Walking in the Hard Places

Originally published by Deep River Books

The things that matter the most are the hardest to do. Nanette Kirsch found this to be true as she researched, wrote, and released Denial: Abuse, Addiction, and a Life Derailed.

Denial, a novel based on a true story, centers on David Wagner, a married father of five and millionaire entrepreneur. He’s the life of every party and seems to have it all together. Yet the effects of childhood sexual abuse linger, luring him into a secretive double life. His story is difficult but important, and it has already prompted adult survivors of childhood abuse to break the silence that binds them spiritually and mentally.

How does an author even begin to tackle a book about abuse, addiction, and a life derailed? We decided to ask Nanette for insight. Here’s her story of challenge, blessing, spiritual battle, and God’s victory—and her encouragement for writers who, like her, are called to write on topics the enemy would rather we keep quiet about.

Keep reading…the full article is here:

http://deepriverbooks.com/author-on-the-rise-nanette-kirsch/

 

Visit my Website. Follow the unfolding story.

https://DenialBook.com

 

Read more about hard places: The Rock and the Hard Places

 

 

Trust & Obey: A Model for Ministry

God created each of us with a specific ministry assignment in mind. While our assignments are as diverse and creative as He is, they share a common goal of drawing people into a life-transforming, life-saving relationship with Jesus. (Ephesians 2:10)

As the body of Christ we are called to embrace and fulfill our assignments. (1 Corinthians 12:12-27) As we are faithful in small things, God will grow our ministries (but also our burdens). (Matthew 25:14-30)

I am reading Exodus, and was struck by five traits Moses modeled in his response to God’s call.

1. Be Present

Moses was tending sheep, having led them to “far side of the wilderness,” a remote location where he no doubt expected to be isolated and alone. God shows up at the most unexpected places and times in our lives.

When God first grabs Moses’ attention it is as a curiosity, a bush burning without being consumed. Moses is attracted to the spectacle, without recognizing its source.

God calls to him by name: “Moses, Moses!”

“Here I am,” Moses replies.

When we hear God’s call the first step is to recognize and acknowledge Him.

2. Trust

It’s not until Moses makes the first move to go over to look at the burning bush that God calls out to him. (Exodus 3:4) Throughout Scripture God waits for His people to take the first step:

  • Abraham displays trust in God’s character before God stays his hand from sacrificing his son, Isaac. (Genesis 22)
  • The Israelites step into the Red Sea before God parts it. (Exodus 14:15)
  • God stops the Jordan River for the Israelites to cross “as soon as the priests’ feet touched the water’s edge.” (Joshua 3)
  • And Jesus tells Peter to step out of the boat first, “Come.” (Matthew 14: 22-34)

God always waits for us to take the first step; it’s an implicit part of free will.

God wastes no time after telling Moses of His plan to free His people; He directs him, “So now, go.” (Exodus 3:10)

So now, go.Exodus3-10 (2)

3. Repent

As soon as Moses realizes he is in the presence of God he is overcome by his own sinfulness. He hides his face and is afraid to look at God. (Exodus 3:6)

In fact, Moses doesn’t even reach his appointment before God deems him to be nearly dead in sin, having failed to circumcise his son–part of the covenantal promise of the people he is being called to lead. He is surprised by his own sin. God does not promise that following Him will be easy or enjoyable. 

If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.

Luke 9:23

If we accept a role of leading others we also must submit to a new level of God’s refinement. James acknowledges this difference in standards. (James 3:1)

Since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), God uses our ministries to refine our hearts first. Ever mindful of our sinfulness, we then can be humble and faithful in pointing to Him as the source of the good others see in us. (Matthew 5:16)

As we step into our ministry assignments it is important to continually and actively repent as a spiritual discipline, prayerfully inviting the Lord’s refinement:

Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me and know my anxious thoughts;
And see if there be any hurtful way in me,
And lead me in the everlasting way.

Psalm 139:23-24 

4. Implore God

Moses had a wife, family and a decent living working for his father-in-law. God was asking him to drop everything for what seemed like a fool’s errand: Demand that Pharaoh free the Israelites, the same Pharaoh from whom he was a fugitive for murder. And, oh by the way, the promised land flowing with milk and honey was also  occupied…by some of the Israelites’ fiercest enemies.

We all have lots of great-sounding reasons to delay and defer on our assignments.

Moses took his concerns to God honestly and openly:

First, he questioned if there might be a more qualified messenger. God simply reminds Moses (and us): “I will be with you.”

Next, he frets that, as a disenfranchised Hebrew, his brethren may not believe that he speaks for their God. God doesn’t choose the holiest among us; He tends to choose the lowliest. It’s about displaying His power and goodness, not ours.

“But what if they don’t believe me?” Moses asks. (Anyone whispering an “Amen” here?) God is sending Moses back to a people who never accepted him as one of their own. Jesus acknowledged this challenge at the start of his public ministry: “Truly I say to you, no prophet is welcome in his hometown.” (Luke 4:24)

Finally, Moses laments being asked to serve in his area of greatest weakness. “Please, Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither recently nor in time past, nor since You have spoken to Your servant; for I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.” (Exodus 4:10) God shows tremendous grace to this reluctant servant, enlisting his brother, Aaron, to help.

Fortunately, we serve a relational God who designed us to strengthen and support one another; we should not be afraid to ask for support.

5. Obey

In the end, Moses obeys God’s call at ever-greater levels with each step he takes.

He quickly departs on a journey with no clear outcome. He trusts that God will be with him, provide for his needs, and use him to bring freedom to others.

If you are awaiting God’s call on your life, preparing for a new ministry or in the midst of a tumultuous one now, remember and embrace Moses’ model for ministry:

Trust and Obey.

“P” is for Prayer

A Daily Rhythm Encouragement

Originally published by Church on Morgan

 

As part of our focus all month on S.O.A.P., “P” is the final letter in this handy method for studying the Bible. If you missed S O and A—covered in weeks one through three—they’re as close as your inbox.

Prayer, a churchy word for talking with God, comes with a lot of baggage for many of us.

And yet without prayer SOAP is nothing but a letter jumble, because studying God’s Word absolutely is powered by prayer.

So how do we pray well? Here are two verses that have helped me grow in my prayer life:

Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus.

And Thessalonians 5:16-18 reads: Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

When I am feeling anxious I thank Him for taking care of me and my needs. I ask for Him to take my burden. And when I really do let Him have it I have experienced inexpressible peace in the face of the most challenging circumstances.

I certainly don’t pray without ceasing (yet), but I do try to pray as I go about my day; when I notice the beautiful Carolina sky in the school pickup line or stand for the national anthem at our son’s athletic events. When such things touch my heart I thank God for the blessings of the moment, for beauty, health, joy, etc.

So when does God get a turn to speak? When we read His Word. Prayer in this situation is a simple yet important discipline. When we sit down with Scripture, invite God in. My prayer usually sounds something like this:

Lord, thank you for this time with you. Please clear my mind so that I may hear your word, open my heart to embrace the truth you reveal to me and instill in me the desire to live it out in my life this day.

Thank you for joining me in cleaning up on our Bible study methods with a little SOAP. It’s been a pleasure!

Read from the beginning of this series Today’s Post Sponsored by the Letter “S”: Scripture

Copyright © 2017 Church on Morgan, All rights reserved.

“A”: Apply Scripture to Your Life

A Daily Rhythm Encouragement

Originally published by Church on Morgan

 

This week in our S.O.A.P-y series we’re focusing on A, Application.

What would be the point of reading and observing truths in Scripture if we didn’t do anything with them? When God speaks to our hearts we are called to act, using what we’re learning to bring light and hope to a dark and needy world.

Reading the Bible as part of the rhythm of your days, weeks or months, creates a place where you can go to hear God, learn about His character, discover how much He loves you, experience His amazing grace and be reminded that “as far as the east is from the west so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” (Psalm 103:12)

As you uncover truths that speak to your heart, be intentional to apply them to your life and in the world:

Is a lamp brought in to be put under the bushel basket, or under the bed, and not on the lampstand? For there is nothing hidden, except to be disclosed; nor is anything secret, except to come to light. (Mark 4:21-22)

With each step forward that you take, standing on His truth, God will likewise be faithful to invite to take yet another step…and another…and another. One of the beautiful things about our God is that we can never exhaust the joy of discovering him, nor grow complacent in our praise as long as we are moving toward Him.

And the really great news is that even when we falter and turn away, he uses his Word to call us back to him:

God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance. (Romans 4:12)

What truth is God teaching you as you adopt a rhythm of reading His Word?

Read this series from the beginning: Today’s Post Sponsored by the Letter “S”: Scripture

Copyright © 2017 Church on Morgan, All rights reserved.

“O”: Open Your Eyes to Scripture

 

A Daily Rhythm Encouragement

Originally published by Church on Morgan

Throughout June we are focusing on the S.O.A.P. method of Bible study. S.O.A.P. stands for Scripture, Observation, Application and Prayer. (See last week’s Daily for a more detailed overview.)

This week we’ll take a look at Observation…pun intended.

Judaism refers to the Torah, our Old Testament, as a multi-faceted gem, one that reveals new light each time it is turned in the context of our life experiences. Maybe you’ve had the experience of reading a familiar passage and something relevant to your current circumstance jumps out to you as if you’re seeing it for the first time?

As we read the Bible we’re listening for what God is speaking to our hearts; those Spirit-led insights that we can then apply to our lives. (The good news is that He is always speaking…we just aren’t attuned to listening.)

Unlike English class or your book club, reading the Bible doesn’t require parsing everything or even understanding it all. Instead God invites us into a slow marinating process, one that allows His word to wash over us and soak in…maybe just a single word or phrase, an idea or an image of Jesus.

I have collected a few helpful tools I turn to when digging deeper into a passage that you might like to check out:

  • Bible Gateway or Bible.com – Both are easy to navigate by phone or mobile device, and offer myriad translations, from King James to The Message.
  • Blue Letter Bible – Look up a passage to see its root words in Hebrew or Greek, definition(s), and a concordance of places where the word or phrase is found throughout scripture.
  • VerseMinder – a great app for memorizing scripture.

What resources do you like to use in making observations as you study Scripture? Share as a comment and I’ll include them in a round up in the final Daily for this month.

Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures…

Luke 24:45

Start reading from the beginning of this series: Today’s Post Sponsored by the Letter “S”: Scripture.

Read the next post in this series: “A”: Apply Scripture to Your Life.

Each week’s email will be written by someone in our community and provide a few thoughts, insights, or experiences that have come from their own morning, meal time, and evening practices. If you would like to learn more about our “Shared Rhythm” you can read about it online or pick up a set of our “Daily Rhythm Cards” at Church on Morgan.

Copyright © 2017 Church on Morgan, All rights reserved.

Today’s Post Sponsored by the Letter “S”: Scripture

A DAILY RHYTHM REFLECTION

Originally Published by Church on Morgan

I just completed my first S.O.A.P. Bible study, so I considered it a bit of a divine coincidence to be asked to write about this simple and effective method of studying scripture for this month’s Daily Rhythm.

WHAT IS S.O.A.P.?

S – Scripture. Develop a daily habit of reading the Bible. More on this in a moment.

O– Make an Observation. Allow God’s Word to speak to your heart. Record your observation in a journal, share it in your missional community, discuss it a Bible study group…the goal is to be intentional about hearing from God in through the text.

A –Apply what you’re learning in how you work, relate or serve that day.

P—Pray. Prayer is the fuel to each of the steps before it: Pray before you open the Bible; ask God to show you what He wants you to see and also to show you where and how to put it into action in your daily life.

SCRIPTURE

Today’s Daily is brought to you by the letter S, for Scripture.

I considered myself to be a Christian all my life, yet I had never owned nor read the Bible until I was in my forties. Once I finally entered its sacred pages, I was hooked.

Today I think of the Bible like a Verizon network for our souls. As I read, memorize and recall Scripture I can almost hear God saying, “Can you hear me now?”

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)

Read the next post in this series: “O”: Open Your Eyes to Scripture

—-

Each week’s email will be written by someone in our community and provide a few thoughts, insights, or experiences that have come from their own morning, meal time, and evening practices. If you would like to learn more about our “Shared Rhythm” you can read about it online or pick up a set of our “Daily Rhythm Cards” at Church on Morgan.

Copyright © 2017 Church on Morgan, All rights reserved.

There Will Be Blood

I used to cringe at the song, “Nothing but the blood of Jesus,” or if I heard someone refer to being covered by his blood; it sounded so, well, gory.

Why blood for goodness’ sake? Why is God so punitive? Why couldn’t He just clear the board and forgive our sins without blood?

Blood is at the very heart of Jesus’ story and thus our salvation story. Rather than continue to avoid it, I began to pray for greater understanding, and slowly I’m growing to a deeper understanding, although I still have a long way to go.

(I offer my learnings here with the caveat that this is a cornerstone of faith, and there are far better sources than me on this topic. I hope my post will serve simply as a starting off point to your own exploration.)

God is love. God is life.

The wages of sin is death.

Romans 6:23

Sin is death. Sin by its nature is a separation from — and if uninterrupted by repentance, a severing of — our connection to our life source. I believe that those wages the Bible speaks of are not so much “collected” by God as they are the inherent, inevitable cost of sin.

God is holy and just.

I’m watching the Netflix docuseries,”The Keepers,” and I am sickened by the sadistic acts of one man who abused and exploited many innocent girls at a Baltimore High School. If he had been brought to trial and simply given a slap on the wrist, those whom he harmed, and all people of goodwill, would be legitimately outraged.

We yearn for justice to confront evil and set the world right. We desire and expect God to be just in his response to sin, especially toward those who injure us.

“Vengeance is mine says the Lord.”

Deuteronomy 32:35, Romans 12:19

Counting the Cost

When we are in need of forgiveness, justice also must be served. Here is where our misunderstanding of sin leads us to say, “But what if I’m a basically good person?” “And what about little sins like telling a white lie; surely that doesn’t lead to death?”

When we consider ourselves or others to be “good” we are deceived about our true sin natures. In response to being called “good Teacher” Jesus said:

“Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.”

Mark 10:18

When we acknowledge the darkness that lurks in all our hearts, the dastardly things we have done or know we are capable of doing when we are not fully surrendered to God, then we begin to see that there is no such thing as “a little sin.”

Sin is not an act so much as a state of mind. It is just a manifestation, a symptom of inward decay, a cancerous rebellion that attacks and eventually kills its host if unchecked.

There is no stasis in life; we are either moving toward God and dying to our sin natures daily, or we are turning from God, moving deeper into sin, indulging our flesh, which leads to death.

Once for All

So…if all sin leads to death, then the only remedy for sin is death, which requires the shedding of blood…blood symbolizing the essence of life.

God proclaims this truth from the very beginning. In Genesis, after Adam and Eve fall, God sacrifices animals as a covering for their sin.

In God’s covenant with Abraham He followed the social convention for sealing a contract. Animals would be sacrificed and the carcasses split in two, laid facing each other. Each party would pass through as a physical sign that proclaimed: “If I break this covenant, may the blood be on my head.”

Abraham prepared the sacrifices for his covenant with the Lord; however; he “fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him.”

“When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking fire pot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces.”

Do you see what is happening here? God passes through twice, symbolically taking the consequence not just for himself but on Abraham’s behalf as well. By passing through for each of them God was saying: “If I fail to keep the covenant I will die, and if you fail to keep it I will die for you.” (Read more about this amazing moment.)

Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up….

“You do not understand that it is better for you to have one man die for the people than to have the whole nation destroyed.”

John 11:50

Caiaphas unwittingly prophesied the rationale for Jesus’ substitutionary death in advocating for his execution to the Sanhedrin.

Yet in order to be a just sacrifice for the sin of humanity, Jesus himself had to be without sin…otherwise he’d simply be dying for his own sins. The message of the Gospel is clear:

Jesus came and led a perfect life; he suffered and died in our place, for our sins, so that we could be forgiven and reconciled to God.

That is why Jesus’ shed blood and his resurrection — his victory over the death that sin brings to the world — is the only hope for us all.

 

Keep Discovering

Genesis 15: God confirms the covenant with Abram: http://bit.ly/2s9q7uD

Learn the Bible: Blood Sacrifices: http://bit.ly/2s9xQIX

The Blood of the Lamb, by Timothy Keller:  http://bit.ly/2s9r0TT

Lamb of God, by Jill Carattini: http://bit.ly/2s9qRzU

A Graduate’s Guide to the Bible

My second son graduated high school last Sunday. While re-experiencing some degree of the grief I first wrote about when my eldest son graduated (Secrets Mothers Keep: On Roots & Wings), I’m also more focused on the practical this time around, hoping to equip my big-hearted #2 boy to survive and thrive in what can be a heart-breaking world.

I gave him a Bible because it is the ultimate how-to guide for life. In its pages I have found hope and inspiration when things seemed hopeless, wisdom and understanding when I didn’t know what to do; and purpose when I was feeling lost.

As I gift wrapped it for him I wondered if he would ever read it, not because he doesn’t value it, but because he wouldn’t know where to start.

If he began at the beginning–Genesis–he’d likely get derailed by the time he reached Leviticus or Numbers; the complicated rules and details are tough sledding to a generation weaned on Twitter and Youtube.

And so I prepared a brief how-to guide based on my own experience. It’s nothing more official than that, but perhaps it will help you or a graduate you love discover the life-giving joy and truth of God’s Word for the first time, or again…as if for the first time.

 

 

  1. Want to know Jesus? Read John. If you only were going to read one book of the Bible ever, read John. He has such a heart for Jesus and wrote with the goal of convincing you that Jesus is the son of God and that his mission on earth was to ransom us for our sins.

 

  1. Want to understand sin and the reason we need Jesus to save us? Read Genesis and then Romans. The story of the beginning of humanity is the story of all humanity. In the Jesus Bible you’ll see how Jesus himself is present from the very beginning of creation. And why Romans? Paul wrote half the New Testament. He was brilliant and gifted by God for the task. In Romans he walks the reader through the problem of sin, why we can’t save ourselves and why we need Jesus.

 

  1. Facing a dilemma? Need some wisdom? Use Proverbs. Proverbs isn’t a sit-down and read end-to-end book. It is more like life’s little instruction book. It speaks wisdom on just about every topic you can imagine in the human condition.

 

  1. Have a problem, issue or other life decision about which you need insight? I use Google as a starting point and enter: “Bible verses about ________.” Or “What does the Bible say about _______.” Then break out your Bible and read the verses you find.

 

  1. Wondering how to live the life God called you to? Read Acts. Acts details the post-resurrection life of the apostles and the conversion of Paul. Put yourself in the shoes of the disciples and consider how they surrendered their fears, their will and ultimately their lives to follow Jesus and to ensure the good news was spread across the earth. We all share in this mission, and understanding how the first tribe got things done has value and relevance today.

 

  1. Interested in learning leadership? Read about Joseph (Genesis 37), Moses (Exodus), David (1 Samuel) and Daniel (Daniel 1).

 

  1. Pray. Open. Read. Sometimes, when I have nothing else in mind, I just say a prayer, open the Bible and start reading where the pages fall.

 

  1. Memorize God’s word. As you find verses that speak to your heart, underline or highlight them in your Bible and then memorize them. (You can use the app Bible Minded to help). When you do this God is faithful to speak to you in times of need by bringing just the right verses back to mind.

Get more help leaning in to God’s word with Summer Bible Study Tools.


Special Offer for Faith Runner Subscribers

Be one of the first 25 people to order my new book, Denial: Abuse, Addiction and a Life Derailed and get a 15% discount off the cover price. Use promo code: BLOG15.

childhood sexual abuse

 

Summer Bible Study Tools

I am writing this post specifically to support my summer Bible study small group, but the resources here can benefit everyone who seeks to explore God’s Word more deeply.

My hope is that you also will share the resources you have found helpful so that we can build a more complete and rich reference here.

 

Bibles

I am a logophile, a lover of words, so the specificity of words and language matter greatly to me; they can reveal and sometimes completely change the meaning. That’s why I love to read myriad translations of Biblical texts when I really want to get to the heart of it.

I own an NIV study bible, The Message paraphrase and I just got my copy of the Jesus Bible. The New International Version (NIV) was a revolutionary translation created in the 1970s to make the Bible more accessible and easily understood to modern English speakers for whom the Old English of the King James Version became a stumbling block. For me it is a great starting point that I then love to compare and contrast with Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase known as The Message. Here is a quick example from John 1: 1-5:

NIV Excerpt

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome[a] it.

The Message for Comparison

The Word was first,
the Word present to God,
God present to the Word.
The Word was God,
in readiness for God from day one.
3-5 Everything was created through him;
nothing—not one thing!—
came into being without him.
What came into existence was Life,
and the Life was Light to live by.
The Life-Light blazed out of the darkness;
the darkness couldn’t put it out.

Other translations I like include the CEV, NASB and NRSV. The online Bibles, profiled below, make it easy for you to change and compare versions to discover what versions you prefer.

The Jesus Bible, a new NIV-based Bible, was pioneered by some of my favorite Christian voices, Louis Giglio, Ravi Zacharias, Max Lucado, John Piper Randy Alcorn and others,  to help readers understand how the entire Bible, all 66 books, is one story…about Jesus. I’m reading it now, beginning in Genesis, and am excited for the perspective it will offer.

Online Bibles

As much as I love holding a Bible in my hands–and aspire to take notes that can make it a keepsake for future generations–I cannot deny my love for the convenience and ubiquity of online Bibles. There are several out there, but my go-to app is Biblegateway.com.

Here’s why I love it: Looking up passages, choosing translations and reviewing commentary requires just a couple clicks. I’ve also done reading plans on Bible Gateway, like the chronological Bible.

Finally, Bible Gateway is on my phone, so sitting in car line at school I can read. And there is an audio version that supports at least three or four translations, so I listen to the Bible on my walks.

Tools

Blue Letter Bible

Both a phone app and a website, Blue Letter Bible is a great resource for understanding Biblical text. Look up a passage and choose “Tools” to see the root form of the word in Hebrew or Greek, hear it pronounced and get a link to the Strong’s reference, which then takes you to the definition, pronunciation, part of speech, etc.

In my opinion, the most helpful tool here is the “interlinear Concordance,”  which shows where else in the Bible that exact word is used. I’ve gained valuable insights in my own study time using this tool, and you’ll see its findings reflected in many of my blog posts.

Bible Minded

Memorizing scripture is a valuable discipline that weaves God’s word into our hearts and minds. But memorizing is a lot easier when you’re six than sixty, right?

Well, I’ve been using Bible Minded to help me do this successfully. You add the verses you want to memorize, and then you can study them in virtual flashcards (like Quizlet), practice with fill in the blanks or do “choose the next word” quizzes. You can even record audio and play it back for yourself as you rehearse. And then when you think you’ve got the verse committed to memory you can test yourself.

With all of the worldly content online today it’s encouraging to know that technology resources can also serve the Kingdom.

I look forward to expanding this list with apps, websites or other online resources you like!

 

 

 

Foolish Hearts

My nephew is the ultimate Daddy’s boy; in his three-year-old way he makes it clear that he is only interested in his father’s time, attention and opinion. It sounds and looks something like this:

“Son, would you like to have special ‘Mommy Time’ today?”lukey

“No thanks, I’ll wait for Daddy to get home.” 

Or:

“Mommy loves you so much. Do you love Mommy?”

“Nah, I just love Daddy.”

You’re laughing; I know you are. I am too; I can’t help giggling every time I hear these stories, mostly because the little guy has no idea what he’s talking about!

He only has the luxury of his perspective because he has such an amazing momma. What he fails to see through his toddler eyes (maybe it’s his gorgeous long eyelashes getting in the way) is that she makes his world go round: She makes his bedroom cozy, prepares his meals, gets him to and from school, takes him to the doctor, and shapes his experience of the world on a daily basis…not to mention that she loves him to the moon and back.

Excruciating

At the risk of sounding like a “Jesus Juke” the analogy of my nephew came to mind  as I was contemplating Jesus’ suffering on the cross and how we as humans have no idea what true separation from God would look and feel like.

But we can glimpse it through the work Jesus did on the cross. For the longest time I only saw his physical suffering because it was so excruciating. (In fact, the word excruciating is derived from two Latin words: ex cruciatus, or out of the cross. Crucifixion was the defining word for pain. (Ravi Zacharias))

But that’s not the full story. Jesus took on the sins of the world (1 John 2:2). Having existed eternally in perfect union with God, Jesus experienced total separation from God in our place. Because it was spiritual in nature–exiting outside of time and space–he experienced it eternally with infinite pain. And he did so once for all of us. (Hebrews 10, 1 Peter 3:18, Romans 6:10)

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Matthew 27:46 (NRSV)

It is by Jesus’ example that we can come to understand that true separation from God renders all other suffering trivial and irrelevant by comparison. Paul grasped at this:

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.

Romans 8:18-31

Easter People

The fullness of this truth is still remote to me, just barely perceptible, and yet it is changing me.

It provokes me to consider how many people, myself included some days, go about life as if we are of this world, in control, and God is simply a useful and occasional accessory.

When we do so we display the same naïveté as my young nephew–but on a spiritual scale. Like fish who don’t know they are wet we often seem blissfully ignorant to the God who created the world and all that is in it, the one who shapes our experience of the cosmos and gives life to each breath we take.

For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man.

Romans 1:20-22

We only have the luxury of our delusion because of Jesus. Thanks to him we never have to experience true separation.

Evangelism

I worry that an insidious passivity is creeping into our culture when it comes to God. Similar to baseball, God is being rendered as a sweet, nostalgic idea that belongs to generations past, yet enjoys some lingering support out of sentimentality for an innocence that has long since passed away.

But just as my nephew’s momma loves him too much to cajole him with all the good things she does for him, how much she loves him and how lost he would be without her, God expresses His love for us with similar patience.

Each day He allows us to choose anew whom or what to worship. But one day we will make our choice for a final time; one day we will choose  life and love or separation from God–the source of those things–for eternity.

If I am aware that people are fooling themselves into living as if there is no God, what am I willing to do about it?

Fools say in their hearts, “There is no God.”

Psalm 14:1 (NRSV)

 

The bottom line is if I really grasped Christ’s suffering on the cross I would make a fool of myself if it meant ensuring that even my worst enemies got every opportunity to see and experience the good news.

We are fools for the sake of Christ, but you are wise in Christ.

1 Corinthians 1:10