The Same Old, Same Old Salvation Story, And How My Cynicism Got Punched in the Gut.

My church-related cynicism took a fresh hit of reality this weekend, one that was well-needed.

At a church event, the people leading it shared their testimonies. They were (separately) dealing with similar issues. They had heard of Jesus-related things when they were young, but they shoved it aside. Instead, they pursued drugs and alcohol, sex and sports, just about anything else to find happiness in life. Traumatic events shook them. Eventually, they found themselves ready to end their lives, sinking in desperate situations.

But God intervened. Maybe it was a Gideon Bible in a cheap motel room. Maybe it was a kind word from a family member or friend. Whatever it was, God intervened, pulled them out of the gutter and brought them to a place where they chose to follow Him for the rest of their lives.

When I heard these testimonies, I shook my head and thought, “Not again. How old and tired is this narrative? Are they just embellishing to make a bigger point? It couldn’t have been that bad.”

I carried that thought with me for an hour or so. See, not every salvation story is that way! I didn’t do drugs and drink alcohol in high school. I never hung with the wrong crowd. Not for as long as they did, at least, maybe for a couple hours at most before I realized they were the wrong crowd. So what does this have to do with me?

Eventually, I got reminded of something that’s amazing about God.

He’s the same yesterday, today and forever. And there’s something about that sameness that is ubiquitous in these kind of salvation stories.

See, humans are, at their core, the same. We’re all looking for the same thing. Happiness, fulfillment, contentment.

And, for the most part, we go to the same thing to find that. Attention from others, substances of some kind (drugs, porn, alcohol), pouring ourselves into our work.

And the same thing happens every time – it doesn’t fulfill it. It doesn’t do the trick. It doesn’t really help us.

So we all often find ourselves in the same basic situation – stuck, lost, hopeless. Maybe it turns to us wondering why we should even live anymore, but we essentially wonder what the point of life is.

And then God reaches us with the same message – “I love you. I care for you. In me, you will find rest for your souls and forgiveness for your sins. I am the same yesterday, today and forever.”

Then we ask God the same thing – to forgive us of our sins, come into our lives, make us whole again.

And the same thing that happened to everybody else who accepted Jesus happens to us: He does it.

I realized something else today as I was writing this: Those testimonies can perhaps be the most powerful because we can all find some way to relate to them. We may not have dabbled in drugs, but we’ve got something that gets us high but ultimately leaves us unfulfilled.

And that’s one of the many beauties of the Gospel. It relates to every single situation that man faces and provides the same answer: Jesus, on the cross, taking on sin, so we could live forgiven and fulfilled. The ultimate answer doesn’t need to adjust based on what we’re going through.

You know how one medicine doesn’t fix everything? You can’t take Advil to cure internal bleeding (at least I don’t think so). You don’t need chemotherapy for a flesh wound. That’s not how it works with Jesus. Every illness, every disease, every problem has the same cure.

That’s something to celebrate every time we hear the same old testimony of death to life. Because really, my testimony isn’t that different. I didn’t do drugs, but I was pursuing things that didn’t bring true fulfillment or joy. Then Jesus intervened, and I began to pursue the thing that did.

Cynicism can be a good thing in the right and proper context (that’s a whole other conversation for another time). But sometimes I’d wish it would just go away and let me rejoice in the beauty of the Gospel.

That’s the same thing I’ll be working on for a while.

So please, people, go on and testify.

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A Guide to Finding the Joy in Confronting Your Sin

Report card time was always an odd one for me.

I was neither the academic so wrapped up in grades that my happiness depended on making straight As, nor was I the slacker who didn’t care a sliver about my marks. I was right in the middle, caring enough that I wanted to know where I could improve but having a C wouldn’t crush me too hard. Of course, I wanted to get better, wanted to grow academically, but I wasn’t going to die if they didn’t come back exactly how I wanted to.

At times I wish I was a better student. My brother and my wife were wonderful students who made the President’s List at Elon University several times. I’m surrounded by people in my life who were great students because they worked hard and put their studies at a high priority in their lives. It’s something I didn’t do. And I was confronted with it every time that I got those grades back.

Confronting bad grades can be stressful for some people. Doing so can usually lead to one of two things: you work harder to get better grades, or you don’t change anything and the grades get worse or stay the same. They rarely lead you to rejoicing.

But I’ve learned in the last couple years that examining my sinful behavior actually leads me to rejoicing in the great God who loves me.

So go through this process with me as you read this.

First: Think about the most recent sin you committed. Maybe it was lusting after a co-worker, yelling at your spouse, envying the latest tech toy your classmate brought to school. Got it? OK, cool.

Now, and this is the painful part, think about how much it goes against God’s law, what God has laid out for you to do. Either you did something He told you not to do, or you didn’t do something He did tell you to do. You’ve disobeyed God.

This sucks. This feeling right here, when you actually confront your sin, it’s the worst. And it can discourage you from continuing forward in this process when you actually need to. But yes, you need to. Your despair and dismay leaves you needing something more.

Second: Look for the answer to your problem. How do you fix this situation? How do you find relief? How do you find peace? Well, you could try harder, but the truth is, you can always do better. You can always perform better. You can always fight sin better. You can always pursue God better.

Our sinful state limits us in our growth because we’ll never be perfect. Anyone who tells you otherwise is lying to you and to themselves. Yes, we can grow, we can become more obedient, but we will never be perfect. So we can’t find satisfaction and relief in our obedience efforts.

So where can we find peace? In Christ alone, in the Gospel alone, in the grace of God alone.

Third: Bask in the grace God has given you, leading you to rejoice. Trust me, it’s a joy that’s well-earned.

It’s a joy that’s come from seeing that God loves you in the depths, in the midst of your darkest time, in your deepest sin. It’s a joy that reads Romans 8:38-39 and shouts, “Yes! This love is God’s for me!” It’s a joy that reads James 1:2-4 and sees the grace and growth that comes from going through sin and temptation, even when you give in and disobey God.

It’s a joy that 1 Peter 1:3-7 explains and finds the joy discussed in v. 6:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

Because of the great inheritance and hope that God has given us, we can rejoice in all trials, including facing temptation over and over again, even giving into them, because what we know what we have, we know what’s there at the end. We have hope to rejoice and be happy in spite of the negative that has gone on.

This post is not meant to make light of sin. In fact, it’s to redeem sin, to make it something that we don’t always have to be so upset about. I write to encourage you to confront the darkest part of yourself.

Surprisingly, it just might be the tunnel where, at the end, you’ll see the brightest light.

With Grace, You Don’t Have to Sit in a Waiting Room

Probably the worst part of going to any doctor’s office – physician, dentist, chiropractor, orthodontist, ER, you name it – is having to wait.

You come in, “check in,” then sit with everyone else who has an issue just like you. You flip through a magazine, scroll through your smartphone, watch the overhanging TV or just look aimlessly around the room. It’s a waiting game.

Then, after what seems to be an interminable period of time, the nurse calls your name and you go back to get your problem looked at.

What if you got to go to the doctor’s office, check in and go straight back? No waiting, no magazines, nothing. You’re accepted for attention right away.

That’s what the Gospel looks like.

As soon as you admit your need for help, you’re accepted. You don’t come to the doctor’s office healthy. You’re not expected to. You come because you need help. You come because something needs to be fixed. You come because there’s an issue you can’t deal with on your own.

With God, there’s no need for you to try home remedy after home remedy to fix your need for grace. 

The Gospel means you can have salvation given to you without you doing anything but simply coming to Jesus.

Sin leaves us broken like a disease. It leaves us in need of a cure. Without the cure, we’re diseased for eternity and miss out on health, true health.

Grace provides the remedy. And there’s no need to wait.

Just check in.

because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. (Romans 10:9-10)

What Is It That Is Desired Most in a Man?

OK, so a little personal embarrassing confession time here.

When I was younger, I liked the music of Clay Aiken. I actually got made fun of at school for it. But I liked it. One of his standout songs was “Measure of a Man.” The chorus is catchy, and it gets stuck in my head every now and then even though I can’t remember the last time I listened to it.

It goes like this:

Would he walk on water?
Would he run through fire?
Would he stand before you, when it’s down to the wire?
Would he give his life up to be all he can?
Is that, is that, is that how you measure a man?

Say what you will about Clay Aiken and his musical prowess or lack thereof, but I think there’s something quite insightful about those lyrics.

What defines how you measure a man? According to Proverbs, it’s something you might not expect.

Proverbs 19:22 and 20:6 say,

What is desired in a man is steadfast love, and a poor man is better than a liar…Many a man proclaims his steadfast love, but a faithful man who can find?

Steadfast love is to be most desired in someone. Not an overwhelming amount of knowledge, not skill at a trade, not even spiritual acumen, but the trait most desired is steadfast love.

What is steadfast love? It’s love that doesn’t sway or change due to feelings, circumstances, obstacles, whatever. It’s a love that stays the same. Really, it’s the way God loves.

So what’s most important for someone, what’s most desired, is steadfast love, a love that doesn’t change, a love that stays the same through the ages. A love that looks like this:

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)

That is what is most desired in a man.

‘I Will Return to My First Husband’ And He Will Take Her In: The Gospel Beauty of Hosea 2

I woke up this morning with the intent to start reading through the minor prophets in Scripture. Honestly, it’s not something I often wake up with the intent to do – read the Bible. Usually in the morning I’m dragging my feet trying to get ready for work.

That’s one of the beauties of Sundays. You just might have enough time that you don’t have to drag your feet.

Anyways, I read Hosea 1-3 and it was a fascinating picture of the Gospel.

The story of Hosea and his prostitute wife Gomer was most recently modernized in the popular novel Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers. In summary: Hosea is a prophet of God and he is told to “take to yourself a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom, for the land commits great whoredom by forsaking the LORD” (1:2). So he marries a prostitute in order to be a living example of the faithfulness of God to His faithless people. God then spells out His punishment on Israel and then His mercy. Then Hosea redeems Gomer, who had abandoned him, by buying her back and saying, “You must dwell as mine for many days. You shall not play the whole, or belong to another man; so will I also be to you” (3:3), echoing God’s love for His people.

I had read this before, but when I took the time to digest this, I got something beautiful out of it, mainly in Chapter 2.

Chapter 2 is entirely prophecy and God or Hosea speaking to the people of the nation of Israel. It roughly breaks down into two sections, and they are quite reflective of our everyday lives following Jesus.

Israel’s Unfaithfulness Punished/Our Unfaithfulness Explained (v. 1-13)

God opens by saying some pretty harsh things about Israel:

Plead with your mother, plead – for she is not my wife, and I am not her husband – that she put away her whoring from her face, and her adultery from between her breasts; lest I strip her naked and make her as in the day she was born, and make her like a wilderness, and make her like a parched land, and kill her with thirst. Upon her children also I will have no mercy, because they are children of whoredom. (v. 2-3)

The punishment is severe. But we get to learn why she did what she did in v. 5:

For their mother has played the whore; she who conceived them has acted shamefully. For she said, “I will go after my lovers, who give me my bread and water, my wool and my flax, my oil and my drink.”

The “mother” here played the whore, she went after sources of life other than God. She did this because she thought that her “loves” would give her bread, water, wool, flax, oil and drink. These are things that are necessary for life: bread, water and drink give physical sustenance, wool and flax are good for clothing, and oil lights the house and helps cook the food.

One reason we daily pursue after things other than God is that we feel they will give us life or help us meet our basic needs. And they will. They truly will. To sit here and say that sinful pleasures bring no satisfaction whatsoever would be to tell a straight-up lie.

We lie to others because we’ll avoid awkward or painful conversation. We pursue sexual intimacy outside of marriage because we want to experience the pleasure without the commitment. We boast in ourselves because we want to feel like we’re worth something. We work super hard super late because we want to have money for security or to buy things to feel good.

We do tons more crappy things in order to find that satisfaction. We’re pursuing things that are good. We’re just pursuing them in the wrong source, as the nation of Israel was here in Hosea.

But we see a change in the “mother” here. God hedges her way so she can’t find those “lovers.” “Then she shall say, ‘I will go and return to my first husband, for it was better for me then than now,” v. 7 tells us. God is the “first husband” here because He is our original creator, the one who originally sustained us. “And she did not know,” v. 8 says, “that it was I who gave her the grain, the wine, and the oil, and who lavished on her silver and gold, which they used for Baal.” Here we see that God is the ultimate source of the things we need, but our “lovers” misappropriate those needs.

Over the next few verses, God puts an end to the opportunities for the “mother” to find her satisfaction in following false gods, in playing the whore. There is punishment doled out.

But then we get to the best part.

The LORD’s Mercy on Israel/God’s Mercy on Us (v. 14-23)

Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her. And there I will give her her vineyards and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. And there she shall answer as in the days of her youth, as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt. (v. 14-15)

Think of what Israel found when they were brought out of Egypt. They found freedom, hope, and (eventually) a new homeland in Canaan. God offers that to the wife of whoredom, His people, who abandoned Him. And there is a new establishment of relationship, spelled out in v. 19-20:

And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the LORD.

God doesn’t abandon His people forever. He wants them to learn where they’ve fallen short, He wants them to see how they’ve been missing His commands. But then He “allures” them back to Him.

I love that language of “alluring.” To allure is to be attractive. God makes Himself attractive to us, more attractive than the things we pursued before. This is how He shows us grace: He shows us that what we pursued before wasn’t truly satisfying and then shows us that He is truly satisfying. He gives us what we need – the bread, water, wool, flax, oil and drink – just by being Himself.

The best part: we don’t have to do anything to earn this sustenance. It’s given freely in the person and work of Jesus Christ.

The biggest difference between this story and our story is that we have available to us the gospel grace of Jesus Christ earned for us on the cross. The people of Israel had to do work to repent of their sins, and then God showed them mercy. All we have to do is repent and believe. We don’t have to do any certain amount of work to earn back God’s favor. We’ve been given the right to no longer be condemned if we are in Christ (Romans 8:1).

But the relationship is the same: we are betrothed to God forever. We enter a relationship with God that is like a marriage: it’s binding, it’s lasting. And while earthly marriages end on earth, a marriage with God in Christ is eternal. Despite our whoredom, despite our disobedience, despite how we constantly fall short of what His command spell out for us, He loves us and commits to us.

That’s a God I can get behind. I hope you can as well.

Why Try to Not Do Something When You Can Intentionally Dive Into the Love of God?

A week or so ago, I wrote a blog post about the “ironic process theory” and how it can apply to how the Church often reacts to issues in the public sphere. An excerpt:

I think we can subconsciously encourage this in Christian culture when we overload on what not to do. We think so much about not doing something that we end up thinking about it and doing it anyways.

Instead, why don’t we focus more on what we could do? We’re losing our minds trying so hard not to sin that we can easily forget what we can do instead. If I’m trying so hard not to look at porn, it would be easy for me to just slip right into it. If instead I focus on what I can do, psychologically I’m more likely to do it. The difficulty is learning to focus on what I can do instead.

Just about every morning I wake up, there’s temptation to sin at my doorstep. Sin knocks, begging to be let in, telling me that things are better if it is in my life in a personal, real way. And there are some days I listen to it, there are some days it wins.

But this morning as I contemplated this, I realized that there is something 10 million times better for me than sin that’s also knocking, that’s also dying (literally) to be heard. It’s the love of God. And I would do a lot better to listen to it than to the temptation to sin.

God Is With Us. Seriously.

It’s totally cliché now for me to tell you that God is with you every moment of every day if you are a Christian. And it’s cliché for a good reason! There are tons of Scripture that talk about how God is with us. Some examples:

  • Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5)
  • Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” (John 14:23)
  • Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10)
  • For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him. (2 Chronicles 16:9a)

Literally, God is with us. Through the Holy Spirit, He lives in our hearts, and He is constantly around us, watching over us. And it’s not just that.

Hebrews 13 says He’ll never leave us. John 14 says He makes a home with us. Isaiah 41, speaking to the children of God, says God will strengthen us and help us and uphold us. 2 Chronicles 16 says God is looking for the opportunity to give us, Christians whose hearts are blameless through the blood of Christ, strong support.

Yet when I sin, I act as if God is not there. Not only am I rejecting that His way is better, I’m rejecting His offering of being there at all times to help me in times of sin.

The times I reject this most are when I’m tired and lazy or I’m depressed. In those moments, I’m looking for what’s going to satisfy me, usually whatever’s easiest. Sometimes it’s food. Sometimes it’s sinful fulfillment. Whatever it is, it’s usually not good.

What I forget most is what God offers me in those moments that practically far outweighs the allure of sin.

Love Is Here. Love is Now.

In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:9-10)

God is love, 1 John 4:16 says. When you look at God, you see love perfected, love as it should be, love in the proper place in one’s heart, love in the proper context, love acted out properly. And it was through Christ and His life and death and resurrection that we saw the best example of His love, that we could be forgiven of our sin and made in right relationship with Him.

But that wasn’t the end of God’s love. God’s love is still true and still for us today. I love the lyrics to Tenth Avenue North’s “Love Is Here”:

Come to the waters
You who thirst and you’ll thirst no more
Come to the Father
You who work and you’ll work no more
And all you who labor in vain
And to the broken and shamed
Love is here
Love is now
Love is pouring from His hands, from His brow
Love is near, it satisfies
Streams of mercy flowing from His side
‘Cause Love is here

In moments when I’m tempted and I’m depressed, I need to turn to the love of God first! I need to bring to mind the Scriptures that tell me that God is here and God loves me. Remembering, dwelling on and praising Him for that love is what will truly satisfy me far more than any man-made remedy.

It struck me this morning that, because the love of God is always available, I don’t have to wait for it to be ready, I don’t have to go through any hoops to get to understand it and believe it. I simply have to do it! All I need to do is believe it and rest in it, meditate on it, dwell in it, trust it.

That is the key to defeating sin. It’s not purposely avoiding things, which can be helpful, but it’s not the answer. The answer is clinging to something better, purposefully pursuing something else: God’s love. Moment by moment, I need to turn to God’s love for me before I turn to anything else.

Whether that’s looking at a poster that reminds me of God’s love, bringing to mind Scripture that tells me of God’s love, or stopping and praying and thanking God for His love, it’s something I’ve got to grow in, something I’ve got to do.

A Little Perspective Goes a Long Way

I’m sitting in my friend’s living room while snow falls quickly outside. It’s really funny how my attitude towards snow days has changed. When I was in school, taking classes, I loved snow days because that meant I didn’t have to go to class. What a joy that was! No tests, no homework, nothing.

But now that I’m in the working world, it’s a little different. I get paid by the hour, so when I don’t work hours, I don’t get paid. And since I’m paying for a lot of things these days, not getting paid means not being able to pay for things. It’s funny what a little growing up will do for you.

I’ve had more than one conversation in the last few days about perspective and the importance of seeing things in light of everything else. I struggled a lot with that when I was younger, and I think part of that is simply being young and I didn’t know any better. After all, a shortened definition of having perspective is knowing better. It’s being able to take in everything around you, all the circumstances and factors that play into a situation or a person’s decisions and thinking rightly about it.

For instance, this past Sunday I was at lunch with a few friends and my girlfriend and I ordered fajitas. We got the beans, rice, lettuce, etc., but the main part of our meal didn’t come for a while. Our friends had gotten their food, but we hadn’t gotten ours yet. I was getting a little frustrated, but I was able to slow down and remind myself of a few things:

  1. It was a Sunday at lunchtime and the restaurant was pretty busy.
  2. Fajita meat and veggies is a lot more work to make than shredded lettuce and refried beans.
  3. Our server was not just serving us, but a few other tables around us.
  4. What’s the harm in waiting a few more minutes?

I did have to remind the server that we were missing our main course, but by the grace of God I was able to keep my frustration in check. It’s something God has definitely grown in me. But if only I had more of this perspective when I was younger! Probably the biggest difference would have been this: I wouldn’t have so harshly judged my high school classmates who didn’t come from a Christian home like mine. My self-righteousness was big in high school and into my first year at Elon. How would things have been different had I had this perspective:

  1. Not everyone had the same set of values and morals taught that I had in my home.
  2. Not everyone was probably as aware of their limitations and mistakes as I was.
  3. My self-righteousness and “Christian showing off” did not help convert anyone.
  4. People needed most to be understood by me, not understanding of me.

Honestly, I think it’s only now that I’ve gotten away from school that I’m gaining perspective, and I think it’s come most from understanding myself. Why do I do the things I do, think the way I think? How much did my upbringing/faith/music choices/etc. influence me? As I’ve grown to have perspective on myself, I’ve learned to have more perspective on others. Without perspective, I become quick to judge, quick to get frustrated.

And there are still many times when I forget perspective because it’s convenient. Perspective takes time and patience, things I have less and less of some days. It’s easier to just make a snap decision to think one way about something instead of considering all the variables. I feel this way about Christians deep into politics. I get frustrated because I don’t think it’s that big of a deal and we spend way too much time talking about it.

But then I think of those who are deep into it. There’s probably a few factors that have influenced why they’re that way. Perhaps they grew up in a household that emphasized politics. Perhaps they’re genuinely interested in the political system. Perhaps they see something about politics and its importance that I don’t quite understand. Do I still think it’s too big a deal? Yes, but exploring that is for another time. But having the perspective allows us to love others better.

Think about this: what if God didn’t have perspective on us? What if all He did was look at our disobedience and just forget us, get frustrated, condemn us to hell? But this is the perspective He has on us:

As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust. (Psalm 103:13-14)

God saw that we were a people without hope because of our disobedience, and gave us Jesus so that we could have an opportunity at relationship with Him. Because God had perspective, eternally, He gave us the chance to be saved. How awesome is that?!?!? He shows compassion because He knows our frame, He remembers that we are dust, remembers where we come from. After all, He was there when we rebelled.

How do we apply that? Why can’t I show the same compassion and love to others that God shows to me? I think it’s often because I lack the perspective to do so. As I’m learning, a little perspective goes a long way.

Something The Princess Bride Taught Me About the Gospel Yesterday

One of my favorite lines in the classic 80s film The Princess Bride (which is my all-time favorite movie, by the way) comes from Westley, the farm boy-turned-pirate who goes to great lengths to get back to his true love, Buttercup, after a long stretch of separation where she feared him dead. In one of the climactic scenes in the relationship between Westley and Buttercup, he shares a great bit of wisdom about true love. Watch the clip below:

The line: “Death cannot stop true love. All it can do is delay it for a while.”

Buttercup: “I will never doubt again.”

Westley: “There will never be a need.”

Let’s make this comparison with the disciples and Jesus. They had developed a strong relationship with Him during His time with them. But then He dies on the cross and they’re in hiding, they’re afraid to associate with him. I gotta imagine there were some strong doubts in their minds about whether or not they should have even followed Him in the first place.

In the film, Buttercup seems to move on, even saying to herself, “I will never love again.” She quits. Her true love is gone, so why even bother giving it another shot? She gets engaged to Prince Humperdinck, who she doesn’t love but since he’s the law of the land she doesn’t really have a choice.

Then Westley returns. It kinda sneaks up on her, but she realizes it and they have the exchange you saw in the video above.

In the same way, Jesus returns. It’s three days, not a few years. And the disciples are changed in such a way that they go from despair to ready to commit their lives to spreading the gospel, dying for it.

Jesus died, yes. He went away for a little bit. But not only did death not stop true love, it was the ultimate act of true love. And because death could not stop true love – the love that Jesus has for us – we have no need to ever doubt. We can go from saying, “I will never love again,” to, “I will never need to doubt again.”

That’s true love. A love that, even if it may look or feel like it’s left, never has and never will.

In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. – 1 John 4:9-10

Desktop Calendar Meditations, Vol. 1: Lamentations 3:21-24

Note: In my office, I have a big desktop calendar on which I write my daily events and other things I need to remember. On the right side, there’s a column for additional notes. This past month, I wrote a piece of Scripture on it and began writing down some observations on the Scripture in an attempt to get me thinking about God’s Word more often. This will hopefully be a monthly blog post examining what I’ve learned. January’s passage was Lamentations 3:21-24.

I finished up reading through the book of Jeremiah and continued right on to Lamentations and ran across Lamentations 3:21-24. I had read it before, but it struck me this time unlike it had before. So I made it my Desktop Calendar Meditation. As you’ll see, it’s all about the grace and love of God, and as that’s something that I need to grow in, it made sense for me to be thinking about it all month. Here’s the verses:

But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: the steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. ‘The LORD is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will have hope in him.’

There is an intentional recalling to mind of truth.

It can be easy for me to forget grace, forget God’s love for me, forget that my only hope is Him. Circumstances, my emotions, my sin, those things can distract me from really believing in the grace and love of God. And the author of Lamentations has been experiencing things that have been distracting him from knowing that. But when he calls to mind the steadfast love of God and the never-endingness of His mercies, it gives him hope.

But he has to be intentional about remembering it. I should seek to do the same thing. I need to find ways to have daily reminders of God’s love for me. In prayer, I need to be thanking God for and meditating on His love and grace more so that I can be constantly refreshed. We don’t just eat one meal a week and then expect to be good the rest of the week. In the same way, we must constantly take in reminders of God’s love for us and the grace He’s shown us so that we don’t go hungry and start looking for joy/contentment/peace/hope elsewhere.

The reason we can have hope is that the Lord is our soul’s fulfillment.

In verse 24, the author says that the Lord is his “portion,” and therefore he hopes in Him. So often in life we put our hope in things that do not satisfy: people, food, sex, money, career. The only way our hope can be fully fulfilled is by being satisfied in who God is and what He has given us.

And I think that was an intentional thing. God set Eden up so Adam and Eve could be satisfied in all that He created, while also giving them a warning to not choose the disobedient route. But A & E took what became the road most traveled in human history: disrespect for God’s Word and intention. And the rest is literally history.

We can take from their story that following God’s way leads to the most fulfillment. And Psalm 16:11 backs that up – “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”

God’s mercies being new every morning indicates two things.

First, the steadfastness of His love. God’s mercy is not based on some emotional whim or an obligatory duty. There is meaning and purpose behind it if there is a repetition of it every morning. It’s a truly unconditional love. If God’s love was emotional, I doubt it would be steadfast and never changing.

Second, the freshness of His love. We cannot outsin the love and grace of God. Just like the sun rises at the beginning of every day, God’s love rises every day anew. We can’t wear it out with our sin from the previous day. We get a fresh start at godliness.

——-

Such a cool thing. Grace is laced throughout the Old Testament, and this is one of the best examples I’ve seen. These are verses I need to cling to more and more because it’s a reminder. It’s a reminder that I need to be intentionally recalling to my mind. And then fulfilling my soul with God’s love for me, not my love for Him.

God’s Faithfulness Is Eternal…Even If I Feel Crummy

I’m a pretty emotional guy. I tend to let my feelings and emotions get the better of me in a lot of situations.

Sometimes it can be a good thing. Last night, I stayed up until 1 a.m. looking at old Facebook pictures, all the way back to high school, up to high school graduation, freshman year of college, different summer activities. It was a little emotional, I admit. A good thing. Nostalgic. It’s time to move on and it’s a little emotional. It brought some joy to look back.

shutterstock_1122256641Sometimes it can be a not-so-good thing. Sometimes we can take the littlest thing and make it such a big deal. For instance, there’s always that moment when you see that someone has read your text and they’re not typing a response. That can be a little frustrating in this day and age, especially if you’re expecting a response. Maybe it’s just me. But sometimes I have little patience. And I feel frustrated.

The one thing that the above examples show you about me is that my emotions are not stable very often. And I’d be willing to wager that there are others out there whose emotions go back and forth like a ticking clock.

Often, I find myself attributing my feelings to how God feel about me. If I feel crummy, then I assume God feels crummy about me. That’s the Spirit moving, right? That’s the Spirit telling me that I’ve got work to do, right?

Silly me.

One of my favorite quotes is from a guy named Curtis Allen. He’s a pastor and rapper in the DC area. While speaking at the Campus Outreach New Year’s Conference this past New Year’s, he said this:

The secret to Christianity is not changing how you feel, the secret to Christianity and obedience is changing how you think.

That’s stuck with me, I think because it’s profoundly true. I want to focus more on how this applies to God’s faithfulness to us.

There might be times where we feel God feels crummy about us. We think, “Oh, look at my sin. I just flat out am not cutting it. God must hate me.”  So not true. If we’re Christians, God loves us in spite of how we feel He’s thinking. And He will love us eternally.

What happens in those situations is that we begin to trust our feelings above the Word of God. We look at the Bible and we say, “OK, yeah, those promises about God’s love for me, they’re only true for me when I’m being fully obedient the way I think I should be. When I’m sinless, when I do everything right, I’ll accept that God actually loves me.”

Eh. Not the way to approach it.

I’ve had to learn that lesson a lot this year. As an emotional guy, I tend to be in that vein of thinking. But I’ve had to continually remind myself to bring to mind promises of Scripture, like…

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him because he cares for you. – 1 Peter 5:6-7

But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. – Romans 5:8

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 8:38-39

I love the Romans 5:8 verse because it says “God shows.” It’s not “God showed.” The present tense of the verb implies that it is an ongoing thing, a continual state of the display of God’s love for us. Christ’s death on the cross is not conditional on our good behavior. To think that would be to mock everything He came to do.

Yet I mock it.

I need to continually learn to change how I think I remind myself of the power of the truth of Scripture. That God loves me unconditionally. No matter how I feel. No matter what I might think.