• Wrath

    From Tim Keller’s The Reason For God:

    The Bible says that God’s wrath flows from his love and delight in his creation. He is angry at evil and injustice because it is destroying its peace and integrity. ‘The Lord is righteous in all his ways and loving toward all he has made… The Lord watches over those who love him, but all the wicked he will destroy’ (Psalms 145.17-20).

    It is at this point that many people complain that those who believe in a God of judgment will not approach enemies with a desire to reconcile with them. If you believe in a God who smites evildoers, you may think it perfectly justified to do some of the smiting yourself. Yale theologian Miroslav Volf, a Croatian who has seen the violence in the Balkans, does not see the doctrine of God’s judgment that way. He writes: ‘If God were not angry at injustice and deception and did not make a final end to violence — that God would not be worthy of worship… The only means of prohibiting all recourse to violence by ourselves is to insist that violence is legitimate only when it comes from God… My thesis that the practice of non-violence requires a belief in divine vengeance will be unpopular with many… in the West. … [But] it takes the quiet of a suburban home for the birth of the thesis that human non-violence [results from the belief in] God’s refusal to judge. In a sun-scorched land, soaked in the blood of the innocent, it will invariably die … [with] other pleasant captivities of the liberal mind.

    Jeff spoke this past Sunday on Matthew 11:20-30, about the wrath of God. It has stirred something in my heart and I feel like I am coming to become deeply moved by this attribute of God and realizing how foundational it is, though I am still working through it in my heart. Still, it is bringing me to a deeper worship for the cross and what Christ bore for us.

    I have always been naturally a non-confrontational person. I have been sinned against, but, as of now, not so deeply as others in my life and in the world have experienced. People have been generally “nice” to me in my life, and this has been part of what’s allowed me to fight to keep my own sheltered, optimistic, and naive view of the world and of people. Not only that, but despite what I believed about the depravity of man, I strove to hang on to an, in practice, “people aren’t that bad” point of view. I didn’t want to hear about what others saw as wrong or anything that would damage my view of people that I respected or liked. I wouldn’t get angry about sin I saw, and not only that, I thought that I was spiritual, humble, and forgiving because of it.

    In many ways my views have been shaped by the culture around me. My refusal to see the full depth of the sinfulness of sin has been encouraged by the importance placed in our culture to not be judgmental or, in Christian culture, to forgive quickly. Personally, that has affected the way I’ve dealt with forgiving people in my life and recently I have learned that only in admitting to being sinned against and not in making excuses for others do we actually start to feel what it costs to forgive. But more than that, I have realized how much culture has shaped my view of God and how I’ve talked and thought about him.

    Looking back, I believe that I have subtly been influenced by reading/hearing from people who also don’t understand the anger, wrath, and justice of God. Things like, “Why can’t God just forgive?” (without the cross), even to the extent that there are those who would claim that the doctrine of substitution, if true, is “divine child abuse”. The culture around us talks about God’s anger and wrath as primitive, unloving, etc., putting those who claim to believe in the Bible on the defensive. I have heard and used ways Christians have tried to deal with it, but mostly in embarrassed or apologetic manner. Often the response would be briefly mentioning and explanation of God’s holiness, but then quickly moving towards “but he’s also loving!” or “hell is just separation from God because you don’t want God so he won’t make you be with him!” or “heaven is perfect so you can’t go if you have sin because then you’d sin against others”, etc- all answers that never really got to the heart of how to think about God’s anger or punishment.

    In recent years though, as I have allowed myself to be brought to those places of rightful anger and in seeing the depths of the effects of sin, I have come to take solace in thinking about God’s wrath and justice. I am seeing that I cannot trust a God would claim to love what is good without hating what is evil. There are things that I think about that have been done towards those I love and know that make me so angry and sick to my stomach, that honestly in my heart I have wanted to see the wrongdoers suffer and/or die. I never thought that Romans 12:19 would mean so much personally to me, that I would be taking heart in the fact that vengeance is God’s and that he will repay.

    In Death by Love, Mark Driscoll counseled a man filled with anger and bitterness towards his father who had been a violent, abusive, drunk whose whole family lived broken lives as a result. The man struggled to know what to do when way later in life his father accepted Christ. Pastor Mark exhorted him in letting him know that in forgiving, it was not letting his dad “of the hook”, but that “the demands of justice have been met for both you and your dad…Jesus has propitiated the sins of you both.” People who have abused and hurt people I know will turn to Jesus and be forgiven, the justice they deserve having been poured out on Jesus already- or they will face the consequences of their sin when they see God after they die. The same is true for myself. Either way, justice will be carried forth, sin brought to light, and the punishment for it dealt.

    Jeff’s message’s main thrust was that we cannot understand the love of God without understanding his wrath. When thinking about those I know who have been deeply wronged, or wrestling with how to think about the nauseating things I’ve been hearing in class at Westminster about the nature and consequences of child sexual abuse, I am seeing how the only way to make sense of the world and sin is within the Biblical worldview. More specifically, it only comes to make sense at the cross. Nowhere else has the sinfulness of sin been shown to be as horrifying as it really is. There we see the depth of justice and rightful, righteous anger towards sin that isn’t just “let off the hook”. And there our minds are blown away- it just doesn’t make sense… that a righteous, holy, God, the only one who does not deserve wrath, would suffer for us. Not only that, but that he would lovingly pursue those who would reject the cross as unnecessary and seek to deny him.

    Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!

    How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!

    Romans 11:33


  • Broken Promise?

    I was afraid about entering into a certain season of life and ministry, fearful of the difficulties that seemed to lie ahead, but was comforted when I prayed and was reminded of Matthew 11:25-30. These verses promised Jesus’ rest, and in his self-description of being gentle and lowly, I was challenged to trust that God wouldn’t be reckless with my own heart. I stepped forward in hope and trust, believing that God would be gentle with me and grant me his rest.

    Fast forward a year, and I found myself exhausted, confused, and angry. “God, I thought you promised! God where is that rest that you promised?!” My heart felt crushed by the weight of all that I had to do, burdened by guilt and hopelessness, wondering “what happened?” It was the first time in my life that I felt like God’s promise hadn’t pulled through. Even now, it is a season that though had its share of blessings, I wouldn’t desire to live through again. “Kind of like middle school” is how Jeff aptly describes it.

    Today, God reminded me of this promise in his word as I reflected on that season of life and the good that he had brought about. Through that year (and afterwards too), God was humbling me. He allowed me to be crushed under the weight of my legalistic standards and service to him, he showed me the limits of my own understanding and strength to serve him and love people, and he revealed to me just how incapable I am of following him with my own strength. I walked away with a keen sense of my own powerlessness as a servant and even believer of Christ- I couldn’t put my hand on the plow and not look back, I couldn’t go “all in”, I couldn’t do everything that I knew was right to do. And I am so thankful to have felt that way.

    If I had walked away “victorious” in my own eyes, feeling that “rest” that I had hoped for, I would have seen myself become more prideful, less compassionate towards suffering brothers and sisters in Christ, and with a misplaced faith in self. When everything felt pulled out under my feet, I saw that in the final measure of things, I will not be found with a faith that came from myself, but that God is the one that keeps me walking with him; that is a deep conviction that I have had since and shared with others to encourage them to hope in God. In short, in all that God did and allowed to happen during that season, I was stripped of trust in self and the law, and slowly brought to deeper hope and faith in God and the Gospel alone.

    I had thought that the rest promised in Matthew 11:25-28 was the kind of physical, emotional, spiritual rest in a “not feeling tired way”, and though God does grant that kind of strength, that is not the most important kind. Unbeknownst to me, Jesus was fulfilling the promise of rest in my life. This promise was the promise a supernatural, final rest founded on his gospel grace. In Matthew, he was calling people to give up the yoke of the law, to enter into the rest that is given freely in accepting the grace and life that flows through the Gospel. This rest is experienced in part on this earth as Christians, and fully when we enter into the eternal Sabbath that God entered to after Creation (Heb. 4). He was and is calling us to cease from striving with human strength to fulfill a human understanding of how we get to God, and to cling onto a faith that knows that our hope is not in our own ability to trust, follow, or love God, but in God and God alone. In this knowledge, I walk with him, learning from him, finding rest for my soul.

    The precious words of Jesus:

    “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

    Matthew 11:25-30


  • Anxiety Wants To Be God

    Anxiety is one of my biggest struggles.

    I didn’t used to think so, but reflecting back in my life, fear and anxiety have been constant themes. Most of the time, they manifest in physical symptoms. I used to get stomachaches all the time when I was in elementary school (usually Sunday nights before the school week started)- I learned in a psych class in college that stomach aches are a sign of anxiety in children. Since high school, I’ve broken out in hives in response to anxiety that I may or may not know that I have. I had an almost painful feeling of heaviness on my chest and shoulders for almost a year in LA and when I was struggling with the major decision about whether or not to stay, for weeks I’d wake up in the middle of the night with hives all over. Now, since around my first midterms or finals week at Westminster 2 years ago, my stomach has gotten into the habit of forming a tight knot whenever I’m anxious. It may be something big, or I may just be rushing to finish cooking dinner on time, and this knot will grab my stomach and not let go until I stop doing whatever I’m doing.

    Since getting married, there’s been more for me to be anxious about. First, there’s all that Jeff has to do. He’s much busier than I am during this season of life, and he doesn’t get anxious like me, so I get anxious for him. There’s also constantly more to think about in terms of what’s next in life. There’s always something bad that can happen or something we hope for that may not happen.

    Remembering to praise God or just reflecting that he is in control usually helps, but rather than stop and meditate on the truth, I normally try to plug through and finish whatever I’m doing, with the knot in my stomach intensifying as I go. I’m asking God to get to the root of these anxious thoughts. I know vaguely that they are founded upon what I value, possible idolatry, lack of trust in God’s character, superstitious fear, and not taking time to just sit and remember God.

    I read a quote a few days ago that convicted me from Paul Miller’s A Praying Life (Good book! I recommend it!)

    Anxiety wants to be God but lacks God’s wisdom, power, or knowledge. A godlike stance without godlike character and ability is pure tension. Because anxiety is self on its own, it tries to get control. It is unable to relax in the face of chaos. Once one problem is solved, the next in line steps up. The new one looms so large, we forget the last deliverance.

    A godlike stance without God’s character and ability. So true. My anxiety believes that I need to possess the wisdom, power, and knowledge of God in order to rest. If I just knew what was going to happen, then I wouldn’t be anxious. If I could make something happen or prevent something from happening, then I wouldn’t be scared. If I had all the wisdom in the world, then I could make the best choice and not be worried about what to do. I need this wisdom, power and knowledge to shape things my way, the best way! But these are lies. I need to remember that God is God, that I’m not, and that that’s how it is supposed to be. That as a creature, I’m in constant need of my Creator and that I don’t have to live autonomously and independent from him, but am made to be completely dependent upon his wisdom, power, and knowledge. All things are to work together for his glory, not my desires and comfort. I need to trust in not only his power and wisdom, but his love and goodness. This eternal wisdom, power, goodness, sovereignty and loving care is evident in him caring for birds, lilies, and grass of the field and made manifest most evidently in the cross of Jesus Christ.

    He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? (Romans 8:32)

    It is astonishing that I would entrust my eternal destination and soul to God, and still be afraid about life here which will pass by like the blink-of-an-eye. God has done so much, and my faith is still so weak. Jesus, Jesus, Precious Jesus, oh for grace to trust him more.

  • Wedding

    There are a lot of things I’ve been thinking about and learning that I want to blog about, but I feel as if I need to write something about the wedding first. But, I’m not sure what to write! Not that there aren’t many blessings from the day, but I’m not sure what to say/write about it. Maybe if I had specific questions to answer/write about?

    Though much of it was a blur, it was a beautiful day for us. God answered our prayers for what we hoped the day would be, and people afterwards affirmed us in terms of God granting the desire of our hearts for it to be a time of worship and thanksgiving. It also was a wonderfully humbling time in terms of seeing the way in which the communities we’ve been a part of gave of themselves so lavishly to us. I’m thankful because in our desiring to be wise stewards of money, we were forced to rely on other people. More than saving money, experiencing grace through the body of believers was so meaningful to us in the end.

    The highlight for both of us was the worship in music. That, and the speeches at the rehearsal dinner and family dinner banquet. Jeff has known for years that he wanted to ask Eugene (his old youth pastor) to lead at his wedding and during the planning process I was looking forward to the music so much! Not only did we have amazing musicians but praise through music is a huge part of our (Jeff & myself) lives. Our moms walked down to Come & Listen by David Crowder (which is the one song I absolutely knew I wanted at the wedding) and the lyrics basically sum up what we hoped our wedding would be- a praise to God and celebration of his faithfulness in our lives up until our wedding day as we look forward to what is to come. The lyrics are drawn from Psalm 66:16:

    Come and listen, all you who fear God; 

    let me tell you what he has done for me. (NIV)

    Here are the lyrics (kinda shortened cause it repeats a lot):

    Come and listen, come to the water’s edge,

    All you who know and fear the Lord.

    Come and listen, come to the water’s edge all you

    Who are thirsty, come.

    Let me tell you what He has done for me.

    He has done for you,

    He has done for us.

    Come and listen, come and listen to what He’s done.

    Praise our God for He is good.

    I’m not sure how much more I’ll write about the wedding day, but you can read about it on my brother’s blog from his perspective! (CLICK HERE!) He’s a better writer than I am anyways. =)

    2 highlights for me:
    One of my favorite pictures
    Jeff surprised me!