True Justice

I used to lead our hospitality ministry at YWAM Perth for many years. Every week, at least one person would tell me how hospitable I was. I had a feeling it related more to what they saw of my task, rather than a character trait (although I hoped I was hospitable!). After this time in hospitality, I started pioneering the anti-trafficking ministry I now lead.  Almost immediately, people started telling me that they loved my  ‘heart for justice’, but they stopped affirming my hospitable nature.  It seemed to be a trade off – my heart of hospitality for a passion for justice!

Although it’s a bit of a funny story,  it started me thinking and studying and asking the Lord to help me understand this aspect of who He is. I started getting invitations to speak on justice, and I very quickly realized that although I know what injustice feels like, it’s harder to identify what justice actually is, much less talk about it publicly.

What I found is that the Bible has a LOT to say about justice and injustice, and this forum is severely limited in its capacity for detailing much about this topic. But one of the main points I want to mention here is that of perspective. 

Often we look at an unjust situation, and see only what is in front of our eyes. We are ‘close up’ in our view and declare what we see to be unjust about the situation, and what the punishment for the perpetrator should entail.

I might look at the photo above of the woman cooking, holding a young child, and feel I want more just circumstances for her. Yet I don’t know her character, what choices she has or hasn’t made, what those around her have done or not done. 

God however, sees both the large picture of the whole city she lives in, and He sees her in this city, as an individual. His perspective is one that includes the whole view of the situation – past and present, and the likely future. He sees all the people involved, their motives, their pain, their pride and their influences. He see those that are hurt, their needs, their pain, their capacity and their options.

He knows every detail about both scenes and is the only one qualified to pass final judgement and give what is truly just or merciful to all parties.

These verses below sums up these two points well, and they give me a deeper hope and faith that He cares, loves and sees all that He has created.

Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. Hebrews 4:13

The LORD is righteous in all His ways And kind in all His deeds. Psalm 145:17

Take me to your leader

jared-subia-1137256-unsplash.jpg

In every age, God has His men, women and children who seek His heart, and not His hand alone. They long to be in His presence and stand before His throne in worship, desiring every thought, motive and action, to bring joy to the heart of God. They concur with the writer of Psalm 73 and say that ‘the nearness of God’ is their good.

Into this idyllic scene strides Self, bringing with him all his relations.

He marches up to the very throne of God, compares and then exalts his sacrifice to that of the Messiah, and demands that the glory be directed to himself.  

Upon Self’s request, the humility of Christ causes Him to vacate the throne to the same self-nature He came to save us from, although the throne is painfully won and rightfully His.

We enthrone our Self, and if no other audience gathers to recognize our autonomous rule and dominion – we congratulate, applaud and admire the sovereign of our existence.  Then in surprise and almost astonishment, we glimpse the back of the Lord Jesus as He exits the throne room of our life and wonder why He would not want to dwell in such a kingdom.

Self is crowned!   Self-righteousness, self -confidence, self-pity, self-admiration, self-love and all their attendants glory in his dominion.

The nature of primary authority must admit only one ruler. God takes His leave in those areas of life that we choose to rule. Yet separation from His children causes deep sorrow and grief. We imagine that thoughts and actions of self-rule bounce off His ‘skin’ -simply because we find no personal offence in having these thoughts ourselves.

As AW Tozer, in his book ‘The Pursuit of God’  describes the veil that separates us from Gods presence.   This veil…

“… is woven of fine threads of self life, the hyphenated sins of the human spirit. They are not something we do, they are something we are, and therein lies both their subtlety and their power.” 

I used to think that Christ came to save me from the power of Satan. Although this is true, I realize that I must now add ‘Self’ to the list of beings that have set themselves up against the knowledge and reign of God in my own life.

Whom have I in heaven but You?
And besides You, I desire nothing on earth.

But as for me, the nearness of God is my good;
I have made the Lord God my refuge,
That I may tell of all Your works.

Psalm 73:25, 27

Are we in danger of making God like ourselves?

mountains stars
For this reason You are great, O Lord God; for there is none like You, and there is no God besides You, according to all that we have heard with our ears.    2 Samuel 7:22

One of the problems of pain is this:  it is painful.

This may be evident, but it is an important truth nonetheless. Pain seems to demand our focus. In spite of other distractions, busyness, or even happy events – pain can persist.

Another characteristic problem of pain is that it distorts our view of reality. As we relive the painful events over and over in our mind, small irritations become much bigger.  And the characters and motives of people associated with that pain or injustice also become distorted.

This distortion of character can include Gods own.

If our pain goes unchecked, or if there is injustice – we think: “If He is all powerful and all loving – then why is He not making my pain go away”. When we try to judge God in view of our pain, we often ascribe to Him character and motives that do not and indeed, cannot exist in a perfect God.

Our conclusions about His character are often the same ones we apply to other people. And here we are in great danger of making God like us. We come to (wrong) conclusions that He thinks and therefore acts like us.

God is punishing me.

God is trying to trick or deceive me.

God doesn’t love me as much as He loves  (___________). 

God

Loves truth.  | Speaks truth. | Is truth.

The first time God speaks about is character is in Exodus 34. He describes Himself as compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in love.

He is more unchangeable than the mountains and stars in the photo above. We trust the stars and mountains to set our calendars, and geographical markings by them, yet we vacillate in our view of an unchanging and perfect God who created them.

What He says about His character is true and it is with this firm foundation we must start. We need stop using our pain as a filter through which we view God. Rather, we must view our pain (and all of life) through the lens of His perfect character. In my experience, God seldom answers the “why” questions that I have.

But He does answer me when I ask for greater revelation of His character!

And in the end, that is what I really need to see rather than my pain.

Recommended Authors

I love to read!  Fiction I find relaxing, but often I read to understand more about God and His ways.

And perhaps like many of you, I am always searching for books that speak to my spirit, that challenge me, provoke me to look at my heart, my actions and my relationships – with God and others.

The other day I was discussing with someone the authors whose books I would probably read sight unseen. I have written them out below with a brief description. Hope you enjoy reading some of them.

Listed in no particular order:

  1. Henri Nouwen – He is a thinker, feeler, and writes with great identification and humanity about our lives with Christ.
  2. Vishal Mangalwadi – an Indian christian philosopher, social activist and reformer.  I have read the two books listed below that give great insight into the world view and cultural practices that create great nations.  a. The Book That Made Your World: How the Bible Created the Soul of Western Civilization (Thomas Nelson, 2011),    b. Truth and Transformation: A Manifesto for Ailing Nations (YWAM, 2009),
  3. Andrew Murray – b. 1828- d. 1917   A South African pastor, teacher and prolific writer. Probably one of my favorite authors. I have a book of his selected quotes that “bite” my spirit each time I read them.
  4. Loren Cunningham – He is the founder of the Youth With A Mission, and arguably one of the greatest missionary statesman of the modern world. His books are practical, to the point and hit truths that are basic but ignored in a lot of the church today.
  5. Charles Spurgeon- a bit harder to read at times, but one can tell that he has lived what he writes about.
  6. CS Lewis – Again – so practical and to the point. He strips away the unnecessary and points me to a clearer and cleaner walk with the Lord.

So – those are a few of my favourite authors. Mostly because they lead me to greater intimacy with God. Always my goal!

How complaining rewires our brain for negativity

I recently came across an article online about complaining. Being the leader of a communication school, and knowing what sort of opinion that God has about complaining, I was interested.

The article was written by Travis Bradberry, co-author of a book called Emotional Intelligence 2.0. 

The article talks about the effect that complaining has on our physical bodies, our brains, and those around us.

Below are a couple of short snippets from the article:

“Repeated complaining rewires your brain to make future complaining more likely. Over time, you find it’s easier to be negative than to be positive, regardless of what’s happening around you. Complaining becomes your default behavior, which changes how people perceive you.”

“When you complain, your body releases the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol shifts you into fight-or-flight mode, directing oxygen, blood and energy away from everything but the systems that are essential to immediate survival….All the extra cortisol released by frequent complaining impairs your immune system and makes you more susceptible to high cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease and obesity. It even makes the brain more vulnerable to strokes.”

The link to the whole article is here    How Complaining Rewires our Brain

Repeatedly in the Bible, we read admonitions against complaining and grumbling. When we do, I think we speak out the unfaithfulness of God. It leads to unbelief and criticalness against the Lord.

The article makes some interesting connections between complaining and our own personal well-being.

I strongly encourage you to read it!

Blessings -Jen

“I repent…” vs. “Please forgive me…”

Coming up in January, I am speaking on one of our Discipleship Training Schools for a week on the topic of Repentance and Forgiveness. I was thinking of this today, and remembering how the whole topic of true repentance was a new one for me when I joined Youth With A Mission.

In my mind at that time:

asking God for forgiveness = repentance

I – perhaps like many other Christians- would ask God to forgive me for the same sins over and over and over. I wondered why I could never see lasting change over recurring sins in my life such as jealousy, or selfishness. I wanted to. I prayed to do so. I tried many things I could think of to make it so. Yet true transformation seemed to elude me.

In hearing and understanding what true repentance is, I learned how to apply that process in my life and begin to see real change in attitudes, beliefs and actions.

This isn’t a comprehensive teaching but a few key points are below:

  1. I learned that the Greek word used for our English word repentance is “metanoia” which means a change in our thinking. Like the U turn sign up above – it means to turn 180°.
  2. God is worthy of my repentance. Of a life lived fully for Him, without sin. I actively take sides against myself as it were, and ask Him to do whatever He needs to do to see this sin dealt with, to see a greater consecration and purity come to my life.
  3. Accountability to others is key to this process. Many times I have heard the statement “It’s a personal sin, so I don’t need to tell anyone”. Yet the Old Testament sacrifices for sin were very public. A person would bring their sin offering to the temple, dragging some sheep or goat through the city. ( If you have ever tried to lead an untrained sheep or goat anywhere – you know this is not a quiet process.) They had to tell the priest what the sacrifice was for and lay their hands on it.  Jesus as well had a very public display  of his dealing with sin. James hit the nail on the head when he encourages us to “…confess our sins to each other…”  James 5:16. This breaks the power of that sin. It no longer has any hold over us.
  4. Christ is the one who helps me with my sin. In my own strength, I do not get very far. I hand over to Him my sin, ask His forgiveness and repent of it. I pray, I am accountable, I do whatever I feel God is asking of me , but also- I depend on the power of Christ to help accomplish what I alone cannot do.
  5. The deeper the repentance, the greater the freedom.

Repentance is a gift. Oh – let me get rid of the sin that so easily entangles and consumes my inner world, to give more room for the dwelling of Christ in my life.

“The greatness of the man’s power is the measure of his surrender.”
― William Booth

 

finding rest

There are so many things that say they offer peace. I often sit on the veranda on our house, especially in the morning, and enjoy the general quiet, spend time with the Lord and drink my coffee. I would say these are peaceful times.  But finding peace when your child is extremely ill, you are heartbroken,or your finances are in trouble – well, that is quite another thing.

In the first instance, what I experience on my veranda is peace as the world gives. This type of peace is often associated with absence – of pressure, of people, of noise.

On the other hand, in times of difficulty and pain, we need to find the peace that Jesus promised was available to us -the presence of His peace, coming from the presence of Himself.

Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.     John 14:27 

Jesus says He will give us peace. I have found that this type of peace that effects my heart and spirit is not something I can create, but comes from being in the presence of Jesus.

I have often found two things stand in the way of peace in my soul:

  1. The fact that I am hanging onto the difficult issue and not surrendering it to God. I have to allow Him to take it out of my hands.
  2. When my view of God’s character is anything less that what He says He is like. I find this leads me into doubt, unbelief, and accusation of God and others.

Looking back at times in my life when pain or circumstances where extremely difficult, I would have to say that the thing that changed me (not the situation), when asking Jesus to come close, and simply walk with me at that moment. I have found He Himself is the peace that He gives.

He and His presence – is our peace.