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If God is love, why does He judge?

If God is love, why does He judge?

If God is love, why does He judge?

The Bible says a lot about love and yet a lot about judgment, why?

In reading about God’s judgment in Joel I was struck by something in Joel 3:10. It says, “Beat your plowshares into swords, and your pruning hooks into spears.” It’s saying take the farming implements that you use during times of peace and plenty and prepare to use them for war. It’s a poetic way of saying things are going to get bad. War is coming. Instead of prosperity there will be pillaging. Instead of wine and feast, war and famine.

Joel 3:10 is interesting because it’s the reverse of two other Old Testament verses. Isaiah 2:4 and Micah 4:3 say, “Beat your swords into plowshares, and your spears into pruning hooks.” Those verses are saying the weapons of warfare are no longer needed because peace is here to stay. So, why the seeming contradiction?

Joel, Micah, and Isaiah are all actually saying the same thing just in different ways. Here’s the pattern:

  • Sin & Injustice →
  • Judgment & Justice →
  • Peace & Prosperity (cf. Is. 1:27-28; 2:4).

Joel 3 says the LORD will bring judgment “because they… have traded a boy for a prostitute and have sold a girl for wine” (v. 2-3). That’s an example of the injustice that was going on. So, the LORD brings justice and judgment “for their evil is great” (v. 13). And it results in peace. That’s what Joel 3:17-27 tells us. Even the desert shall bloom.

Note, therefore, that the LORD doesn’t rashly bring wrath. Sin is a rebellion and a rampage. It destroys and damages. Thus, we should see that it’s a good thing that the LORD takes sin seriously. He does not appease those who perpetrate evil, He will deal with each issue as is warranted and right. Although now He is being patient to give people time to repent (2 Peter 3:9-10).

Amazingly, He also offers to save us from the punishment that we deserve because of our sin. Joel 2:32 reassures us that “everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved.” Judgment will indeed be poured out “but the LORD is a refuge to His people” (Joel 3:16).

So, in Joel we see judgment results from injustice and peace and prosperity will ultimately result from the LORD’s just Judgment. When the LORD carryouts perfect Judgment, perfect and eternal peace will come.

When Eden’s enemies are forever banished, Eden shall eternally bloom. Sin marred God’s good creation but our good Creator will remake the world, and He will make it so it can be marred no longer. God’s just justice to injustice is good and it alone will end injustice and bring perfect peace and prosperity. Until that Day may we call people to call on the LORD (Joel 2:32) through Jesus the Messiah and may we fight for justice and pursue peace.

The final book of the Bible points us to the great Day of Judgment, and it also points us to the great day of peace. The two go together. They follow one upon the other. To have peace is to have an end to opposition. Just as in World War II, D-Day must come before VE Day.

So, if God is love, why does He judge? Because love does not take the destruction of that which it loves lightly. Instead, to love—to love fiercely and deeply—is to protect and provide. The LORD both provides a way for all those who would come, to come; and He fiercely and furiously protects His own who do come.

*Photo by Jon Tyson

What is Pentecost?

What is Pentecost?

What is Pentecost? And what’s its significance?

Did you know there’s even a day that celebrates Pentecost?

I didn’t know what Pentecost Sunday was for a long time, and I certainly didn’t understand the full significance of it. Yet, Pentecost is full of significance. Pentecost Sunday is a celebration of the coming of the Holy Spirit. It, however, is not widely celebrated; at least, not very much in non-liturgical churches.

I grew up celebrating Christmas and praising God for the incarnation of Jesus. And I’m thankful for that. I grew up rejoicing in the truth of Easter, that Jesus is victorious over sin and death! And I’m thankful for that. But, Jesus said something that makes me think we’re missing out on an important celebration.

Jesus—God in human form—came to earth and walked and talked and performed miracles. And this GodMan, Jesus, said, “It is better that I go away” (Jn. 16:7). How could that be true? I mean, I know Jesus always speaks the truth, but how could this be true? How could anything be better than Jesus walking and talking on earth with us?

How could something be better than Jesus’ physical presence?!

Jesus has said some pretty shocking things, but this is one of His greatest hits!

Who or what could be better than Jesus’ physical presence?! Thankfully Jesus answers that question for us.

He said, “It is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send Him to you” (Jn. 16:7).

Jesus said it was to our advantage that He go because then He would send the Helper, the Holy Spirit, to us.

We rightly celebrate the coming of the Messiah at Christmas. Yet, if it is to our advantage that the Messiah go so we have the Spirit, shouldn’t we celebrate the Spirit too? Of course, one of the reasons the Spirit is not celebrated as Jesus is, is because one of the roles of the Spirit is to help us celebrate Jesus (Jn. 16:14).[1] Nevertheless, we should acknowledge and know and praise God for His helpful presence by the Spirit.

Pentecost Sunday is a day to celebrate the powerful presence of the Spirit.

Pentecost’s Background

Pentecost (pentékosté) comes from a Greek word that means “fifty.” Pentecost takes place fifty days or seven weeks after Passover (Ex. 23:14-16; 34:22-23; Lev. 23:15-16; Num. 28:26; Deut. 16:9).[2] Sometime people call it the Feast of Weeks. Pentecost is one of the three major Jewish festivals or feasts. It was a day to celebrate, anticipate, and thank God for His provisions, specifically of wheat.

For this festival, God’s people would offer the first fruits of their wheat harvest (Ex. 34:22), their new grain (Lev. 23:15-16) to the LORD (Ex. 34:23). This required a pilgrimage. And it required much planning because no customary work was supposed to be done on this feast day (Num. 28:26). “Though the holiday lasted but one day, it was a national event with elaborate rituals well known throughout the land.”[3]

Pentecost, however, is not just mentioned in the Old Testament; it’s mentioned in the New Testament too (Acts 2:1; 20:16; 1 Cor. 16:8). Passover is the more famous festival but both Passover and Pentecost are important. “The Festival of Passover… pointed forward to the death and resurrection of Jesus, so the Feast of Pentecost pointed forward to another pivotal event in the history of the church.”[4]

The time of Pentecost was a time of anticipation. God had promised to provide and it was a time to see God’s provision. So, “Pentecost is all about living in anticipation of a harvest that is yet to come.”[5] With God’s provision there was life, health, and rejoicing. But, if God did not provide there would be devastation.[6]

Pentecost in Acts 2

In Acts 2, we see God provide more than just grain. God provided the gift of His presence as Jesus said He would, and as was foretold in Joel 2:28-29. God’s people received power from on high (Lk. 24:49).

In Acts 2, we see that “something tremendous happened in Jerusalem that transformed the Apostles into men of conviction and courage and provided them with a spiritual impetus that enabled the Christian movement to expand rapidly, so that in a few decades vital congregations were in all the major cities of the Roman Empire.”[7]

At Pentecost, there was a divine visitation, the presence of God came upon His people. In the Old Testament, we see God’s appearance was accompanied by wind and fire (1 Kings 18:38; 19:11-13; Ezek. 37:9-14). Yet, we see something new in the New Testament. God’s presence was also accompanied by the gift of tongues. So, we see at Pentecost that God is shifting His redemptive purpose from Israel, His particular people, to all people being welcomed in through Christ the risen King.[8] People were scattered because of sin at Babel but through the much-anticipated gift on Pentecost we see God gathering and uniting His people in King Jesus.[9]

The Spirit did not come just for us personally. The Spirit is also given for the purpose of mission: that all people might know Jesus as both Savior and King. As Glasser has said, “The spirit was not given just to enable the people of God to pursue personal holiness and joy in corporate worship and fellowship… The spirit was also given to energize corporate waiting on God for missionary outreach.”[10]

Jesus told His disciples to make disciples, but He let them know they wouldn’t have to do it all on their own. He would be with them, even to the end of the age. But, how? At Pentecost we find the answer. Jesus sends the Spirit (Jn. 14:16–17, 26 15:26) and is with us by the Spirit (Scripture even speaks of “the Spirit of Christ,” see Rom. 8:9; Gal. 4:6; 1 Pet. 1:11).

The Spirit given at Pentecost is the “first fruits” of more that is to come (Rom. 8:23; Eph. 1:13-14). God heaps grace upon grace!

“Our redemption has begun, with the fullness yet to come. As Jesus has risen, so we will too. As we have come to Christ, more will follow. The Holy Spirit who guarantees our final redemption is the first part of her vital new relationship with God, with more to come.”[11]

Jesus, who has redeemed the Church, will also recreate the whole earth.

On Pentecost Sunday, we thank God for sending the Helper. We rejoice in His gift of the much needed and anticipated Helper.

Notes

____

[1] It’s important to realize that Peter’s concern on Pentecost aligns with the Spirit’s concern: focus on Jesus Christ!

[2] Pentecost Sunday happens fifty days after Easter. Of course, Easter or Resurrection Sunday corresponds with Passover.

[3] David Brickner and Rich Robinson, Christ in the Feast of Pentecost, 101.

[4] Brickner and Robinson, Christ in the Feast of Pentecost, 31.

[5] Ibid., 108.

[6] In the Old Testament, we see God’s promise to provide crops is often in connection to His people’s faithfulness to obey Him.

[7] A. F. Glasser, “Pentecost,” 757 in The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia.

[8] Glasser, “Pentecost,” 757. “Pentecost marks the completion of Christ’s redemptive work. Following His resurrection He ascended into heaven and presented Himself as the first fruits of the coming harvest” (Ibid., 758).

[9] “Missionary outreach provides the divine reversal of the scattering and hostility of the nations that fall the judgment at Babel (Gen. 11:1-9)” (Glasser, “Pentecost,” 758).

[10] Glasser, “Pentecost,” 758.

[11] Brickner and Robinson, Christ in the Feast of Pentecost, 140.

We Still Need the Spirit’s Empowering Presence

We Still Need the Spirit’s Empowering Presence

We Still Need the Spirit’s Empowering Presence

Moses had stood before Pharaoh, led 600,000 Israelites out of Egypt, and received the Law from the LORD Himself. If there was someone that could feel accomplished and able you’d think it’d be Moses. Yet, he was humble and knew his need.

In fact, the book of Numbers says, “Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth” (12:3). It seems there is a correspondence between proximity to God and the weighty work He’s called you to, and humility. The more one sees God, the more one is humbled by God and sees their need for God’s empowerment.

Moses had led God’s people out of Egypt and was forming them into a nation, yet Moses knew His utter need for the Spirit’s presence and leading. He said, “If Your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here” (Exodus 33:15).

Moses said that, but I fear that I, along with many other Christians, run straight into various situations without the least thought as to our need for the Spirit’s help and leading. The Spirit was given as the Helper, but very often I’m afraid we don’t seek out His help. I know I’ve been guilty of that. That, however, is foolish.

Jesus Himself said that it was better that He go because then He’d give the Helper to be with us always. And Jesus’ disciples waited for the power of the Spirit before they moved. Moses—seemingly very capable Moses—also knew his need for the power of God’s presence.

The Bible says that what brought us from spiritual death to spiritual life was the Spirit of God. “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all” (John 6:63). The Spirit was absolutely critical at the beginning, and He is all the way to the end. Galatians says it this way: “Since we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25).

Here’s what comes to mind for me: we’re alive because we breathe, so we keep breathing; it’s good and keeps us alive. We wouldn’t think of just stopping breathing because it is critical for life. I think that’s basically what Moses had in mind. Moses is saying, ‘God, You brought us here, and we have no hope without You.’

Perhaps we don’t see our need for God because we don’t see what He’s done. We don’t see what He’s capable of. Perhaps we chalk a lot up to ourselves. We’re capable. We think we can manage in our own power. Perhaps we don’t feel much strain because we have a comfortable little life without many seemingly impossible goals.

Perhaps.

But whatever the reasons, the reality is, we desperately need the Spirit’s empowering presence.

Moses did. The apostles did.

We do.

God’s Spirit is crucial at the beginning and through to the end. We need help and God has given Help.

We still need the Spirit’s empowering presence.

 

*Photo by Jon Tyson

Biblical Womanhood 

Biblical Womanhood

What does the Bible say about Biblical Womanhood?  

Biblical Womanhood

The concept of “biblical womanhood” has gotten a “bad rap” outside and even inside the church. Actual biblical womanhood, however, is beautiful and provides a context for a bounty of good. Actual biblical womanhood is like a fortress that allows for flourishing.

Masculinity, femininity, and gender roles have sometimes been overly and legalistically defined. People have said in the past that men should drive the family vehicle and women should wash the dishes, but the Bible doesn’t say that.

Instead, the Bible calls husbands and elders/pastors to sacrificial leadership. It calls wives to submit to their husbands, and the church body—males and females—to submit to the church’s loving leadership (Heb. 13:17). That’s what the Bible says. The Bible doesn’t specifically spell out what that should look like and never says submit to abuse.

However, the Bible does, over and over again, show the worth of women. This is in great contrast
to the culture of its time. Rebecca McLaughlin has pointed out that “According to many ancient philosophies, men were more important than women. But the Bible tells a different story. God made humans—’male and female’—’in his own image’ (Genesis 1:26–28). Men and women are equally important. But they are also importantly different” (The Secular Creed).

The Bible shows the worth and defends the worth of women over and over in its pages. There are some 202 women listed in the Bible. This is significant, for example, because the Quran lists just one and the Hindu Bhagavad Gita lists none.

The Bible shows women in high roles of leadership, compliments them, greets them, and considers them fellow workers in the gospel. Jesus spoke to and cared for the outcast Samaritan woman at the well. Even Jesus’ disciples were surprised. “They marveled that He was talking to a woman” (John 4:27). Yet He was. Jesus loved and cared for women.

Of course He loved women. He created them. And He created women as part of His good design to image Himself through humanity. The world has fallen into faulty design, but Jesus always demonstrated His good, intended design.

So, part of understanding biblical womanhood is understanding that the Bible is emphatic that women have worth. Women are precious and made in the image of God. Women do not have less worth than men. Sadly, this has not always been understood or agreed with.

Within the Trinity, there is unity and diversity. God is three persons in one God, yet each member of the Trinity has different roles. God the Father sent Jesus the Son, and Jesus sent the Spirit as the comforter and counselor to be with us and help us. Therefore, within the Trinity, we see different roles but different roles do not communicate different worth.

Women are not one ounce less important than men because they are called to be helpers (Gen. 2:18). In the Bible, God Himself is described as a helper (Ps. 54:4; 118:7). Women are certainly not less important because they were created to be helpers.

It’s also important that we do not push unbiblical stereotypes, partly because stereotypes are often just based on the changing cultural climate and not on the objective truth of Scripture. Consider, for example, that pink has not always been considered a “girly” color; or consider that men in the 14th century were the first to wear “yoga pants” (i.e., tights that were sometimes even quite colorful).

By this, I’m not saying that we should disrespect societal norms. Scripture is our standard, not societal norms. So, for example, the stereotype that men aren’t supposed to cry is wrong. Jesus Himself cried. What about dancing and poetry? Are dancing and poetry more feminine than masculine? King David who killed wild beasts, slew a giant, and was one of the most elite soldiers that ever walked the earth also danced and composed poetry. Just because someone is different from society’s stereotypes does not mean that person is wrong or weird. God, not the ever- changing culture, should be our guide.

Therefore, nowhere is it written in Scripture that men must drive the vehicle, and women must do the dishes. Scripture gives us transcendent truths—truths that are true for all times and all places. Truths such as males and females are created different in order to together reflect the glory and goodness of God. The specifics of how these truths are to be lived out today are to be applied in love and biblical Spirit-led wisdom.

My Favorite Quote on Biblical Womanhood

“Because we are made in [God’s] likeness, it is our destiny to rule and reign like He does. But unlike kings and queens of the ancient world who ruled from lavish palaces, our God is a King who works. He is a King who rolls up His sleeves and gets down in the dust beside us. He is a King who makes Himself a servant and labors on our behalf… So being an heir to this kind of King means we are no fairytale princesses spending our days in ideal luxury. We are queens ruling creation under His authority. The very work we do, whether it is tallying numbers in columns of red or black or scrubbing red and black crayon off of newly painted walls, is an expression of God’s royal nature in us” (Hannan Anderson, Made for More). 

Suggested Resources on Biblical Womanhood

Care in the Church

Care in the Church

The Conviction to Care in the Church

Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers,
to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood” (Acts 20:28).
.
The conviction to care in the church, must come before care in the church. It is vital that one has conviction to care before they set out to care. This is true for many reasons.
.
For one, caring can be difficult.[1] Also, as Albert Mohler has said, “deep beliefs drive visions and plans”[2] and “leadership is all about putting the right beliefs into action, and knowing, on the basis of convictions, what those right beliefs and actions are.”[3] So, it is important that convictions come first.
.

What does Scripture say about shepherding care?

First, the word “pastor” comes from the Latin word pastor, meaning shepherd. A pastor is a “shepherd” or “one who cares for a flock or herd.” That’s why “pastor” sounds like the word “pasture.” The two words are connected. “The concept of the leader as a shepherd is a theme with deep roots in God’s written revelation with its foundation in the Old Testament and fulfillment in the New.”[4] We are going to briefly consider some of the passages about God’s call to leaders to provide shepherding care.

Care in the Old Testament

God has always shepherded His people (Gen. 48:15; Ps. 23:1; Ps. 71:17-18; 77:20; 78:52, 72; 80:1; 95:6-7; Is. 40:11; Mic. 5:4). Further, He has provided under-shepherds to lead and care for His people. He has told people that serve as leaders to shepherd His people (2 Sam. 7:7). Ironically, before Moses and David shepherded God’s people, they shepherded a literal flock of sheep (cf. Ps. 78:70-71).

God, for example, knows that unexperienced challenges come with age (2 Sam. 19:35; Eccl. 12:2-5) and He cares that His people are helped with those challenges. Scripture even says, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints” (Ps. 116:15). God deeply cares for His people and wants to see them cared for.

When God’s people are not rightly cared for, He is upset. God says, “Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture” (see Jer. 23:1-4)! And Ezekiel 34 shows that God takes the failure of His under-shepherds very seriously. He pronounces judgment on them (Ezek. 34:1-10). He promises He Himself will care for them (Ezek. 34:11-22).[5] And He promises that the Perfect Shepherd will come and care for them (Ezek. 34:23-31). This brings us to the New Testament and pastors serving as Jesus’ under-shepherds.

Care in the New Testament

First, is Paul’s powerful exhortation to pastor/elders to “pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which He obtained with His own blood” (Acts 20:28). What a high, precious, and important calling! Pastors are to care for what Jesus bought with His very blood. If it is that important to Jesus, how can it not be important to us?

Paul himself provides a powerful example of pastoral care. Paul visited people to “see how they are doing” (Acts 15:36).[6] And his letters showed his shepherding care. His letters were part of his care. So, Paul sought to make disciples and care for disciples. These are complementary callings of church leaders.

Paul shared pastoral concern for God’s people. He wrote “I have you in my heart” (Phil. 1:7) as well as “being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us” (1 Thess. 2:8). But Paul didn’t just write letters, he also visited people(Acts 15:36). So, Scripture would have us see the importance of ministry both “publicly” and “house to house” (Acts 20:20).

Second, Peter passed on what he heard from Jesus: “shepherd the flock” (John 21:15-17). Peter relayed the command that we are to shepherd the flock of God that is among us (1 Peter 5:1) yet Peter also reminds us of our motivation: that the chief Shepherd when He appears, will give us the unfading crown of glory (v. 4).

Third, Acts 6:1-7 shows us we must make plans, delegate, and ensure the practical needs of people in the church are taken care of. And Ephesians 4:7-16 shows us that it is not just pastors that are to do ministry, but a big part of pastoral ministry is equipping the saints to do ministry. The church is the body, and each member is to do their part if the body is to function as it is supposed to (1 Cor. 12:4-31). Each member is equipped with gifts from the Spirit (Rom. 12:3-8) and is supposed to employ them for the common good (1 Cor. 12:7). Sadly, a Gallup survey found that only 10% of church members in America are active in any kind of personal ministry.[7]

Fourth, Jesus has compassion and cares for people when they helpless like a sheep without a shepherd (Matthew 9:36). Jesus holds church leaders responsible to care for His precious sheep. The leaders of the church are to keep watch on Jesus’ sheep knowing that they “will have to give an account” (Heb. 13:17). In fact, Jesus sees the care of those who are “down in out” as though it was done for Him. So, as we visit people, Jesus sees it as though we were visiting Him (see Matthew 25:35–36).

King David, before he was king, risked his life for mere sheep (1 Samuel 17:34-36). King Jesus gave His life for His sinful people. He’s the Good Shepherd that lays down His life of the sheep (John 10:11). And His under-shepherds are to lovingly and practically care for those for whom He gave His life (Acts 20:28).

Thus, in summary, we have seen King Jesus, the Great and Sovereign Shepherd, laid down His life for the sheep and calls the church to care for His sheep. So, we must do so.

Biblical Delegation of Care

As Acts 6:1-7 and Ephesians 4:7-16 show us, the delegation of care within the church is not only wise, practical, and necessary, it is also biblical. Exodus 18 also shows us the important of shifting care to the congregation. If the church is going to care well as God would have it, care cannot just be left to one pastor or even a team of pastors.

The New Testament teaches that God equips believers. It teaches the “priesthood of all believers” (1 Pet. 2:4-5). That is, those who are new creations in Christ (2 Cor. 5:21) not only have access to God through Christ but they are also equipped to do ministry by the Spirit of God. Therefore, the care of the church is to be done not just by a pastor or pastors, but by the church itself. The pastor is to be the “lead carer” and to equip other “carers” but he is not to do it on his own. Nor can he. So, one of the many things Christian leaders must do, is equip the church to do the ministry of the church.

The church is described in various ways, but the main image of the church is body.[8] And each part of the body is vital. It won’t work as it is supposed to without each part functioning. “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ” (1 Cor. 12:12). We are people in need of care, helping people in need of care.[9]

The biblical and effective church will be the church that mobilizes, equips, empowers, and supports Christians in ministry.[10] Many people can do most of what pastors do, pastors must do what most people can’t do.[11] One of the main tasks of pastors is to equip people to do what they can do.

One Christian leader has said, “Caring for 30 people personally is possible. Caring for 230 is not.”[12] So, we must structure bigger to go bigger. That’s essentially what Jethro’s advice was in Exodus 18. “The pastoral care model of church leadership simply doesn’t scale.”[13] So, to care for the church well, as God has told pastors to do, we must do something biblical. We must “equip the saints for the wok of the ministry” (Eph. 4:12).

So, once again, the conviction to care in the church, must come before care in the church. I hope this has helped you towards the conviction part. In a future post, I hope to lay out the specifics of implementing that care.

Notes

[1] “Upon leaving seminary, many a young man discovers that his love for the Chief Shepherd does not extend to a love for God’s sheep. Without dispute, difficulties in dealing with people is the number one cause for ministry dropouts (85 percent according to one denomination)” (David C. Deuel, “The Pastor’s Comoassion for People, ”176 in Pastoral Ministry: How to Shepherd Bibically.

[2] Albert Mohler, The Conviction To Lead: 25 Principles For Leadership That Matters (Bethany House, 2012), 53

[3] Mohler, The Conviction To Lead, 26.

[4] Timothy Z. Witmer, The Shepherd Leader: Achieving Effective Shepherding in Your Church, 9.

[5] The LORD says “I will…” twenty four times in Ezekiel 34. He will shepherd His sheep. The chapter also says “LORD” sixteen times and “Sovereign LORD” eight times.

[6] And remember, John longed to see his people “face to face.” He was not satisfied with letters. He  wanted to visit.

[7] Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Church, 365-66.

[8] The church is a family (Eph. 2:19; 3:15), temple (Eph. 2:20-22), army (Eph. 6:11-18; 2 Tim. 2:3-4), and bride of Christ (2 Cor. 11:2; Eph. 5:25-32; Rev. 19:2-8).

[9] Taken from the subtitle of Paul David Tripp’s book, Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands: People In Need of Change Helping People in Need of Change.

[10] Robert E. Slocum, Maximize Your Ministry (Colorado Springs: Navpress, 1990), 9.

[11] See Barry G. Lawson, “Lay Shepherding: Developing A Pastoral Care Ministry for The Small To Mid-Sized Church,” 13.

[12] Carey Neiuwhof, “How Pastoral Care Stunts the Growth of Most Churches.”

[13] Neiuwhof, “How Pastoral Care Stunts the Growth of Most Churches.”

*Photo by Antonello Falcone

God is the ultimate Avenger and that’s a good thing.

God is the ultimate Avenger

God is the ultimate Avenger and that’s a good thing.

“The LORD is a jealous and avenging God;
the LORD is avenging and wrathful;
the LORD takes vengeance on His adversaries
and keeps wrath for His enemies”
(Nahum 1:2).

One of my kids asked me about this passage the other night. They were concerned and kind of distressed by it.

I asked my kids what it is the comic book heroes the Avengers do. They responded that they defeat the bad guys and protect the world. And I asked what would happen if they didn’t avenge and protect the world? They said the bad guys would win and the world would be destroyed.

I then asked my kids who the enemy is and what he seeks to do. We talked about Satan and how he steals, kills, and destroys (Jn. 10:10). We talked about how Satan, through human sin, brought a flood of chaos and curse upon the world.

We talked about the fact that we hate Lyme disease and want to kill Lyme disease because Leah, their mom, and my wife, is riddled with it. And we talked about how that is a good and just desire. In the same way, I am jealous for them and want to protect them. If someone wants to injure them, I will want to injure that person.

The LORD is the true Avenger. He is the true Protector. He will finally right the world of every wrong. The LORD loves fiercely.

That, however, is still a scary thing if we are standing opposed to God. If we are a cancer infecting and destroying the good world and the good people He loves. If we are in rebellion and promoting ruin, God’s love will drive Him to fierce wrath.

There’s hope for “HYDRA” (and all bad people)!

So, what hope do we have since we are all naturally enemies of God because of our rebellious sin—whether highhanded and intentional or through the struggle of our brokenness?[i]

Thankfully, God is an Avenger and Savior that carries out His wrath on all those set to destroy. But, He is also a Savior by bearing the wrath we all deserve (Reminds me of Dr. Strange, the avenger, not only defeating the enemy but dying—in his case again and again—so that others might live).

We see through Scripture that Jesus will not only crush His enemies—“the destroyers of the earth” (Rev. 11:18)—He is crushed to bring salvation and the ultimate renewal to the earth.

So, it is scary that God is an avenging God. But God, thankfully, is also good. He doesn’t pull a Thanos and snap half of the world out of existence. But He provides a way for all people to be saved by Himself providing salvation.

So, we see He is not just powerful. He is not just wrathful.

He is righteous (He always does what is right) and provides righteousness (Rom. 3:26).

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[i] That is, there are intentional and unintentional sins, sins of commission and sins of omission.

*Image by 574nny

What does God’s law do?

Law

What does God’s law do? To answer that question we are going to look at the three types of law and the three uses of the law in the Bible.

Three Types of Law

In the Bible, there are three types of law. It is critical for our understanding and application of the Bible that we understand what they are.

Ceremonial Law

The ceremonial law outlined Israel’s worship (see e.g. Lev. 1:1ff). This form of the law pointed forward to Jesus and is no longer necessary for Christians to follow (see e.g. Col. 2:17; Heb. 10:1ff). Although it is important for Christians to understand how the ceremonial law served to point forward to Jesus the Messiah and Lamb of God (Jn. 1:29).

Civil Law

The civil law was the law for the people of Israel (see e.g. Deut. 24:10-11). Christians today are to obey the laws of the land in which they reside unless they contradict a clear command of Scripture (Rom. 13:1; Titus 3:1; 1 Pet. 2:13).

Moral Law

The moral law is for all people at all times and in all places. The 10 Commandments from the Old Testament (Ex. 20:1-17) and Jesus’ command to love God and love your neighbor as yourself (Matt. 22:36-40) are two examples of the binding moral law.

Three Uses of Law

Besides the three types of law, there are also three different important uses of the law. It is important that we don’t confuse these uses.

Convicting Mirror (the first use)

The law shows people the ugliness of their sin that they wouldn’t see otherwise. So, it is a mirror that convicts. The Apostle Paul said, “I would not have known what sin was had it not been for the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, ‘You shall not covet'” (Rom. 7:7).[i] In this way the law is also a teacher, showing us our need of Christ Jesus the one and only Savior (Rom. 3:20; Gal. 3:24).

Civil Morality (the second use)

The law is a form of common grace because it can limit the extent of the impact of sin. To the extent that the law is implemented and functioning, it helps towards the flourishing of society. Of course, morality itself never brings heart change. Only the Spirit through the good news of Jesus brings a person from spiritual blindness and death to abundant life. And yet, civil morality is a good thing (see e.g. Rom. 13:3-4).

Christians Model (the third use)

Christians have a whole new level of motivation for their morality. Christians love because Jesus first loved them (1 Jn. 4:19). Christians strive to be holy because their Father in heaven is holy (Matt. 5:48; 1 Pet. 1:15-17). Christians walk in love because Jesus walked in love (Eph. 5:2). This is the “family function” of the law. We don’t obey to earn God’s grace. We obey, in part, in response to God’s grace.

Christians seek to model their lives off of Christ’s life. They seek to live more in more like Him (2 Cor. 3:18). Christians strive to “fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:2).

What does God’s law do?

The law provides the moral guidelines we need to know how to live. Yet, it also shows us that we can never perfectly keep the law on our own. So, it points us forward to our need for Jesus the one and only Savior. Lastly, the law tells us how to live in light of the “so great a salvation” (Heb. 2:3) that we have received.

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[i] The law also highlights God’s holiness. The LORD is separate from sin. When we see the law we see how seriously God takes sin and we thus see how holy He is. So, the law both shows us our sin and need for a Savior and shows us God’s radiant holiness.

*Photo by Sean Foster 

Noah’s Ark and the Bible’s Narrative Arc

Noah's Ark

“…the whole earth was filled with violence. And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth” (Gen. 6:11b-12).

The story of Noah and his ark has always been a difficult story. Knowing the context of the story is helpful though.

So, what was going on before God destroys the world with a flood?

Well, just a few chapters earlier we see that God made an incredibly good and beautiful creation (see e.g. Gen. 1:31). We see God made people–all people–with dignity and worth (Gen. 1:26-27; 5:1-2). We see God gave people good things to do (Gen.1:28).

But, we also see, humans didn’t listen. We see that in the Fall of humanity (Gen. 3), the first murder (Gen. 4:8), and the growing corruption and violence (Gen. 6:5). In Genesis, we go from God and good creation to growing corruption very quickly (that’s also representational of my own tendency).

It was not God who “paved paradise and put up a parking lot.” That’s what humans had already done. Humans damaged and defiled the very thing that would have brought them endless delight. Humans turn from fresh fulfilling water to putrid puddles.

But, that’s not it. Humans also hate. They hate humans that were made with the dignity of God. They hate and they hurt. They abuse and injure. And even kill.

Before God destroyed the world in the flood, humans destroyed the world with their sin. In God’s act of destruction, He was actually bringing a type of deliverance. He could have, and in a sense considered, destroying the world completely (Gen. 6:6-7).[1]

Yet, God worked through Noah, a mediator (Gen. 6:8ff)[2], as He does, to bring salvation through judgment.[3] God provided a type of rescue when wrath was deserved.

Ultimately we know, the God-Man, Jesus Christ, took the wrath of God and the violence of the world on Himself. When we understand the whole context of the story of Noah’s ark, we see it is not God at fault. He is not the guilty party for the destruction of the world.

Instead, we see we are at fault. We carry out atrocities. We turn from God, where alone there is life, to trifles and trivialities. We hate humans, who have eternal value and being, and love things that perish in a moment.

When the story of Noah’s ark is understood in context, from the perspective of the whole of redemptive history, we see how amazing it is that the LORD is both just and the justifier of the one who trusts in Jesus alone for rescue (see Rom. 3:25-26).

Read More…

Will sin be possible in heaven?

To answer the question will sin be possible in heaven, there are a number of passages we should look at. 

“…the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect (Hebrews 12:23). 

“…those whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son…” (Romans 8:29).

No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship Him” (Revelation 22:3).

“…nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life” (Revelation 21:27).

“The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God…” (Revelation 3:12).

“I will plant them on their land, and they shall never again be uprooted out of the land that I have given them…” (Amos 9:15).

Christians will be made “made perfect” (Heb. 12:23). They will be “conformed into the image” of Jesus (Rom. 8:29). It may be that Christians can sin, but won’t sin because they will not want to sin. 

When Christians see Jesus, they shall be like Him (1 John 3:2). That is the sense in which Christians will be unable to sin (non posse peccare, as Augustine said). Christians will be like Christ!

So, no. Ultimately, Christians will not be able to sin in heaven. But it won’t be from an external constraint but from internal renewal. 

Christians will finally completely have their affections rightly aligned with reality. Christians will love the LORD their God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength. 

In the shelter of the Most High

Sunday morning in church we were looking at Luke chapter one and my attention was drawn to verse 35.  The angel said to Mary, “the power of the Most High will overshadow you.”1

This phrase brings us to Psalm 91 verse 1: “Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. “

If we go on and read the entire Psalm.  We have some serious food for thought regarding the present situation we are in regarding COVID.

“For he will rescue you from every trap and protect you from deadly disease” (v. 3).

“Do not dread the disease that stalks in darkness” (v. 6).

“No plague will come near your home” (v. 10).

“The Lord says, “I will rescue those who love me” (v. 14).

There are many other promises in this powerful Psalm but the one regarding disease and plague stands out. These promises are contingent on sheltering in the shadow of the Almighty.

So does this mean no true believers in the Almighty will get COVID?  We know this is not true.  Many believers have contracted COVID and been healed—100% recovery rate.  Some recovered on this planet in this time and space and others are now experiencing the ultimate recovery and healing—instant healing—in eternity.  In thinking of a friend with COVID, he will be healed; it is a confirmed fact, one way or the other he will be healed. The Almighty has said so—Psalm 91 ends with the final and ultimate shelter: “and give them my salvation”.

So what does it mean to shelter in the shadow of the Almighty? To me sheltering in the shadow of the Almighty means being always conscious of God’s presence and “shadow” around me.  He is always there and by faith, I see His shadow.  He has said, “I will never live you nor forsake you.”

Isaiah put it this way, “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in You, all whose thoughts are fixed on You! Trust in the Lord always, for the Lord God in the eternal Rock” (Is. 26:3-4).

To abide in the shadow of the Almighty means to have our heart, minds, and faith fixed, fastened securely to the promises of the Almighty.  Not fixed ultimately on medical science, our insurance policy, the government, our diet and health regiment, a vaccine,  but fixed on the Almighty.

My prayer for all of us this season will be that we are sheltering under the Almighty—not mainly sheltering in place but under the shadow of the Almighty.

1 Using the New Living Translation for all of this.

 

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