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

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Blaire’s Blurp

Life has changed in many ways for me over this last couple of months. Stepping out of my traditional mission field I questioned how my relationship with people and God would change. In our past organization we had every meal with the community we lived in. We had people asking about our spiritual lives. We had worship meetings three times a week. I was curious what community and my relationship with God was going to be like. After all we were moving to a state where I had no friends or family living nearby. This is one of the fears I’ve seen many people wrestling with when feeling God calling them to step out into something new.

I have been so pleasantly surprised by what God has done in this area. Chris and I felt that God has been calling us to Seminary for a long time. We had no idea how it was all going to work out but we had to step out in obedience and trust that He was in control. Living in Massachusetts definitely has its hard moments but my faith has grown a lot deeper during this time than I ever thought it would. It should be no surprise that God is always faithful to what he calls you into. But somehow it always surprises me. Not everyday is easy and some days aren’t even close but the depths of my faith have grown by having to step out in faith. The relationships we have gained here are incredible. The job that God provided for me has been such a blessing. They have both felt like an ordained gift from God in an area that I was so unsure about.

So if you are like me and have felt fear about stepping into something completely new I want to encourage you to continue trusting God. That may sound simple or repetitive but it’s a call that we all need to be reminded of. Just know that when life is hard, your trust and faith in the Lord can grow more than you ever thought possible. Keep running the race of endurance in your faith. To push through the doubts this life throws at you whether its sickness, finances or just feeling burnt out. His plans are above ours and His ways are far better than we could have ever thought or imagined.

 

Favorite quotes right now…

“There are no “ifs” in God’s world. And no places that are safer than other places. The center of His will is our only safety- let us pray that we may always know it!” ― Corrie ten Boom

“When we encounter hardship, if God doesn’t answer our first prayer-and our
first prayer is almost always, “God, please take away the pain”-then we can pray: “Okay then, Lord, please use the pain for your purposes. Put me into ministry with others who need to know your comfort.” We can pray, “I wish I had a job, but use me this week in the unemployment line” ― Paul Borthwick, Western Christians in Global Mission: What’s the Role of the North American Church?

“An old joke describes the difference between sacrifice and generosity. For a chicken to bring eggs to breakfast is generosity; for a pig to bring bacon is sacrifice. Generosity gives out of abundance; sacrifice costs us something.” ― Paul Borthwick, Western Christians in Global Mission: What’s the Role of the North American Church?

 

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Finishing My First Semester

Every day for the past two years my wife and I have answered a question in our “time capsule journal.” We just turn to today’s date and answer the same question individually before we go to bed. The first year was fun but the most interesting part now is reading what our responses were last year. For example, on November 30th of 2016 the question was “Today I couldn’t stop thinking about ______.” Blaire said “FOOD!” (Because at that time we were on an outreach deep in the mountains of southern Mexico.) I said, “What am I going to say about myself for my Gordon-Conwell application.” When we flipped to that page to answer our question on November 30th of this year we couldn’t believe how far God has taken us.

Now, only one year later, Blaire answered “Today I couldn’t stop thinking about how unreal it is that we are really living in Massachusetts!” When I thought back to my day to answer the question it was kind of funny to me. “I couldn’t stop thinking about my final papers for my first semester. And how in the world am I going to explain the Trinity in 8-10 pages?” Again, I am writing a paper, only this time Blaire and I are on the other side of our fully answered prayers. Let me tell you it’s a humbling place to be. I can’t really take credit for any of it. We have worked really hard this year. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever worked this hard in my life, but there is just no way we could earn all the blessings that God has lavished upon us. God has been faithful to provide a supporting family and community everywhere we go. Not to be cliché two months in a row but God’s undeserved love through Christ’s sacrifice is the gift of Christmas.

SANTA! (I know him, I know him!)

The Colangelo's Christmas

White Christmas

Favorite quotes right now…

“Yea, Lord, we greet Thee,
Born this happy morning;
Jesus, to Thee be the glory giv’n;
Word of the Father,
Now in the flesh appearing,

O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.”

  ―  John Francis Wade, O Come, All Ye Faithful

 

Conversation between two demons in “The Screwtape Letters.” “One must face the fact that all the talk about His love for men, and His service being perfect freedom, is not (as one would gladly believe) mere propaganda, but an appalling truth. He really does want to fill the universe with a lot of loathsome little replicas of Himself—creatures, whose life, on its miniature scale, will be qualitatively like His own, not because He has absorbed them but because their wills freely conform to His. We want cattle who can finally become food; He wants servants who can finally become sons.” .
― C.S. Lewis

Boston in the Fall

This year will be our first fall together with changing leaves. Massachusetts is an amazing place this time of year. Blaire and I finally found time to go to downtown Boston and see part of the incredible history of our country. We walked down the Liberty Trail; “a 2.5 mile path through downtown Boston, that passes by 16 locations significant to the history of the United States.” We got to visit businesses and homes that have been standing for hundreds of years. We feel blessed to live so close to a city with that much history, and we’re thankful for such a great experience. It’s hard to imagine a more beautiful place to study God’s word than Gordon-Conwell… But then you step outside and have to blame Adam and Eve because the temperature could not have been this cold in the Garden of Eden.

We haven’t had a Thanksgiving in Pennsylvania, at my parents house, in four years. Blaire and I have been living and serving in sunny Mexico (thanks to the generosity and love of our entire support family.) During our time across the border we were privileged to spend the holidays with the fantastic Peviani crew, which includes the loving company of the Davis’, Bisant’s, McGuirks, Hillier’s, Holly’s, and so many more deeply kind families! I have missed having a holiday surrounded by childhood memories, but these past few years God has blessed me with a new selfless and caring family. After our delicious turkey dinner in PA my family took out some old home movies (on VHS) of when we were growing up and causing trouble. As we sat in the same house we saw in the old videos, we laughed and we cried. I am so thankful for all the incredible memories we’ve shared as a family and it felt significant to be able to share them with Blaire for the first time. It seems cliché but I was honored to be thankful on Thanksgiving. Thankful for love, support, Blaire, my family, my friends, and for where God has guided us. Thank you to everyone who has helped us make this possible, and know that we’re praying for you.

Favorite quotes right now…

“To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything.”  ― Timothy J. Keller, The Meaning of Marriage

“There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.
― C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory

The Bible is Filled with Real People like Us

In my Old Testament class we have been talking about the people God chooses. I wanted to share a little bit about the story of Abraham because it brings up an important question; Why Abraham? Why does it seem like God chooses to bless some people and punish others? And what about us; how can we gain the favor of God? You’ve probably heard the story of Abraham before. “God calls a man named Abraham. God then promises Abraham that, against all odds, his family will out number the stars.” What you might not know is that Abraham was not chosen by God because of his righteous life. In fact, Abraham was a sinner like anyone else. In Gen 12:1-4 the bible says “Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country… So Abram went, as the Lord had told him.” It is his “faith alone” that Paul talks about in Rom 3:2-3 saying “For if Abraham was justified by works, he would have something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” The bible isn’t filled with super heroes; Abraham was a liar, Moses was a murderer, and David was an adulterer; the bible is filled with believers like us.

It was so comforting for me to learn that even seminary is filled with imperfect people like me. I’m starting to think that might actually be the point. God could never love us anymore than He already does. He doesn’t want us to try to earn our redemption; He wants Jesus to be glorified when people see the free gift of His love. Lastly, my Old Testament Professor pointed out that the “Pastor” is not the modern day fulfillment of the Old Testament priest. With Jesus as our high priest every member of the church is called to be a part of the priesthood of all believers. (1 Pet 2:4-5)

(One of the trails Blaire gets to jog everyday!)

Favorite quotes right now…

I will build my life upon your love it is a firm foundation.
And I will put my trust in you alone
Oh Lord and I will not be shaken

Housefires – Build My Life (Song)

 

It’s a rare occurrence, like a double rainbow, or someone on the internet saying, “You know what? You’ve convinced me I was wrong.”

– Michael (The Good Place; TV Show)

 

What EXACTLY are the Colangelo’s Doing?

You might be asking yourself… What are Blaire and Chris doing in Boston again? When does Stranger Things Season 2 come to Netflix? (Oct. 27th!) And what do the Colangelo’s even do every day? First of all, those are some great questions. Sometimes I forget to communicate what we’re ACTUALLY doing. So, I’m not at all offended by your tone.

I’m taking 3 classes this semester in pursuit of the Master of Arts in Theology degree (or MATH yes, a math degree). As I’ve said in my last few updates, I’ll be studying at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, located on the North Shore of Boston. While I’m attending Seminary Blaire will be working as a nanny. She has an amazing opportunity to love and serve 3 pretty awesome kids, along with their dog, and 2 small cats they shaved to look like lions… like I said, 3 pretty awesome kids!

I got a great part time job working in the mailroom. My first class is Old Testament Survey. Monday mornings we go chronologically through the Old Testament story. On Wednesday I go to my second class; Systematic Theology. This one might be a little bit harder to describe. So far, we’ve gone over such questions as; Does God have a physical body? Is God a man? And how does our individual background affect what we believe about God? My third and final class this semester is Evangelical Theology and World Religions. In this class, we’ll actually be reading books like the Koran and the Bhagavad Gita. Attempting to put ourselves in the shoes of people with different beliefs. I have been loving seminary so far. A big reason for this is because of the community we’ve found in our building. It may be a building full of future pastors but one of the most amazing things I’ve learned so far is that the “Pastor” is not the new version of the Old Testament preist. Every single believer is part of the royal priesthood and together we make up a holy nation. “On earth as it is in heaven.”

Favorite quotes right now… (From each class)

“In Deuteronomy 28:13 God says to Israel if you obey “I will make you the head, and not the tail.” But when Jesus comes, he fulfills what it means to be a blessing. In Matthew 5-7 I believe He is saying blessed is the tail.” – Dr. Kaminski

“Nobody thinks their beliefs are ridiculous. You will never convert someone by trying to convince them that they are.” – Dr. John Davis

 “Christian faith asks questions, seeks understanding, both because God is always greater than our ideas of God, and because the public world that faith inhabits confronts it with challenges and contradictions that cannot be ignored.” – Daniel L. Migliore

“I’m Shipping Up To Boston”

Grand Canyon Together

I fell into the habit of tracking the miles of every trip we take. In a way, measuring the experience against the ones we’ve had before it. The hipster would say it’s the miles you put on your soul that really count. Then they’d get back to taking black and white pictures of coffee. We did feel this though. We felt it when we looked out at the Grand Canyon for the first time. We felt it when we stayed with family we haven’t seen in a long time.

The View

In a lot of ways our trip from California to Boston was the end of a journey better counted in years then miles. Of course it’s the beginning of an all new adventure but we’re not there yet. I think tracking my miles has caused me to jump from experience to experience without reflection. I’ve been forgetting to stop every once and awhile to see the view. Ferris Bueller would be so disappointed. I lived in Mexico for over 4 years. I made an eternal commitment to my best friend there. We’ve grown and changed in so many ways. I wonder of the 19 year old kid I was when I left would even recognize me. I wonder if he’d be proud. I think he would. I know he wouldn’t believe that Blaire is actually my wife!

Lobsta!

From Mexico to Massachusetts with all our worldly possessions stuffed in a 4×8 trailer. We wouldn’t have it any other way. Thanks to Blaire’s parents, Alan and Patti, we we’re able to thrive in this transition. I can’t thank them enough! I’m also proud to report my “backflip in every state” has extended to 35, with only my left knee being completely destroyed! Please pray for it 🙂

Backflip State #34

Favorite quotes right now…

“A river without banks is a large puddle.” – Mike Dunlap & Ken Blanchard

“Sometimes the teacher is silent during the test.” – Church sign in Jenners, PA

 

 

The Road Ahead

Looking back! Blaire and I come to the end of a season with great memories to look back on and new adventures to look forward to. We’ve spent over four years living in Mexico. I am reminded of the man I was when I first showed up. I was single, beardless, and searching for God’s purpose for my life. Four years can change a lot. I’m proud to say my seventeenth beard hair came in last week! Even more importantly, I successfully convinced the highest quality woman on planet earth, to marry me. I can still remember pretending I let her win when she smoked me at ping pong. Little did I know, God would speak His plan for me through this woman. We talked long distance on the phone while I worked as a camp counselor in Pennsylvania. One night she told me about an amazing opportunity to partner our bible school experience with a seminary in Boston. Throughout this time Blaire and I would pray for my brother Eric. It’s interesting to look back on how all the pieces fit together. We’re leaving for Boston and now He’s leaving for outreach but before then we were able build my last house in Mexico together. 

Looking up and out! We’ve learned that things look up when we do. God will always be faithful. He has continually surrounded us with such loving friends and family. Only with the prayer and support of our partners have we been able to work with so many ministries. Together we were able to help build around 35 homes for the poor with the Homes of Hope ministry. We have seen 30 students from 9 different countries graduate from the School of Biblical Studies. We have been able to teach the bible in churches all across Mexico with the Titus Project ministry. In just four years we’ve been able to serve in worship, the preschool, with the youth, the local prisons and hospitals, and we’ve had so many other humbling opportunities. We cannot say thank you enough for every single person praying for us and partnering with us. It has drastically changed our lives and we hope that we were able to change lives in Mexico as well.

Looking forward! We have never been so excited to take the next step in ministry! We feel God calling us to train for something big. I have been selected to partner and grow at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. We have a vision to impact the local and global community with God’s word. Our time of getting equipt at Gordon-Conwell will prepare us for the most exciting opportunities to work and serve. We’ll need the prayer and support of so many but really we want to thank everyone for showing us God’s faithfulness every step of the way!

 

Favorite quotes right now…

And now you’re my whole life; Now you’re my whole world
I just can’t believe the way I feel about you, girl
We’ll look back someday, at this moment that we’re in
And I’ll look at you and say
And I thought I loved you then; And I thought I loved you then

– Brad Paisley

To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. – Micah 6:8b

Faith Over Fatalism: Our December in the Mountains!

This year has been transformational to say the least. We’ve seen a lot more of the world and learned a lot more about ourselves. We wanted to share this story as an example of how we’ve seen God transform a community. This is pastor Martín…

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He is the head pastor for the indigenous mountain villages we traveled to. He teaches the truth of God in 3 churches each with about 35 adults and 5 million adorable kids:)

Here are just a few…

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He’s never been to bible college or received any kind of formal training. Over the course of 2 weeks we covered the whole story of the Bible! As we taught he listened closely and filled a little green notebook with the truth of God’s word. We found out that he was preparing his sermons for the following year based on the new truth we were teaching from the bible. Wow! These truths have the power to change every life in his community!

The predominant worldview of in this area is Fatalism.”Que Sera, Sera” (Whatever will happen, is going to happen). Mixed with a bit of Karma (If it happened, you deserved it)! Now think about if you were poor living in this place with this mindset… You would be taught that not only do you deserve to suffer because of your wickedness but also there is absolutely nothing you can do about it because it was meant to be. Can you imagine? How would you be motivated to grow or improve your situation? How could you really believe that God loves and forgives you if you’re still suffering even with all your hard work ?!

We were able to challenge this worldview with the freedom of life in Christ. “You weren’t created to suffer, you were created to have life abundantly!” No matter what our financial situation may be. “When you’re forgiven by Jesus that’s it! No more punishment or shame for your sins. He took it. You’re loved and free to enjoy it!” We trust that God will speak through Pastor Martín and transform their community in the years to come.

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Favorite quotes right now…

“The pain of regret is far worse than the pain of discipline.” – Nathan Whitley & Patti Peviani

“We shouldn’t move forward by running from a bad situation. God calls us to run to what he has for us.” – Kerry Ast

 

Teaching about Freedom in a Mexican Prison

I’m 23 years old. I’m a “gringo.” And I’ve never been to prison to my own country. What could I possibly say about heaven to a group of men who’ve gone through hell? That’s all I could think as we were being escorted along the wall through locked gate after locked gate.

View from the Outside

As we walked I noticed something interesting. Birds. They flew over the high razor-wire and settled in the small trees that grew in the courtyard. I thought it was kind of ironic. But I kept walking. We walked down halls and through fences until we finally got to the location where I was teaching. I shuffled to quickly set up my material before the last worship song. After a quick look at my notes I lifted my head. They chose to come hear me?

I could see so much in their faces. So many things I wouldn’t understand. Yet here I was speaking to them.

I realized I had absolutely nothing to offer these men. I couldn’t make them any promises. I didn’t have any money, food, or influence. I looked desperately down at my notes, closed my eyes, and asked God for help. I heard the men singing the chorus of last worship song “Creo en ti Jesús… (I believe in you Jesus), Y lo que aras en mí… (And what you will do in me), Recibe toda la gloria… (Receive all the glory), Toda la honra… (All of the honor), Precioso hijo de Dios… (Precious Son of God).” I was right. They didn’t need me.

For the next hour we went over the history of Israel from Exodus to Exile. God frees his people from 400 years of slavery only to see them deny him time and time again. In His mercy he sends prophets to call them back. He warns them for the next 860 years! Until inevitably they’re exiled from the land he’s given them.

Why do we fight for the freedom to choose our own prisons? Whether our filters are on cigarettes or Instagram, we let the wrong things control us. When the bible says “Know the Truth and the Truth will set you free.” It’s not just talking about a perspective, but a person. Jesus says “Everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

At the end I shook hands with a man named Carlos. He told me that his oldest son was about my age. He pauses and looked at me with pain in his eyes. He shared that all 3 of his children grew up while he was in prison. He’s been there more than 20 years now. “Looking at my life it would seem I’ve lost everything” he said. “But I see now this is what it took for God to get through to me. For me to finally listen. And for him to set me free!” He told me personally knowing God made it all worth it.

“I get out next year but I’ve been free a lot longer”… 

Favorite quotes right now…

“The bible was not given to increase our knowledge but to change our lives.” – D.L. Moody

“Arrogance and fear still keep you from learning the simplest and most significant lesson of all.” – “Which is?”

“It’s not about you.” – The Ancient One (from Doctor Strange!)

Two taxis and a boat

Honored to take two taxis and a boat to get to one of our churches!