The same God who created all things and made you in His image…
Is the same God who delivered Israel from bondage in Egypt.
Is the same God who exiled His people in judgement.
Is the same God spectacularly described in Ezekiel 1.
Is the same God who looked upon the water and made it blush at a wedding feast in Cana.
Is the same God spoke red hot scorching words to the Pharisees.
Is the same God who touched the hand of the leper.
Is the same God who created the waves then walked upon them like a road.
Is the same God who wept at the death of His good friend and then called him back to life.
Is the same God who drank the full measure of His Father’s wrath for our sin.
Is the same God who died and defied the shackles of death.
Is the same God who now rules and reigns in the Heavenlies.
Is the same God who will return to reclaim and restore what is rightfully His.
The Alpha and Omega – The Beginning and the End.
Proverbs 1:7 says, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.”
This morning I was reading from the Puritan prayer and devotion book, “Valley of Vision.” I came across a prayer that was very unsettling. It brought great injury to my flesh and greater fear to my heart. I warn you, dear pilgrim, do not casually passover this admonishment and don’t read it unless you are willing to be antiquated with it. You must be willing to accept the heavy strike of the rod.
“Let me lament for forgetting daily to come to thee,
and cleanse me from the deceit of bringing
my heart to a duty –
because the act pleased me or appealed to reason.
Grant that I may be salted with suffering,
with every exactment tempered to my soul,
every rod excellently fitted to my back,
to chastise, humble, break me.
Let me not overlook the hand that holds the rod,
as thou didst not let me forget the rod that fell
on Christ, and drew me to him.”
I read this prayer over and over. It was terrifying. Through it, the mighty blow of conviction was brought upon my back. My heart was purged of my sinful pride and slammed to the ground and crushed like a stone. The void left in my heart was filled with the fear of the Lord – the same God of Ezekiel’s vision.
In my fear of the Lord, my heart is so deceitful that I was tempted to turn to the flesh as Adam fled to cover himself after he fell. We fear and flee discipline. Then as I continued this devotion, I read two passages:
“Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body.” (1 Cor. 6:18)
“Do not be idolaters a some of them were … We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did.” (1 Cor. 10:7a-8a)
Again, “the rod excellently fitted to my back, to chastise, humble, break me” fell upon me. This time it was not a blow of conviction because there was no sin… yet. It was a blow of correction to keep me from being lured off the path by temptation of the flesh – Divine protection.
Having done His mighty work, the Spirit of that same God lovingly whispered to my soul;
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6).
“Let me not overlook the hand that holds the rod,as thou didst not let me forget the rod that fell on Christ, and drew me to him.” The hand that holds the rod is the loving hand of a good Father, “for the LORD disciplines the one He loves, as does a father the son in whom he delights.” (Proverbs 3:12)
If Christ did not accept the rod for our sin, there would be no hope. All would be darkness and chaos. But he did, and the grace of God poured forth from His wounds to redeem and restore that which was lost. If only we would believe in that same God.
Lord, fill me with the light of your truth found in your Word every morning and again before I rest. The darkness and lures of the world will lie to me all day. Sanctify my mind in your truth. That I may be filled with light and walk by grace through faith in the only Savior who saves.
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2)
In Jesus’ Name
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When I was a little boy (around 9 years old), our home was robbed twice. A few weeks prior to the first robbery, our beloved dog was hit by a car right before my eyes. He lived for a few hours before dying. In the midst of the grief of losing my dog, our house was burglarized. The thieves stole pretty much everything of value, including a gold ring in the shape of Texas my grandfather gave me. My mom was keeping it for me until I was old enough to wear it. That gold ring and a pool cue were the only things I had from my mother’s dad. I still have the pool cue.
After the robbery, I remember feeling afraid and having nightmares.
About a month later, we had replaced most of the “stuff” like the TV and VCR. We installed a security system. My parents were divorced and didn’t care too much for each other but my dad bought us a puppy. It was his way of bringing some joy back into our lives. I remember mom let me name him Ralphie and let him sleep in my room sometimes. Within a few weeks, we were robbed a second time. This time the thieves entered through the empty house next door and broke through the adjoining wall of our duplex (to avoid the new alarm system and burglar bars on the windows). They took all the new stuff that replaced the old stuff… and they stole our puppy, Ralphie.
This time anger overtook fear. It dawned on me that something is wrong with the world. This is my first memory of feeling injustice.
Fast forward to the morning of November 10, 2015. I had been selected for jury duty. Sitting in a most uncomfortable chair, we were introduced to the case. It was the worst kind of criminal case you could be assigned as a juror. It involved an older man sexually abusing a 5yr old little black girl. Nothing could take my mind from my own daughter, who was 4 at the time.
It was the one of the most heart-wrenching, sickening and traumatic situations I have ever experienced. After six days of testimony, a heroic little girl took the stand and faced her abuser. After 9 hours of deliberation, we found the man guilty on several charges. He was sentenced to what would amount to the rest of his life in prison.
I walked away knowing that justice had been served.
What do I mean by justice?
I think that defining terms is very important when we talk about ultimate issues. John Stonestreet likes to say that, “People use the same words but different dictionaries.” To put it another way, people can use the same words in a discussion but those words have different meanings. A good example is the word ‘love’. I love my wife, I love my kids, I love cheeseburgers, I love my mom and I love my best friend. However, I do not love them all the same way. Love means something different in each instance. “Justice” has multiple meanings and applications as well.
Here are a few definitions of ‘justice’ from online dictionaries:
- the quality of being just; righteousness, equitableness, or moral rightness:
- rightfulness or lawfulness, as of a claim or title; justness of ground or reason:
- the moral principle determining just conduct.
- conformity to truth, fact, or reason : CORRECTNESS
The definitions above are helpful but they don’t quite point to the source of justice.
Let me put forth a deeper foundation for your consideration.
From a biblical perspective, justice is rooted in the character of a creator God. Justice, also referred to righteousness, is an attribute that flows from God’s goodness. In order to flesh this out, we must go to Genesis 1. When God created the world and everything in it, he claimed “it is good.” When God created man in His own likeness, God saw everything He created and stated, ‘it (meaning all creation) is very good.”
“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27)
Because we are created in God’s image, we carry some of his attributes. To put it another way, we have artifacts of God’s character woven into the fiber of who we are as humans. Every human life has intrinsic value and essential worth. Either this is objectively true or it is not. If it is true, then all humans have value on an individual basis no matter what and deserve dignity, protection and justice. If it is not true, then human value is arbitrary based on what those in power deem valuable – certain human-beings become expendable based on utilitarian values (usefulness). In the last instance, there can be no objective shared characteristic of justice – it evaporates in a mist of arbitrary relativism. We need a unmovable point of reference.
We can’t say something is wrong unless we have some innate knowledge of what is right.
C.S. Lewis said, “A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line.”
Genesis 1 tells us about the ‘straight line’ or goodness, rightness or correctness. However, we need to head to Genesis 3 to better understand ‘a crooked line’ or wrongness. When we juxtapose the two, we have a clearer picture of justice. Now we can reframe the dictionary definitions of justice with deeper dimension and meaning from an objective source.
In Genesis 3, the Bible tells the story of how humanity chose to reject truth, reject God and reject His goodness. This is called ‘The Fall’. Prior to this point, all things were ‘good’ and ‘just’ in the created order. When man rebelled, sin and brokenness entered the ‘very good’ created order. Disorder and injustice followed. Since that moment in time, we humans have had a sense that things are not as they should be in the world.
There is an “oughtness” that we innately know about how life should be. Because of this, we know all is not lost. Artifacts and reflections of God’s original intent – goodness and justice remain innately rooted in our being. We just know a moral law exists that informs us on the difference between good and evil – straight and crooked lines.
Where does the ‘Justice Impulse’ come from?
We’ve all experienced some form of injustice in life or at least witnessed it. Something from deep within cries out, “That is wrong!” At the same time, from deep within we have this innate desire to make wrong things right. But, where does this feeling or impulse come from?
Some sociologists contend that it is learned behavior that is socially conditioned by our surrounding culture. I think that is partly true. Our culture can shape our conception of justice. But that does not explain the fact that even little children from various cultures have an innate knowledge of fairness and fundamental idea of justice and injustice, even if it is very elementary. When you hear a 3 year old yell “That’s not fair!”, you are hearing an impulse of justice. People have this innate sense of “thats wrong” coupled with a desire to see things made right.
You can go to any cultural setting on earth ask people if it is good to molest and murder a child. The overwhelming response will be ‘no’. Any exception will be seen as an outlier to what is normative across cultures. Everyone can agree that harming a child is wrong. To do so is unjust and evil.
When we were robbed twice, I felt pain, hurt, anger, frustration and fear. I knew what happened was wrong. At the same time, I wanted to see things made right. Justice was never served in those instances.
However, when I was on a jury that put a monster who did irreparable harm to a little girl behind bars, something was different. At the beginning of the case, I felt much the same way I did when we were robbed. By the conclusion of sentencing, I felt peace and a sense of rightness, even goodness about the situation. Given, none of my feelings change the trauma for that little girl. But, we did deliver justice to the best of our ability.
When I see a man pleading for his life, gasping for air under the knee of another man sworn to protect life and uphold justice, an impulse emerges from deep within. I see an image-bearer in agony under the boot of an image-bearer under oath to serve and protect. Both men are created in the image of God and worthy of dignity. Both are marred by brokenness and sin in the context of a fallen world. However, when the dignity of one man is discarded by another, we witness injustice. In other words, when image-bearers see fellow image-bearers attacked, we innately know that human dignity and value are being attacked. Those “artifacts” of God’s character that are woven into who we are emerge in the form of a justice impulse. That impulse can take many forms in its expression.
We could be silent, we could lash out in anger, we could protest, we could destroy, we could try to help, etc.
I have concluded that silence in the face of injustice may be the worst response. Silence basically seconds the motion. It allows, or dare I say, promotes evil. As misguided, wrong and evil as riots and destruction are in the face of injustice, silence carries with it a mixture of contempt and selfishness.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer said,
“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”
I put forth the following regarding the justice impulse we all sense.
First, the justice impulse that we feel when we see or experience something wrong is good. We need to affirm that our sense of justice is indeed, good.
Second, justice needs space to be heard, cultivated and modeled within our homes, communities, businesses and our government. We all need to be free to rightly point out injustice when we see it. We need to allow truth to shape our concept of justice and love be the root of our response.
Third, we need to realize that in this broken world, injustice and evil exist. We will not completely rid ourselves of this reality. The human heart is deceitful. However, as image-bearers we can respond to injustice and evil with justice and goodness. We stop injustice by understanding that we all have dignity and value. You are sacred, I am sacred, your ethnicity and mine are sacred. We did not choose to whom, where or when we would be born. However, together, we can stand against evil even when we disagree on other things. And remember, evil begets evil. Disfunction begets disfunction. But, perfect love casts out evil, as light casts out darkness.
Fourth, we can restore the brokenness caused by injustice by promoting goodness and protecting the dignity of all human-beings – particularly the vulnerable and disenfranchised. We restore by bringing peace into a situation and ensure justice is served.
How do we as people who love justice respond to our justice impulse?
1. Pray. When events out of our control occur that cause emotional response, we must pray and ask for God’s wisdom to discern whether our impulses are just and good. If so, what is the right action to take?
2. Listen for understanding. Bear witness to someone else’s pain and suffering without judging. Be present in someone’s pain.
3. Learn to walk and chew gum at the same time. Sensible people faced with a complex situation do not need to be relegated to a tribe (or side). The “only two sides – pick one” dichotomy is elementary and childish. Remember, humans have dignity and a general sense of justice even when opinions differ on particulars.
4. Speak up in the face of injustice, even if it is unpopular. William Wilberforce is a perfect example.
5. Serve. I’ve learned the best way to restore a semblance of justice and goodness is to serve those in need. For instance, when we serve those experiencing homelessness, we are bringing goodness and restoration into their lives through relationships. We are acknowledging an individual’s dignity and value. We are saying, “I see you.” People have value not because of their socio-economic status or ethnicity but because their imagery. All are made in the image of God. When I serve an image-bearer, I am serving the image-maker. When I lovingly raise my voice for the voiceless, I am doing justice, loving my neighbor and showing God’s mercy.
Finally, for the Christian, we must understand that all of these responses must be rooted in truth and love. We accomplish all things by grace through faith in our Savior, Jesus Christ who suffered the most significant injustice in history to justify those who trust Him. God sees injustice and will not remain silent. God’s people see injustice and we should not remain silent either.
Proverbs 31:8-9 says, “Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.”
“He (God) 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
PS. I keep my juror badge (pictured above) taped in the back of my Bible to help me remember that I must work to stop evil and do justice.
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Dear Emperor of China,
You have a choice in this moment. Choose wisely.
Your dynasty will perish by self-inflicted wounds of unlearned lessons from the past. You sit upon the limb of a great tree, yet you saw the branch on which you perch.
Do not make the mistakes of your predecessors. They demolished the foundation on which their empires stood. Understand, you will die a failure, in a failed state leaving a legacy of failure.
The ‘strong men’ of broken empires past and empires falling today are nothing but ‘foolish men’. The fool is marked by pride. His hubris crushes him in shame. Are you such a fool? Does wisdom not call to you from the streets of your empire? Ah, but you think it wise to suppress the voice of truth and ignore the cries of the helpless.
Look to the great north! There is a ‘strong man’ where an empire once stood. It’s economy is in shambles. The Czar’s castles crumble in self-delusion and a philosophy tried and left wanting. He is an autocrat cornered by his own pride. He is food for jackals and ravens.
The parable says, the foolish prince’s pride is his folly. He is deficient in wisdom and humility. He’s defiant of truth – even when empirical evidence points to the coming failed state. History is replete with examples of this futility of the mind and disjointed governance of peoples.
In 50 years, your empire has risen on the tide of the Christian worldview and ethic. The freedom and virtue of that ethic undergirds the very economic foundation on which you rest and enrich yourself. The entrepreneurial spirit does not arise from atheistic materialism, Confucianism or totalitarianism. In fact, the worldview you vainly espouse is rooted in envy.
Envy destroys everything.
Envy says, “If I can’t have what you have, I will destroy what you have and neither of us will have it!” Envy is therefore folly and leads to mass misery. Your worldview was born of envy and the will to power. All are folly and futility.
Your system is bifurcated. You benefit from economic flourishing and freedom but you attempt to crush the very spirit that brings them about. Are you so short-sighted? You can’t have it both ways. Your economic engine is stalling and falling. Your people and the heritage you claim to cherish are fading into the darkness (again). Your future is a failed state in the ashes of human history.
When you are alone, you indulge in the proclivities of your heart. Your thoughts are dark and you must crush the hope you cannot possess for yourself. Your will to power leaves you empty and power-less. You enslave others because you yourself are in bondage to darkness. Therefore, you attempt to snuff out the light to ensure ALL are forced to live in darkness.
Wisdom stands at the gates of your empire and mocks you. Folly is there too. Folly beckons you to follow the crooked path of darkness not knowing over that which you stumble. To see the world through your eyes is to see utter darkness.
“One child for one family” was your empire’s evil decree. Murder was rampant in your midst as little girls were sacrificed on the altar of your materialistic god. Today, your “god” has blessed you with too many males and too few females to replenish your land. You are a dying nation – a dying culture.
You lay siege on the church as you foolishly ignore history. Don’t you know the gates of your hell will not prevail against her? History proves that persecuting the church fuels the fire of its own growth. “The blood of martyrs is the seed of the church.” The old emperor of your land once proclaimed, “I have rid this empire of Christ and His church.” It begs the question; Who is dead? Is the church dead? Is it not your old emperor who is dead? The old dead emperor is rotting in his grave as the church is mighty in your empire. He was a fool thinking himself to be wise.
Don’t be so foolhardy to follow such empty ideas and crooked paths. They all lead to death. One day you will meet death. It will come upon you like thief in the night. Your body will cease functioning, you will soil yourself, draw your last and be heaped into a hole in the ground to rot and feed worms. You will have lived and died a fool. Is that what you want, sir?
Your government is built on a foundation made of sand – of lies, thievery and fear. No house built on sand can withstand the forthcoming tempest.
If you heed the voice of wisdom, a new day will dawn for your empire – prosperous new day when the emperor understood that he is but a mist.
Don’t be deceived. Humility, not hubris is the mark of a true leader. The choice is yours. Choose wisely, for he who enables your heart to beat will not be mocked. There is a more dangerous emperor and judge waiting in your path. He can fell you with a word. Or he can redeem you and bring peace to your land. You can run to Him or ru with the hunted.
An ancient king was struck down on his throne 2000 years ago “because he did not give God glory.” There is a more powerful and dangerous emperor who hears the cries of the poor. He has whetted his sword of justice and waiting for you. There is no escape. Will you meet him as friend or foe? The choice is yours.
Listen to wisdom this day while it remains today. There may not be a tomorrow for you. Early morning rains are the sweetest and most refreshing. A messenger has been sent to you with good news that you may not perish. Behold, even now, there is a knock at your door…
“The violence of the wicked will sweep them away,
because they refuse to do what is just.” (Proverbs 21:7)
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