Overwhelmed by “Normal”

Have you ever been invited to do something thinking full well it was probably only by mistake. Like one of those “happy accident” movies from the 90’s where someone at NASA mixes the names up and they send some skateboarding teen on a space mission. My whole first year of Seminary I’ve been waiting for someone to start chasing me across the campus yelling, “that’s the guy!” After being tackled I would understandably say, “Well, I had a good run.” Blaire and I are continually overwhelmed by what has become “normal” in our lives. We are overwhelmingly thankful for all those that believe in us and keep up with what we’re doing. This includes everyone who lovingly supports us as well as all those who take time to read this monthly blog! You make this all possible!

This past month has been filled with hard work and incredible blessing. I’ve finished all my final papers on time and got to spend a few days with my brother Eric before he starts working at Pine Springs Camp for the summer! We were also able to go camping for the first time in New Hampshire’s White Mountains with some close friends. My first summer class was on “Church Planting and Growth” and it might actually be my favorite class so far. We got hear about the Chinese house church movement from a Professor who has worked with the underground church and has actually been able to plant churches in China! The rest of the summer I will be under the full time commitment of learning the ancient Biblical Greek language.

 

Our Favorite Quotes Right Now…

“When a Russian cosmonaut returned from space and reported that he had not found God, C. S. Lewis responded that this was like Hamlet going into the attic of his castle and looking for Shakespeare. If there is a God, we certainly don’t relate to him as people on the first floor of a building relate to people on the second floor. We relate to him the way Hamlet relates to Shakespeare. We (characters) might be able to know quite a lot about the playwright, but only to the degree that the author chooses to put information about himself in the play.” – C.S. Lewis & Timothy Keller

I know it is fun to wrestle. A nice pile-drive to the face; or a punch to the face; but you cannot do it because it is in the Bible not to wrestle your neighbor. – Nacho Libre

 

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Hard Questions: God of Judgment

If asked; “Isn’t The God of the Bible is a God of Judgment?” How might you go about giving a reasonable answer to this difficult question. I wanted to share my short paper because I thought the assignment asked a really important question.

The world can feel more divided than ever before. More and more cities are on the verge of riot and communities overflow with broken families and friendships. How can the judgmental God of the Bible be the answer when love and acceptance are so obviously needed to overcome the world’s judgment? I can see how the case appears to be opened and closed, but just before you retire God from His eternal post I believe we need to define our terms more clearly. We live in an age of increasingly relative truth, which means different people can define terms like love and judgment in so many different ways. Cultural diversity is a beautiful thing but to understand the love and judgment of God we need to make sure the original meaning of these words isn’t lost in translation and ancient history.

The Redefinition of Judgment

For example in the Old Testament book of Jonah, God’s judgment is swirling above the city of Nineveh when He called His prophet Jonah saying “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me.” If you have heard the story before you know that Jonah immediately sails the opposite direction without explanation. After Jonah’s boat trip gets a little fishy he eventually ends up in Nineveh preaching God’s message of judgment. Fortunately for the people of Nineveh the whole city apologized for their evil ways and God’s judgment was to forgive them all. So why do we see Jonah devastated by their deliverance? Finally Jonah cries out to God explaining “That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster.”

Like so many, Jonah thought he wanted justice. In the end what he really wanted was vengeance. He so badly desired for the wicked to get what he thought they deserved that he tried to keep God’s forgiveness from them. Jonah already knew that God’s judgment was different from revenge and he wanted to see God’s wrath instead of His compassion. Jonah did not just want justice; he wanted to be the judge. Normally all judgment is defined as bad judgment. Yet when we are the victims of a robbery or even an opposing view we cry out for justice hoping the courts will bring a good judgment. If you ask Jonah, God might not be the best place to demand that the wicked receive what they deserve. The judgment of God is fundamentally different from the judgment of the world because it is born out of His own sacrificial love.

The Redefinition of Love

There may not be a more difficult word to define than love. The original Greek New Testament has multiple different words to describe love were the English language only has one. Naturally the English use of love has taken on quite a few different meanings. One of the fastest growing definitions of love is tolerance, which can be a helpful piece of the picture but not the whole thing. In Timothy Keller’s book The Reason for God he argues that, “If you love a person and you see someone ruining them – even they themselves – you get angry.” Love is acceptance but it also draws a line. The love of God provides the perfect judgment to inform the perfect intervention.

The truth of the Bible is that God’s love is seen in His judgment. Christ suffered and died in our place even though He was innocent teaching us that true love is a sacrifice that should challenge our view of justice. The Dalai Lama is famously quoted saying, “love is the absence of judgment.” Conversely the bible says in Romans 8:5 that, “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” He knows us fully, judged us rightly, and died for us anyway. The bible teaches it is a good thing that God is the almighty judge because His verdict was to die in our place taking the true judgment upon Himself. Love can be superficial in the absence of judgment but the God of the bible teaches us that the honest results of our judgment should be selfless intervention and sacrificial love.

 

Our Favorite Quotes Right Now…

“I ain’t tryin’ to preach no sermon, but I never seen nobody that’s busy as a prairie dog collectin’ stuff that wasn’t disappointed.” – The Grapes of Wrath By John Steinbeck