In the Beginning…

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth… And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.  Genesis 1:1, 3

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:1-5

It all starts with God, who created the universe.  Being Creator, He is necessarily Ruler. Being His creations, we must obey Him.

But what happens when the creation sins? What happens when the created look to their Creator and believe that He is a liar, that His laws are unfair, and that He can be defied?

But you, you are to be feared!

Who can stand before you

when once your anger is roused?

From the heavens you uttered judgment;

the earth feared and was still Psalm 76:7-8

Death. Separation. Enmity. For “you shall surely die.”

It all starts with God, and His nature.  His justice, His mercy, His love, His vengeance, His forgiveness are all parts of His perfect incomprehensible character.

And so our Creator made a way that we, the rebellious creation, could be reconciled and forgiven.

Because our Creator made himself known. He took on created flesh without diminishing His divinity. He took on our sin and our punishment to bring us peace.

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person — though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die — but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. Romans 5:6-11

 

 

 

Fullness

Thou hast revealed to me myself as a mass of sin, and thyself as the fullness of goodness, with strength enough to succour me, wisdom enough to guide me, mercy enough to quicken me, love enough to satisfy me.Thou has shown me that because thou art mine I can live by thy life, be strong in thy strength, be guided by thy wisdom; and so I can pitch my thoughts and heart in thee. 

This is the exchange of wonderful love — for me to have thee for myself, and for thee to have me, and to give me thyself.

There is in thee all fullness of the good I need, and the fullness of all grace to draw me to thyself, who, else, could never have come. 

But having come, I must cleave to thee, be knit to thee, always seek thee.

There is none all good as thou art: 

With thee I can live without other things, for thou art God all-sufficient, and the glory, peace, rest, joy of the world is a creaturely, perishing thing in comparison with thee. 

– Fullness, from The Valley of Vision Prayers

Anger and Action

maya-angelou-anger-quote

The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness,keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.” Exodus 34:6-7

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. James 1:19-20

Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger,and give no opportunity to the devil. Eph. 4:26-27

I’ve been angry before.  I was angry at an injustice committed against another person. Surely this was the most noble anger.  From my point of view, injustice seemed like too tame of a word for what had happened. Surely such anger was worthy. Yet, instead of following God’s wisdom, I was angry and sinned.  I used anger to fuel hate. I used that hate and anger to pray for a man’s eternal condemnation instead of his salvation. I used that hate and anger to tell the Almighty Master of the Universe that he had no business going against that request. I used that hate and anger to elevate myself as the judge for who was worthy of heaven and hell.  I used that hate and anger to make myself God.

People are angry.  I took a semi-hiatus from Facebook this week and forgot just how angry people are. The anger is many times directed at injustice.  Even self-professed believers are sharing the quote at the beginning of this post to justify their anger. But, as with my anger, it quickly becomes a habit and is used for sin. Singing, dancing, talking, drawing — doing everything — with anger and about anger makes a person a slave to that anger. We may begin using anger as an instrument, but then we become an instrument of that self-same anger to accomplish its purposes. This flies in the face of the Word of God concerning how a believer is to act.

King David was against injustice. And he wrote songs addressing it, but his songs were not about his anger. His songs rested in God’s vengeance and justice being carried out.

Arise, O Lord, in your anger; lift yourself up against the fury of my enemies; awake for me; you have appointed a judgment. Psalm 7:6

7Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him;
    fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way,
    over the man who carries out evil devices!

Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath!
    Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.
For the evildoers shall be cut off,
    but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land. Psalm 37:7-9

More often than not, David’s remembrance of anger in his writings were about the Lord’s anger, which had been kindled against his own people, even David himself.

So what to do with anger, then? Anger is a way to bitterness, not an alternative. Just as bitterness poisons life, so does anger when it is allowed to thrive in our hearts. As believers, we are allowed to be angry, but not cling to it even as the day ends. We are to put away anger — not make a habit of it (Eph. 4:31, Col. 3:8).

If I speak anger, I spread anger. If I speak justice, I spread justice. If I spend my breathe and pen for tearing down, I will have nothing left for building up.

Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly. Proverbs 14:29

Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city. Proverbs 16:32

Being slow to anger is neither proof of blindness or weakness. True wisdom sees injustice, acknowledges it, and opposes it. But true wisdom does not act out of anger. May the people of God be seen and spoken of as those to cling to good and advance justice, not those who exalt folly.  May our anger at injustice not blind our discernment.  May our anger go down with the sun, and so give way to faith in God and his justice. May our anger give way to the love that builds up.

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8

In the end, I felt the rebuke of God toward my bitter anger.  For my anger had poisoned me so much that I did not know how to forgive. I remember praying and asking for prayer. I remember that it did not go away quickly, but over  months of daily praying and repenting and giving up the part of myself that was still clinging to that anger.  In place of that poisonous anger, God caused the healing balm of faith in his justice and love for mercy to grow.

What would happen if the last part of that famous quote were rewritten and taken to heart? So use that love. You write it. You paint it. You dance it. You march it. You vote it. You do everything about it. You talk it. You never stop talking it. 

 Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.  Let all that you do be done in love. 1 Corinthians 16:13-14

Saturday Song: Now I Belong to Jesus

After reading this post from Desiring God, I felt inspired to play some old hymns that I haven’t sung or played for quite a while. I couldn’t help but smile fondly at the hymnal when I pulled it from my piano bag. I remember reading some of my first words out of a hymnal like this… but this one was mine.

Without looking, I can tell this book apart from its hymnal twin in my bag, just by the feel of the cover. I have been playing out of this little book for 20 years now. I know how each page falls open and where each dog-eared hymn is. The margins are full of my notes. It is full of the songs that helped raise me. It’s been my companion at funerals and weddings, at Christmas programs and my grandma’s living room. When I play the old hymns, I hear the voices who used to sing with me harmonizing with the notes – sweet echoes from the past.

As dear as this little hymnal and the memories are to me, the words in it remind me of a deeper affection. A longing that is universal: to belong. Not just to fit in to a temporary group or fragile social structure, but to belong securely, completely, forever.

Tonight the little hymnal reminded me that I belong to one who is more constant than the most faithful companion ever could be.

Jesus my Lord will love me forever, from him no pow’r of evil can sever; He gave his life to ransom my soul- now I belong to him!

Once I was lost in sin’s degradation, Jesus came down to bring me salvation; Lifted me up from sorrow and shame- now I belong to him!

Joy floods my soul, for Jesus has saved me, Freed me from sin that long had enslaved me; His precious blood he gave to redeem- now I belong to him!

Now I belong to Jesus, Jesus belongs to me. Not for the years of time alone, but for eternity.

…You were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefather, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. 1 Peter 18-19