The Lost Ring

How else would you find a parking place?

– Rose Marie Miller

Just last night I finished reading a book called “A Praying Life” by Paul Miller.  Being more of a thinker than a feeler, prayer can be difficult for me.  I fall into all the same tendencies that plague Christians – a wandering mind, running through the list of needs/wants, doubting if it will even make a difference…

But this book has helped me at least keep more of an open mind in my day-to-day life, to turn to prayer regularly as though in a normal conversation with another person, a friend.  Miller builds the foundation of the book through introspection observing that the more mature a believer is, the greater he realizes his need for God and thus his capacity for and reliance on prayer exponentially increases.  In speaking to the intimacy of God and our utter dependance on Him, Miller writes a chapter centering on a quote of his mother.  She responds to the argument that God does not care about the trivial things like parking places with the statement “How else would you find a parking place?”

Both of my sisters and my mother have a rare skin disorder because of which any friction on the skin or heat can raise blisters on all seven layers of their skin.  So, I admit, our family has spent more time and energy praying for parking places probably than most.  But the level of faith and dependance on God that is this woman’s legacy is convicting.  I can be quite independent, and often I believe that I get myself through situations.

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

– Phil 4.6

The day after I read this quote, I lost my ring.  I had gone outside and fired up the bike to warm it up.  As the engine ran I layered up, first my fleece then my scarf and helmet.  The last things I put on are always my gloves, but for some reason I decided not to wear gloves that day.  I have a set of three plain silver bands that have a bit of sentimental value because I got them at a Christmas market in Germany while my dad was stationed there while I was in college.  They are a little bit big for my finger, but I wear them nonetheless, and they have survived four years abroad and many adventures.  So I arrived at work – my fingers were a bit chilled from the ride – I pulled the gate open, parked the bike out front, went inside and started a pot of coffee, went around and pulled my bike in the garage, went to my office to retrieve my coffee cup, and as I started washing my mug in the sink I realized that one of the three rings was gone.  My heart sank.  I immediately stuck my hand down the drain (it has a large opening for the garbage disposal), and drew out nothing but slime and muck.  Surely the ring had gone down the sink!  So I waited for my boss, who is very handy, and I told him that I had dropped my ring down the sink.  He took the entire garbage disposal apart, checked the trap and the piping and reported to me that it must have just swept through – it was indeed a very lightweight band.

My mind went back to this quote that I had read and reflected on the fact that God is involved in the small details of my life, so I prayed “God, please let the ring turn up”, even though I just knew it was down in the vast depths of waste that is the Denver sewage system.  Every day that week, I kept an eye out as I pulled the gate – thinking maybe it had slipped off my finger while I was active, I scanned the parking lot out front and also my spot indoors.  Every day I prayed that one little prayer.  Then after a week I thought it was just gone.  It’s not a big deal, it’s just a silly silver band.  I even looked at new silver bands at the jeweler so as to move on!  Then, this past Tuesday (two weeks to the day of having lost the ring), I was backing up against the curb in front of my house and as I was watching to not get my tire too tight against the concrete, I saw a silver circle in the pavement!  It was my ring!  It had been there long enough, and clearly I had driven over it with the car so it was actually embedded in the blacktop slightly, but there it was.  Having been driven over, it has a slight bend to it now – you can see it in the picture.  My perfect and constant reminder that God does indeed care about the small things, and He answers prayers, even after we have given up on them.


I have been praying for some pretty big and weighty things in my life the last few years.  I have seen God answer some prayers in unthinkable, miraculous ways.  And I have seen some prayers go unanswered.  But God chose, through this small exercise in faith, to begin to build in me a more constant dependence on Him.  He helped the widow find her lost coin, he helped the shepherd find his lost sheep and the lost son came home.  What is your lost ring?  Are you praying about it?  Are you trusting God?

How Cool Is Your Dad?


My parents are amazing.  They are pillars of faith: rocks during trials, full of grace and compassion, generous and selfless.  Growing up they had high expectations with strict behavioral outlines, but within those confines my two sisters and I had complete freedom to explore who we were, the ways that God has created and blessed us and figure out what He had in store for our lives.

We moved some as a family.  Changing schools and churches was hard but I’m certainly grateful now for the ability to resettle, make friends and establish myself in new places.  And my parents instilled in me a confidence that “you will always have family”.  You might not have a home, friends come and go, but we will always have each other.  I lived four years literally as far away as I could on this planet from my family (12 hours time difference!), and my mom came to see me three times.  My dad drove with me across the country when I moved to Colorado in December, and he is driving across the country again today to go on a motorcycle trip with me.

I seriously could not ask for a better family.  Or better parents.

And one of the pictures that scripture paints for us is the fact and imagery that God is our father.

“For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!”  (Romans 8.15)

Abba is an Aramaic word that literally translates to English as “daddy”.  Christians, because of the nature of salvation and the way in which God cares for us, are adopted by the God of the universe and can approach Him as a child and call Him daddy.

I have heard it said in the past that some people wrestle with this imagery of God as father because they have bad fathers.  Or non-existent fathers.  This is a tragedy on so many levels.  I in no way take it for granted that my family is amazing; they truly are a gift from God.  But to rest my understanding of God as my Heavenly, perfect and eternal father based on my dad is not only un-biblical, but it is completely detrimental to the entire reality being portrayed to us.  First of all, to define God in His perfect role by looking at our life situations robs God of His glory.  If I only understand as a Father in the ways that my dad is a father, there is no comprehension of Him as creator, as sovereign, as the one who has ordered every single step I take, keeps my tears in a jar and knows the number of hairs on my head.

Secondly, God is so infinite, so good, perfect and beyond our comprehension that even the best of fathers do not even come close to Him!  Sometimes visualizing things helps me, so here is a very simple scale, if you will, as to exemplify the greatness of God as compared to humanity:


There is simply no comparison, and any of us would be completely bereft of ability to glory in the truth of God’s love for us if we focus on our own fathers as the standard.  Sure, in earthly comparisons there are good dads and there are bad dads.  And then there is God.  He alone satisfies all of our longings, desires and needs.  If you are expecting your earthly father to fulfill any of those needs, you are not trusting in God.  And any father of faith would wholeheartedly tell his children this truth.  This is terribly freeing to both children and parents.  As a child, I can be satisfied and fulfilled in my Heavenly Father, having all of my needs met and I am then free to know and love my earthly father without expectation or selfishness.  He is my brother in Christ!  And as a parent this should be freeing in that you can point your children to the Heavenly Father who will never disappoint them!  You do not have to be everything for your kids.  Your responsibility is to point them to God, to whom they belong anyway.

So whatever your situation is, whatever trial has been in your path, look to God.  He will satisfy you.  He cares for you unlike any human being.  He has created you with a purpose and He intends to work out that perfect plan in your life, and He is completely and totally trustworthy.

God Is In Control

The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord.

– Prov 16.1

Commit your works to the Lord and your plans will be established.

– Prov 16.3

The Lord has made everything for its own purpose, even the wicked for the day of evil.

– Prov 16.4

The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.

– Prov 16.9

The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.

– Prov 16.33

As I typed the title for this post, the old Twyla Paris song jumped into my mind.  But this morning I have been reflecting on the weight and beauty of Proverbs 16.  If you ever need a reminder of God’s sovereignty and provision, just settle in that chapter.  What is so amazing to me in this passage is the tension that we feel in daily life:  I truly feel as though I am making my own decisions, or that decisions are being enacted over me – but “every decision is from the Lord” (16.33).

I might encounter a situation and react, but “the answer of [my] tongue is from the Lord”(16.1)!  I might think that I am planning my path, my route, my life, whatever – but “the Lord direct [my] steps” (16.9).  And the most effective encouragement in my life is that “every decision is from the Lord” (16.33).  The Scriptures show us regular examples of people casting lots (rolling dice)  to determine the will of the Lord.  We can certainly use logic, discernment, and educated decision making processes, but V. 33 tells me that even if I throw dice, flip a coin or “pick a hand” to make a decision, the Lord is in control of that decision!

He has a perfect plan for my life to result in His glorification, a plan to sanctify me and to establish my path.  Do you trust Him to that end?  Or are you pushing back, imagining that you are in control?  Let us trust Him.

The Pain of Running


“She hurts every bit as much as you.  She just gets relief sooner because she finishes faster.”

– John Rhodes, my HS Cross Country coach

My daily circumstances have lent to philosophical thought the last few days, so here is another analogy to the Spiritual walk.

My freshman year of HS I started running Cross Country.  I went out for training and ran miles and miles with the girls – and truly had no clue what I was getting in to.  The day before our first meet (it was a home meet), I asked an upperclassmen what the course was.  She explained to me that we run a big loop around a field that was on the back end of the school’s property, and then a small loop that went up against the football/soccer fields.  I thought to myself that sounded easy enough.  So the next day we lined up, the gun shot, and I took off – giving it my everything.  I ran all-out for that first loop, then the second loop, and then as I followed the stream of girls I realized that we had to run the whole thing backwards!  This race was twice as long as I thought it was!

The first two years, I gave it my all – I listened to Coach Rhodes to press in when he said to, to go after this girl or that girl, to do my best for the team.  Then sometime during my junior year I got a bit disenfranchised with 2.5 mile races.  I maintained a solid pace, but sort of quit pushing myself.  I thought that the star of our team must have it easy – running must be different for her than it was for me, because she made it look so effortless and she ran so quickly.  Then one day Coach Rhodes must have known my thought process because he made this statement to me:  “She hurts every bit as much as you.  She just gets relief sooner because she finishes faster.”  That simple statement has stuck with me for the past ten years.

I still run for exercise and fun, and I know that the analogies of running are plentiful in the scriptures.  But running is still painful.  So with the invention of the ipod, I have started numbing myself to the pain through distraction:  music.  I have a playlist that I like to listen to, and on occasion I’ll mix it up and listen to an album.  But twice in the last two weeks I have forgotten my ipod at work and thus had to run without my music.  Without distraction you notice the aches, you notice the mile markers, and you are alone with your thoughts and your pace.  I feel worse, it seems longer and for some reason it can be less enjoyable.  However.  Both times I have run without my music, I have run on average a 15-20 second faster mile pace!

“Therefore, since we have  so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

– Hebrews 12.1-2

The picture that I see here is that music can be an encumbrance.  In the analogy it would not be a sin that would entangle me and render me unable to run – but it is an encumbrance that engages my mind and takes my focus off the task at hand:  the race.  It numbs me.  It serves the exact purpose I desire for it to serve – helps me go farther and longer without thinking about it.  But the reality is that by distracting me it slows me down.  I will not win the race, which is what we are called to do (1 Cor 9.24).  The author of Hebrews would have been familiar with the races of his day – and it is believed that in the Colosseum, at the end of the race, there were tall pillars lining the final stretch with busts of either Greek gods or Caesars past affixed at the top.  These served as motivation and inspiration for the runners to look to in order to finish the race well.  So he encourages us in the same manner to fix our eyes on Jesus.  Look to the greatest encouragement to be able to give the race complete dedication and a full effort.

What are you encumbrances?  What do you use to numb yourself to the struggle of the holy lifestyle to which we have been called?  Is it TV?  Facebook?  Social activities?  I wrote on planned neglect and running to win here.  We are not called to just get through life, but we are called to win!  To give our lives in their entirety to the Lord, serving Him in every single thing that we do!  Let us lay aside our distractions, our numbing agents, and let us run with endurance – through the pain – so as to win.  Fixing our eyes on Jesus.

Can Dirty Soap Wash You Clean?


I work for a non-profit, dealing primarily with sending basic-human-need supplies abroad.  One of our big projects is a variety of kits that we send to disaster-stricken areas and also to specific community development projects.  One of these projects is supporting African nationals who have been trained to physically care for AIDS patients.  These “medical caregiver kits” have basic supplies like gloves, cotton balls, anti fungal cream and of course soap.  We keep the supplies in large 4’x3’x3′ boxes so that volunteers can form assembly lines to build these kits and package them to be sent abroad.  Yesterday, I needed to move a few hundred pounds of soap from these large boxes to small boxes – by hand – and as you can imagine it gave me a lot of time to think!  When I finished moving all of the soap, I looked at my hands and they were filthy, and the irony of moving soap making me so dirty gave me much food for thought as I had been meditating on the New Covenant all morning.

Now, this analogy is not perfect – as no analogy is.  But the purpose of the covenant system is to deal with humanity’s sin.  The Old Covenant was God’s perfect Law that He gave to the Israelites shortly after they had been miraculously freed from slavery in Egypt and before they entered into the promised land.  It dealt primarily with social structures and the sacrifice system to atone for the sins of the people.  Priests were appointed – by familial lineage – to intercede and mediate for the people before God.  They were the ones who offered the sacrifices and worked in the tent of meeting/tabernacle/temple (the setting changed over hundreds of years).  They had to regularly make atonement sacrifices for both their sins and the sins of the people, and God – who was merciful – forgave their sins.

But Hebrews speaks to us about the New Covenant, a “Better Covenant” (Heb 8.6).  I know that it is easy to think of the Old Covenant as bad and the New Covenant is good.  But that’s not the picture that the Bible paints.  The Old Covenant was God’s perfect and intended will.  But Hebrews 8 says that there is fault with it:

“But now [Jesus] has obtained a more excellent ministry, by as much as He is also the mediator of a better covenant which has been enacted on better promises.  For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion sought for a second.  For finding fault with them, He says,

‘Behold, days are coming, says the Lord when I will effect a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; for they did not continue in my covenant and I did not care for them’ says the Lord. ‘For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord, I will put my laws into their minds and will write them on their hearts and I will be their God and they shall be my people’.”

– Hebrews 8.6-10

The Old Covenant had a fault.  But the fault was not internal, it was “with them” (v. 8).  And because the people did not keep the Covenant (the Law), God did not care for them (v. 9).  The Hebrew people had hundreds of years to try and follow the Law.  And they simply could not do it. Over and over again they would repent, come back and try their best, but they were unable to keep the Law and therefore God did not care for them.

And the priests were sinful people.  They had to make sacrifices for their own sins before they could sacrifice for the sins of the people.  They were “dirty soap”.  Even though they could honor the Covenant and pay off old sins, they were not perfect and therefore they had to continually make new sacrifices both for themselves and for the people.  They were never fully clean.

But Jesus is perfect.  He is the final High Priest.  He never has to make atonement for His own sins, and so he is the clean and pure soap that can wash us eternally.  And as the perfect priest he made the perfect and final sacrifice of His own blood on the cross.  And Jesus, “because He continues forever, holds His priesthood permanently.  Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them” (Heb 7.24-25).

This is phenomenal to me.  Jesus lives forever, as our mediator to God.  Why does one mediate?  To reconcile two people.  What needs reconciliation?  God’s wrath!  He is angry at our sin.  But Jesus always lives to make intercession for us.  He paid the penalty that you and I deserve and He is constantly interceding for us.  Every sin that you and I commit, Jesus stands before God Almighty saying “I paid for that”.  And because He continually intercedes for us who draw near to Him, He can save us forever!

And being the mediator of the New Covenant, because Jesus continually intercedes for us, we do not need to continue to make sacrifices.  His sacrifice was enough.  And the outpouring or enactment of the New Covenant is that God’s perfect law is now written on our hearts (Heb 8.10).  Jesus through His final sacrifice enables us to be united to Him as He and the Father are one (John 17.11), and when we are united with Him through Christ’s continual atonement, He gives us a new heart on which is written the Law, and He sets it in our minds.

At the risk of sounding flippant, Jesus is the perfect soap that can wash us clean in the eyes of God for eternity.  But the analogy breaks down in that he not only washes us clean, he gives us a new heart – he completely makes us clean from within – and sets His laws on our hearts and minds so that we can love and keep the New Covenant, and God cares for us.

What grace!  What mercy!  Let us be washed clean, and live to the Law written on our hearts out of love and thankfulness.  Let us seek to honor Him in all that we say and do and draw near to Him because He is our mediator and He saves us forever if we do so.

Can We Know God?

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.  For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there without watering the earth and making it bear and sprout, and furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; so will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; it will not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.”

– Isaiah 55.8-11

I heard someone speak one time, focusing on this passage, building the argument that one cannot know God.  His ways are so far beyond us, and His thoughts and plans so much higher than our comprehension, that we cannot know Him.  And in some respects that is a very true observation.  God not only knows everything, He created it just the way that He wanted it – and His word will accomplish what He intends for it to do (v. 11).  Romans 9.20 keeps us humble before His perfect plan asking, “Who are you, oh man, who answers back to God?  The thing molded will not say to the molder, ‘Why did you make me like this’, will it?”  He is God and we are not.  He has a plan and we are part of it.  He is in control, we trust.  “The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps” (Prov 16.9).

But another very real truth and promise has become extremely encouraging to me in the last month is this:

“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father…that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.

– Ephesians 3.14-19

Have you ever wondered why we say that getting saved is to “ask Jesus into your heart”?  It is the promise of the New Covenant – that God’s perfect Law would be written on our hearts and we, through the redeeming blood of Jesus, would be united to Him and be one with Him as He is one with the Father (John 17.11).  And Paul, in this letter to the church at Ephesus, essentially coined the phrase that Jesus lives in our hearts.

And when we abide in Christ and He in us, He enables us – with all the saints (believers) – to comprehend the breadth, length, height and depth of the love of Christ.  This is knowable!  That is unfathomable to me, that God would enable my heart to comprehend how vast His love is.  And Paul says earlier in the chapter that God has given Him the insight to make known the mystery of Christ to the Gentiles (non-Jews) so that the “manifold wisdom of God might now be made known…” (3.10).  He reveals His wisdom to us!

“The love of God how rich and pure, how measureless and strong.  It shall forever more endure the saints and angels’ song” (Frederick Lehman).  It is indeed measureless, but we can comprehend the measureless-ness of it according to this passage.  The breadth extending to all creation, the length throughout all eternity, the depth sanctifying the fullness of our sinful beings and the height reaching to the Heavens: administering angels to our aid!

I come back time and time again to the truth Jesus spoke that “he who is forgiven little loveth little” (Luke 7.47).  The depth of the love of Christ is what predominantly captures my attention when trying grasp the vastness of God’s love.  I know my heart.  I know my sin – however, I realize daily it goes deeper than I could have imagined!  I know that apart from God I spin out of control in selfishness and independence – but He has covered that sin.  He has written His Law on my heart.  He has replaced my heart of stone with a heart of flesh and has lavished unspeakable forgiveness over my life.  I truly have been forgiven much, and I – in part – comprehend the depth of his love through that.  And it is my prayer that as I learn more the depth, the height, the length and width of His love that I love that much more in response!

You can know God.  You can know His revealed will, wisdom and love.  Let us seek to know it, and love accordingly!

Love Never Fails

If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.  And if I give all my possessions to feed the poorand if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away.  For we know in part and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away.  When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.  For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.  But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.

– 1 Corinthians 13

Last night I went to a Southern Gospel concert with some friends.  I love Southern Gospel music – and yes, I am 29 years old.  Just like any other genre of music, there are some really hokey songs, some really great songs and timeless classics that will speak to your soul every time you hear them.  But one defining characteristic of Southern Gospel music is that it regularly reflects on eternity.  Often times they will spit doctrine at you in music form!  And at the same time reflect on the greatness of God and the hope of eternity spent with Him.

Last night mid-song, the lead singer quoted a section of the “love passage” out of 1 Corinthians and I have been chewing on it all night/morning.  I remember very well the first time I heard – with my heart – that very simple statement in V. 8 “Love never fails”.  Being a thinker more than a feeler, and also being task oriented, I have the weakness of addressing issues instead of people.  Being originally from Philadelphia, I like to blame my culture for these tendencies!

But the Holy Spirit, through Paul, states that if I speak the truth boldly, or have faith to move mountains or offer my body to death in someone else’s place without love, that it is worthless.  “I am nothing” (V. 2).  The first commandment under both the Old and New Covenant is “Thou shall have no other gods before me” and “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Ex 20.3, Deut 6.5, Matt 22.37).

I believe wholeheartedly that Paul is speaking directly to the love of God in this love passage.  And this is how we are to ultimately love God; and through that love of God love others.  Understanding the depths of our forgiveness directly correlates to the depth of love that we have for God.  “He who has been forgive little loves little” (Luke 7.47).  In this passage Jesus is referencing the “woman who was a sinner” who was washing his feet with her hair and her expensive ointment.  She was serving Jesus in the humblest form because she had been forgiven much.

Of how much have you been forgiven?  I have only once in my life had someone truly set against me.  Living through a variety of circumstances and situations, I learned that it is certainly not easy to love when you are reviled.  But when it is a one-time thing, when it is a person that I did not know well, or I knew that I just needed to get through the situation, it was easier to respond well.  Perhaps it was self control or pride thinking “I’m going to take the higher road here”.  But one will never truly understand what it is to serve until he has been treated like a servant.  He will never know true self-sacrifice until he has given everything for someone who despises him in return.

Jesus said to “turn the other cheek”, to go the extra mile or when someone takes your shirt, give him your coat too.  If someone wants to take all of your earthly belongings, suffer the offense for the sake of love, and do not go to court (Matt 5.39-42, 1 Cor 6.1-7)!

Now, often times we romanticize this interaction.  If I give everything, then the other person will see my selflessness and of course will soften up, change his mind, and reconciliation will occur.  “Love never fails”, right?  I do not think that is what the passage means.  I have not done research nor have I taken a poll to tell you how often true sacrifice results in love returned or repentance, but I can tell you that that is not what happened in my onetime real life experience.  Paul is referencing the return of Christ and the culmination of our salvation by joining Him in eternity.  The other gifts like prophecy, tongues and even knowledge, those things will be moot as we encounter Christ – the image of the unseen God.  Knowledge will be perfected and fulfilled, no longer will anyone need to speak into another’s life through prophecy or tongues, but love will abide forever.  The love of God.  It never ceases or fails.

And if I understand the weight of my sin and the extent of God’s grace to forgive me of that, then the reality is that I can understand that no matter what is done against me, it does not compare to the debt that I have to the grace God.  God has forgiven me more than I will be asked to forgive someone else.  Ever.  And since I know that I have been forgiven much, I can love much – both God and my neighbor, even my neighbor who despises me.

It is essential to remember that whatever happens here on Earth, God takes care of it.  All sin will be punished – either it was punished in the person of Christ on the cross, or it will be eternally punished in the offender in eternity in Hell.  I do not need to try to get revenge or even justice.  Rather, I need to trust God that He has handled it.  I do not need to add to the punishment of the cross or Hell.  I can’t.  So instead, I need to love.  Offer grace.  Offer forgiveness because I have been forgiven so much more.  Suffer the offense and join Christ in His sufferings.  And exemplify love because, “Love never fails”.  

The Sorrow That Leads To Repentance

“I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to to the point of repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God, so that you might not suffer loss in anything through us.  For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death.  For behold what earnestness this very thing, this godly sorrow, has produced in you: what vindication of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what avenging of wrong! In everything you demonstrated yourselves to be innocent in the matter.”

2 Corinthians 7.9-11

Paul, after ministering in Corinth and being used of God to start a church there, wrote four letters to the church at Corinth; two of which are included in the New Testament.  The church at Corinth fell into sin and fell captive to false teachings and Paul wrote sternly and visited them in person to call them to repentance.  Although the personal visit proved unfruitful, his “stern letter” and the leadership of Titus were used by God to draw the Corinthians to repentance and it is this turning from sin that Paul rejoices over in this brief passage.

The reality exemplified in this passage is gripping and counter-cultural.  There are two kinds of sorrow, one beneficial and one leading to death (Hell).  Sometimes people sin and feel badly about it.  I’m not a psychologist and have not studied the social and internal ramifications of  guilt, but I do know that the Bible says that feeling guilty, ashamed, full of despair or depressed is not a Biblical or redeeming experience.  Being hopeless in-and-of one’s self is not repentance.  In fact, it “produces death”!  People can die from self-pity, from dwelling on the mistakes made.

But Godly sorrow is essential for the salvation process to happen.  One must realize his sin, one must understand his separation from God because of that sin, and most importantly he must embrace the fact that the just reward for sin is death: separation from God in eternity in Hell.  This must then lead to a Godly sorrow – the grief of having offended Almighty God.  Worldly sorrow looks inward.  It sees internal inabilities, failures and sin.  Godly sorrow looks upward.  It sees a perfect standard upheld by a perfect creator, and an inability to be worthy to appease or meet this standard.  The weight of the sorrow is directly proportionate to the weight of the standard.  If one is looking at himself alone, no matter how high of a standard one holds, it will never be as high as God’s standard.  And one can truly feel guilty or badly for not meeting his own standard, but until he realizes that he cannot meet God’s standard, the full depth of Godly sorrow has not been met.

But the Godly sorrow offers hope through repentance.  God knows that we are unable to meet his commands, but He satiated His own wrath in the person of Jesus Christ, and if we repent of our sins and confess them, we are covered in the blood of Jesus and are made – by identifying with Jesus – perfect and complete.  Godly sorrow means embracing the full depth of our sin, and turning to God.  From sin.  We must confess our sins, we must seek to stop sinning, and we must confess and repent whenever we do sin.  And He covers us in the blood of Christ and we can draw near to the throne of grace with confidence!

So as we have feelings of guilt, despair, shame or self-pity – let us evaluate ourselves!  Let us look at our lives and see in what ways we are living for ourselves and living sinfully.  Let us confess, let us turn to God and rejoice that His Spirit has convicted us and drawn us back to the place of humility in which we all must live as the redeemed of God.  Because “those whom He loves, the Lord disciplines” (Heb 12.6).

Worthless Men

“Now the sons of Eli were worthless men; they did not know the Lord and the custom of the priests with the people.”

1 Sam 2.12

The Old Testament is full of awesome stories.  God’s intimate involvement in battles, relationships, national captivity, schemes…and they all point forward to Jesus and exemplify the nature and character of God.

Eli was the high priest at a town called Shiloh, where the ark of the covenant  was kept.  The ark was a large chest which represented the judgment seat of God in the temple, the promises of God, and the presence of God often physically accompanied it.  Eli had two sons that Scripture says “were worthless men”.  The passage outlines their sins in terms of how they abused their rights as priests (it was a familial lineage, they were priests because of their heritage),  they were having sex with women who came to serve at the temple (there is an implication of prostitution) and they were publicly dishonoring God.

Then the archenemy of Israel at the time rose up to fight, and Israel lost the battle – 4,000 men died.  So the leaders devised a scheme that if they took the ark of the covenant into battle God would give them the victory.  They sent for the ark, and the sons of Eli went out in battle to accompany it.  But Israel fell, the ark was taken captive by the enemy and the two sons were killed.  It’s a great story:  1 Sam 4.

There are so many awesome truths in the story, but the one on which I am reflecting today is the very real fact that I cannot force God’s hand.  There are so many interesting dynamics to prayer and the will of God – Jesus promised that whatever we ask in His name we will receive (John 15.16).  But here we have an example of wicked men living in sin who thought that since they had the physical presence of Almighty God that they could use God to provide the victory.  Not only did He not do what they wanted, he had them killed!  “…for the Lord desired to put them to death” (1 Sam 2.25).

Let us be warned, God is not fooled.  We cannot live in sin and expect Him to show up when we want Him to act.  Jesus says that whatever we ask in His name – it is that which will be honored.  We must be living in His holiness, and then the Lord answers and works that which is pleasing to Him through us.  The closure of the story is remarkable – God makes the point that sin will not be honored, so he allows Israel to fall in battle.  But then the enemy is plagued for having the ark in their camp, and it ultimately makes it’s way home: the Philistines (the enemy) loaded it up on a wagon and the two cows, which had never been yoked, took it straight back.

God’s honor is always upheld.  Let us join Him in obedience, and watch Him work miracles all around us.  Let us not live in sin and receive our just reward.

Deep In Our Hearts

Deep in our hearts let us record
The deeper sorrow of our Lord;
Behold the rising billows roll,
To overwhelm His holy soul.

In long complaints He spends His breath,
While hosts of hell, and powers of death,
And all the sons of malice, join
To execute their cursed design.

Yet, gracious God, Thy power and love
Have made the curse a blessing prove;
Those dreadful sufferings of Thy Son
Atoned for sins which we had done.

The pangs of our expiring Lord
The honors of Thy law restored;
His sorrows made Thy justice known,
And paid for follies not His own.

O for His sake our guilt forgive,
And let the mourning sinner live;
The Lord will hear us in His name,
Nor shall our hope be turned to shame.

– Isaac Watts