting argument, and forego the need to pray at all.  But because the definition is begging too many questions, I first must answer the questions, and there I find that the answers contain more than what was initially given.  That changes everything.

Some say “Prayer changes things.” To which I reply, “Only if your God is listening.”

I can confidently say that the God of the Bible is listening and He will not turn anyone away who calls out to Him for help.2013-07-26 14.57.50







Faith and Faith

This video is one of the finest, most brilliant,  merciful engagement of ideas I have seen, and will prove to be a valuable resource and asset for the battle of the minds waging in our culture on us and especially our children.

Allow yourself to be challenged.

The One Who Cares

If there is one show I have ever watched that  sets my thoughts to whirling it would be “Hoarding Buried Alive”.  The show takes you on a journey into the lives of people who for one reason or another begin collecting things to the point that their homes are over-stuffed, dangerously unhealthy, and impassable.  Each story is unique in that the emotional event that triggered their needs to accumulate vary from one person to the next, but each of them can trace back their need of clutter to an emotional void or pain.

As the show plays out, you are introduced to both the Hoarder(s) and the people in their lives who love them.  It is because of the people in their lives who love them that the Hoarder is then exposed to their “blind spot” of over-collecting, and then given an opportunity for help.  You will see children of parents pleading with their parents to get help to change the way they live because the conditions in their home are so dangerous, and unhealthy.  There are tears shed by the pleading, and excuses or angry outbursts from the “offender” as they come to grips with their lifestyle and choices.  The drama is real as it digs into the reasoning, emotions, will, and self-esteem of the one who is trapped in their habit.

It is interesting to me that the people who love the Hoarder want to see them free from this addiction.  Their love doesn’t say “Well, as long as they are happy, that’s what really matters.”  Those who love, demonstrate it in care that takes a very painful course for both them and the one they confront.  They see the need of their loved one being buried in a lifestyle that has the potential to kill them in some cases as the houses are collapsing around them, and they are motivated to confront them.  This confrontation is not always received well.  At the expense of great misunderstanding, the One Who Cares will plead their case over and over in as many ways as possible, with as many examples as they can fashion in order to prove to the Hoarder their intentions are to love them and see them well.  Professionals are then brought into the picture who counsel and serve as mediators for the Hoarder and the One Who Cares.

Another note of interest is that the love of the One Who Cares, is not dependent on whether or not the Hoarder changes their ways; but because they love the Hoarder, they earnestly desire, and will go to any expense to see the Hoarder helped.  The behavior of the One Who Cares goes beyond “kindness” in that it doesn’t stay “polite”, but risks all.  Sometimes you will see the Hoarder lash out angrily with harsh, cutting words to the One Who Cares, and the tears begin flowing.  You watch the pain on the faces of both and it rips your heart apart.  The Hoarder afraid to change, and the One Who Cares, is completely out on a limb that threatens to be cut off.

The resolve of the show comes (in many cases) when you see the Hoarder recognize their pit, and receive help.  You see the difficult work of change, and letting go.  You cry with them and celebrate with them.  You celebrate with the One Who Cares because their sacrificial efforts pay off in hope and help for the one they love.  It can be noted that the journey for the Hoarder will be long and difficult, but you are relieved and full of hope for their recovery.

Isn’t that what love does?  Doesn’t love have a fierce desire to see another one well?  Doesn’t love fight to overcome the things that threaten to bury or destroy another?  Doesn’t love refuse to let a person suffer in a prison if there is a way to break them out?  Machu Picchu 5

Why can’t love just be “kind” and live and let live?  Because love takes a vested interest in the object of its passion.  Love will sacrifice and give until the needs of their loved ones are met.  Love will bind itself to another and make their well-being the priority of their life.  It will risk being misunderstood, betrayed, threatened, and disregarded.  It will suffer the judgements of being to “harsh” or uncaring if, by its actions, can save someone from a dangerous fate.

Would a God of love be anything less?  Would a good God allow you and I to live however we wanted to just as long as we were “happy” at the end of the day?  Would a God who sees the end from the beginning be right to not interfere in the life of someone trapped and buried in a lifestyle that will kill them?  Would God be an idiot for sacrificing all and giving infinitely to see a life rescued?

You might say you don’t want to serve a  jealous God who had to kill His own Son to save mankind–that whole idea assaults your senses.  What you cannot see is the pit you are burying yourself in that requires a jealousy and fierce devotion and sacrifice to pull you from.  Anything less would not be love.  The One Who Cares will always march the front lines on your behalf.  If you dare to look, you will see His wounds, and His arms still outstretched to rescue you.

Jeremiah 31:3

The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying:

“I have loved you with an everlasting love;
    I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.

Caught Up in a Story Pt. 2

One of the greatest existential questions asked of the human race today is the question, “What is the purpose of my life?”  Somehow we know that we are alive (although some still wonder if they actually exist), but our reason for being alive and our reasons to continue living aren’t always obvious to us– So we ask.  We ask the mirror.  We ask our family.  We ask our neighbors, our peers, our heroes, even our countries, and each answer is different.  So how do we go about finding the answers to life’s questions?

“What is the purpose of my life?”  is a question that within itself assumes at least three things:

1.  There is such a thing as purpose.

2.  This purpose can be discovered, revealed, and known.

3.  Inherent in my being alive is a need, or at the very least, a desire for purpose.

sunsetWhat is purpose?


[pur-puhs]  Show IPA noun, verb, pur·posed, pur·pos·ing.


1.  the reason for which something exists or is done, made, used, etc.
2.  an intended or desired result; end; aim; goal.

Starting with the first assumption, “there is such a thing as purpose”, You and I will have to conclude that purpose precedes existence.  Existence occurs because of a reason.  Something or Someone has “wanted” you into existence.

If your life and mine is merely an accident, or a series of random universal events, this question of purpose is a moot point.  There is no reason to ask the question because there will be no purpose to be discovered.  If you are a Naturalist, or an Atheist, your search has just concluded and your question has become invalid.

Let’s just say then, for the sake of this article, and for the sake of validating the question that there is purpose in life and that purpose was determined before you existed.  Then it would behoove you and me to find out the source of purpose and existence.  This is where all roads lead me to God, the Creator and Sustainer of all that is living, both seen and unseen.

The second assumption that purpose can be known and/or discovered can only be true if the author of your purpose can be known, or if He disclosed this knowledge to those of us existing and asking the questions.  This is where many other world religions will drop you off.  If the deity who knows all will not reveal himself/herself to you, or refuses to be known, or requires that you go through a series of re-births and live multiple lives to begin to know, you will have no determiners to know if your life is full of purpose and if you are living within its potential.

Isaiah 45:5-6

I am the Lord, and there is no other;
    apart from me there is no God.
I will strengthen you,
    though you have not acknowledged me,
so that from the rising of the sun
    to the place of its setting
people may know there is none besides me.
    I am the Lord, and there is no other.

The God who has revealed Himself as the One and only, as recorded in His scriptures, has also recorded for our reference His purposes and design for all of the lives He created. In Caught Up in a Story Pt.1, (Go ahead and read it now, if you haven’t already) we read How God sets up our story.  Before the foundations of the world were laid, God had us on His mind.  He thought about us and made a plan to create us, redeem us and bring us to Himself.  He tells us the story of His love for us and how that loved motivated His every move.   God still unfolds His story of love and purpose and will give answers and help to anyone who calls out to Him.

The fact that you exist, means that you were purposed.  You are not here just because the DNA of two human’s fused together.  You are here because God caused you into existence.  God wanted and desired you.  Listen, He didn’t have to make you.  He didn’t have to bring you into existence in this point of history with your features and abilities, but He wanted to!

The third assumption is that “inherent in my life is the need to know my purpose”.  This is true.  The fact that you are asking the question is its own proof of relevance.   Even more than the importance of knowing your purpose is the absolute need within you to know your Creator.  You were created in the image of God which means that you have a direct connection with your Creator that you need to live a life of meaning and fulfillment.  You were made to reflect His character.  You were made to be in relationship with Him.

Without God there is no meaning.  Without God there is no purpose.  Without God there is no way to discover answers to any question existential or otherwise, because without Him, nothing would be revealed.

Jeremiah 29:12-13

12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

You are here in this point in  history, with unique abilities, features, and character.  You have a purpose and a reason to exist.  You have a God who can be known to walk you through every step of your life.  Won’t you call on Him today?

Time and Eternity

It was several years ago that I watched an old science video put out by Moody Institute of Science in Chicago, called “Time and Eternity”.  It was the first time I had ever been introduced to the sciences that are involved in the study of time and the construct of the period of life we are experiencing now that is temporary, yet designed in eternity.  If you have some spare time and want your brain to explode, take about 25 minutes, and watch the video mentioned.  I can’t say that I understand it all, nor that I have even scratched the surface of the beginnings of understanding, but there were several things that stood out to me in this video, and one in particular that I wanted to share.  At about minute 4:40-5:25 there is an illustration that caught my attention and made me think.  It is the illustration of the arrow being shot through the egg in slow motion.

eggHave you ever witnessed a tragedy, or accident?  Do you remember thinking that everything was happening is slow motion?  Have you ever received devastating or life-altering news and it feels as though time has stood still, or that your world has come to a stop, while the rest of the world continues on?  I’ve experienced it and I’ve heard people say those word.  Pain can cause the mind to process the information frame by frame like the slow motion camera.

Years after a tragedy, it is not unusual to find that the loved ones left behind are still feeling the effects of the event.  Like the arrow through the egg, we only see a split second of trouble.  The arrow passes through, there is a huge mess, and the arrow continues on.  While I see the momentary event, the victim, or survivor of a tragic situation, lives the rest of their life in the slow-motion of the camera.  The shell of the egg is still moving away from it’s center, and yolk is still falling from the sky, and landing on everything.  It’s as though it has never resolved or finished.  The arrow has moved on, but the effect continues.  Put yourself in that scenario for a moment, and consider the illustration.

God who sees the end from the beginning has allowed many things to pass through our space of life called time.  What are only blips on the screen of eternity, become stories that unfold over lifetimes and generations.  I think of the one act of Adam and Eve, who probably said to themselves, “It doesn’t matter if we eat the fruit, heck we are the only ones here.  We aren’t hurting anyone else!”  That one decision was one blip on the screen of eternity, and for the rest of us, the ensuing consequence of sin is a lifetime of “falling yolks from the sky”.

I think of Jesus and his death on the cross over 2000 years ago.  His story could be seen as just a few pages in the history books among others crucified, and the affect of his arrow piercing our space of time has turned the world upside down.  That grace and mercy is still raining down today.

My point in bogging your brain with stories of eggs, is to draw your attention to a God who sees the end from the beginning.  Your neighbor may have not seen the arrow that pierced your heart as a child, but God did.  While you live in the effect, feeling as though there is no end in sight, you need to know that your pain has an expiration date, and that God who knows you and loves you will see you through the struggle while cleaning up the messes it leaves behind.  No matter how quickly time passes, or how slowly your pain prevails, God, who lives in Eternity, will through the context of time is calling you to Himself.  He wants you to know that He sees you, He knows you, and He loves you.

In Search of a Diagnosis

If you have ever sat with someone in an Emergency room or Doctor’s office who is suffering from an abnormal pain or malady, you have very likely felt the tension and fear of the unknown, and the desire for an answer.    When the illness or malady can be righted with medication, the prescription is often filled immediately.  When the diagnosis demands a lifestyle change, the healing may or may not be readily pursued.

As I type today, several friends of mine have requested prayer for grandchildren, friends, sons, and daughters who are in need of a diagnosis to begin a healing process.  I wait with eager anticipation to hear of the doctor’s findings.  I pray and hope that the answer is not far away, and that the problem can be answered with a quick surgery or medication.

There is such a feeling of uncertainty when people face trouble with no diagnosis.  When the pain or physical ailment is persistent and there is no concrete reason given for it, people begin to panic, to feel “lost”, and to search out every avenue of knowledge they can to find an answer.  Just having a diagnosis would feel like a heavy load has lifted; but for many, the diagnosis brings something more.

One of our former tenants was a woman with diabetes, whose weight gain was out of control, and who was confined to a wheelchair because of it.  She had been given her diagnosis, and the treatment which would demand a lifestyle change in order for her to live.  I’ll never forget the story I heard about the day she opened a box of one dozen doughnuts and began eating them in front of her sister.  Alarmed and worried, the sister said, “Do you really think you should be eating that considering your condition?”  Without losing eye contact with her sister, our tenant reached for her insulin shot and stabbed it into her leg dramatically, pushed the serum in, and threw it to the ground.  Next she picked up another doughnut and continued to eat.  The message was clear:  “I’ll do what I want.”  She died a few months later.

When we are looking for answers to the meaning of life, it is usually because our conscience has awakened us to a malady, or a great problem.  We see evil in the world around us.  Some of the crimes and atrocities seem so senseless and make us ask the question,  “What is wrong with people?”  If we could give the world a pill and change it all, we would.  The table turns however, when the malady and malfunction we notice is in our own lives.  We think evil thoughts.  We have angry reactions out of proportion to the thing that triggered our response.  We are selfish.  We want things our way.  We hurt others with our words and actions.photo

To diagnose the world, one must first have the diagnosis of his own heart.  Jesus called it “sin”.  The Bible speaks to the condition of our hearts and tells us that we are in great need of a healing, and a lifestyle change.  There is a turning from one way of living, to another that has to take place for the healing to make its way into the world.

Jeremiah 17:9

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?

Romans 6:23

23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

God provided a way for us to heal, to change through His Son, Jesus.  His death on the cross, and victory over the grave broke the power of sin and death for each of us.  He showed us that we are lost without God, and destined to die an eternal death of separation from God if we insist on life “our way”.  If we refuse to see that our hearts are bent to evil, and our desires are only self-serving, we will tumble down a path that will produce one evil after another.  If, however, we accept the diagnosis that we are sick with sin, and we turn to God and ask for His forgiveness, He will not only wipe away our guilt, but He will infuse us with the power to make the lifestyle changes.  When we don’t even “want” to change, He will give us the “want”.  When we are weak in ourselves, God has promised His perfect strength.  When we cry out to Him, He will hear us and answer us.  He will even provide escapes for us when we are tempted.

Psalm 103:8-17

The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy.

He will not always chide: neither will he keep his anger for ever.

10 He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.

11 For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him.

12 As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.

13 Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him.

14 For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust.

15 As for man, his days are as grass: as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth.

16 For the wind passeth over it, and it is gone; and the place thereof shall know it no more.

17 But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children’s children;

We cannot be surprised when evil steals life and happiness, if we ourselves continue to “eat the doughnuts” knowing we shouldn’t.  If we continue to ignore our own conscience, dull our senses, and entertain ourselves with sin, we are on the side of evil.  Point the finger at terrorists and madmen if you must, but understand that you and I are just “one thought” away from being one.  We need a Savior.  We need a remedy.  We need a change of heart.

May I invite you once again to call out to God for forgiveness, and to receive that forgiveness and change of heart through the Blood of His Son, Jesus.  May I implore you to search your heart and see if you have left the path of change and recovery in search of “doughnuts”?  Can I exhort you to return to the pain of your conscience which alerts you to the greater dangers you are headed for, and call out to God for your sake, and for the sake of the world?

My Testament

I know you have said that you don’t need church or religion–it’s full of hypocrites anyways.  I agree.  In fact, I have found hypocrites in the most unlikely places.  I found some at the bank, the post office, Starbucks, the grocery store, and even employed with Apple.  Amazing!   I’ve seen hypocritical husbands, wives, parents, and employers.  I see the dual lifestyles of so many people and wonder “what the heck?”  Hypocrites are definitely a problem.  But are they really your problem?

What do you do with the guilt for the bad things you have done that eats at you when you are alone?  What do you do about the wild and sometimes evil thoughts that pass through your head on a daily basis?  What do you do with the shame from the actions you have committed that have wounded or maybe even destroyed another person?  What do you do with your insatiable desire to numb your feelings, or gratify your desires?  By what standard will you filter your thoughts and actions?

When crimes and atrocities happen in the world, everyone asks the question “why?”  or “what were they thinking?”, or “what would drive him/her to……”  Everyone wants there to be boundaries on the behavior of humanity.  All of us want others to behave in ways that treat others with kindness, decency, and love.  Who gets to set those boundaries?  Have you ever thought about that?

Shame, guilt, hypocrisy, and selfish self-gratification are realities at work in all of us.  All of us.  They are existential consequences to lifestyles that are lived contrary to the prescribed design.  You can’t escape it, you can only temporarily numb it– unless you have a Savior.  Unless someone or something takes on the full weight of all that you carry in guilt, sin, shame, and selfishness and destroys its power by bearing the full consequence, you and I will continue to carry this weight and spend the rest of our lives trying to shake it–with no success.

As much as I want to, I cannot rescue you.  Even if I could take chemotherapy in your stead, I cannot remove your “cancer”.  I just can’t.  I am powerless.  I cannot be your moral compass, your peace, your eternal future, or the reason for your existence. I can possibly relieve some of your suffering by offering comfort and friendship, but I myself had to be rescued from my own cancer of sin.  I found out quickly that there was nothing within me that could eliminate my disease of selfishness, shame, guilt, and hypocrisy.  Looking within myself I could not find a morality good enough or a reason high enough to justify my life.

I need– you need,–we need a Savior.  I have found Jesus to be just that.  To have never told you would be my cruelest act. To watch you suffer when I have found the remedy would be incomprehensible.

I can’t speak for those who call Him Lord and live as frauds.  You will find them everywhere.  I can, however, speak of the Savior Jesus, who holds the power to change you, the remedy to heal you, and the grace to see you through from this moment into eternity.  That is who I have put all of my hope in, and I have found Him more than able.

Romans 3:23-26

The Message (MSG)

21-24 But in our time something new has been added. What Moses and the prophets witnessed to all those years has happened. The God-setting-things-right that we read about has become Jesus-setting-things-right for us. And not only for us, but for everyone who believes in him. For there is no difference between us and them in this. Since we’ve compiled this long and sorry record as sinners (both us and them) and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us, God did it for us. Out of sheer generosity he put us in right standing with himself. A pure gift. He got us out of the mess we’re in and restored us to where he always wanted us to be. And he did it by means of Jesus Christ.

25-26 God sacrificed Jesus on the altar of the world to clear that world of sin. Having faith in him sets us in the clear. God decided on this course of action in full view of the public—to set the world in the clear with himself through the sacrifice of Jesus, finally taking care of the sins he had so patiently endured. This is not only clear, but it’s now—this is current history! God sets things right. He also makes it possible for us to live in his rightness.


The untimely, and unforeseen death of a friend this past week has given my heart time to reflect, and somehow writing it out puts some purpose to the sadness.  God uses moments like these in my life to cause me to step back and take stock of my life and the lives of those around me.

He was 51 when the heart-attack came and in just moments he was gone.  A strong healthy man, husband and father with an ache in his arm sat down to rest in front of the fire.  As his wife massaged his arm and shoulder, he collapsed and never got up again.  “This is the only time in Neil’s life that I ever saw him go down when he didn’t get up again.  He never stayed down,” his wife Nancy recalled through tears.

This past week I entered into the story of grief  and goodbye with my friend Nancy and her son Blake who lost the love of their lives.  Memories—they had made so many.  Photographs from Neil and Nancy’s wedding day, candid moments as they took their vows, and the sheer joy and bliss of having signed that wedding certificate were stories that leaped off of the photos she showed me.  Then there was the birth of their blond-headed joy-filled son Blake, and the tender moments of Father and Son snuggling together, then adventuring together as Blake journeyed from baby boy to man.  Adventure, joy, struggle, happiness, and friendship filled the memories marking this man’s life.

It has been said that the only legacy a man or woman leaves behind is how they treated the people God placed in their lives.  I believe this to be true.    In the case of my friend Neil, every picture brought a smile to the faces of his family and friends.  His son shared at his Memorial Service that his dad gave him everything he needed to be a man.  Neil left nothing undone.  He made sure his family and friends knew he loved them, and left no one guessing.  He died with no regrets, and his family had no regrets of him, only sweet memories.

The road ahead for Neil’s family will be rough, with much sorrow, but not because Neil was a man who left them with pain and misery.  Instead, the sorrow will be of the loss of such a grace-filled spouse, father, and friend.

Proverbs 20:6 says:

Many claim to have unfailing love,
but a faithful person who can find?

Neil was this kind of man–faithful.  His family, friends, and neighbors attested to this fact with such admiration.  Neil passed away having “filled the tanks” of his loved ones with his love demonstrated in his actions.  Fifty-one years is what he was given.

Reflecting on Neil’s passing leaves me asking:  How many years will I have?  I have no way of knowing.  One thing I do know, however, is that when I leave this world for the next, I want to have filled the tanks of my family, neighbors and friends.  Like Neil, I want to live without regrets  so that those who know me can say,  “She was a faithful woman who gave us all of who she was.  She left us full.”

These are my thoughts this November evening….

When Even Answers Cannot Satisfy

Our community is suffering a tremendous sadness today due to the untimely death of a young student via suicide.  There are no words to express the deep grief, sadness, and pain that his family is feeling at his loss, and the deep sorrow that sweeps over our youth who were his friends and peers.  The tears flow freely and the hearts seem to hang so low that speaking just seems irreverent at times.  Questions rise to the surface about the “why’s” of this tragedy, and they linger like eternal echoes in the souls of all of us.  There are just no answers that can satisfy.  But there is one question that finds its way to the forefront of conversations among many, and that is the question:  “How could God let this happen?” That is the question I would like to follow-up on here in this blog.

Love that is forced is not love. What makes love beautiful and powerful has to do with choice.  We want to be chosen, we want to choose.  When we are moved by our free will to choose to love someone, we have the ability to express it to the deepest levels of our heart, and even beyond if we are conduits of the love God has for us which transcends our thoughts and feelings.  We feel the power of love when it chooses us, pursues us, and keeps us.

Choice.  Choice is a gift.  Choice is a gift given to humanity by a God who loves us.  With our choices we can build cities, paint pictures, love people, explore the world, settle down in our hometowns, raise families, foster children, work in hospitals, care for the orphans, feed the hungry, provide for the needy, bless our friends, and build our dreams.  With our choices we make faithfulness mean something.  With our choices  we become heroes, friends, soldiers, servants, and leaders.  With our choices we live life to the fullest and enrich the lives of those around us.  Without the power of choice, we are puppets who have no will, no desires, no outs, and no hope.

As long as we have the power of choice, we have the power to bless one another.  We have the power to “speak life” into the sorrowing soul of another.   With our choices we can be a conduit of healing, of hope, of love and forgiveness.  This is what God intended when He gave us choices.  “Choose life” God says.

Deuteronomy 30:19

19 This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.

I don’t know why this beautiful young man decided to end his life this past weekend.  I can only stand on this side with sadness for him as he made his choices, and sorrow that his choice was not life.  I ache for his family, and I sorrow as a mom who cannot imagine a life without my sons.  With this sorrow I am made more confident in the love of God that has endowed me and you with choices.  He could have made puppets out of all of us.  He could force us to love Him, and force us to choose Him, and His desires; but He doesn’t.  He lets us choose.  He lets us use the depth of our emotions, and the epochs of our strengths.  He allows us to feel the depth of loss, and hold our loved ones close.  He, Himself, all the while, chooses us in love, comforts us, and holds our hope.

We may never know “why?”  And even if we knew the full story, our hearts could not rest in the knowledge of it.  Life is just too precious to be lost, and this young man was no exception.  My heart and prayers go out to my community tonight and in particular to the family of this beloved son whose life ended all too soon.  God be with you.


For more reading on the subject of “free will” I submit an earlier blog:

High Tide