Citizens of Two Worlds


Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 4 for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. 6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. 7 Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.
Romans 13:1-7

It is quite puzzling at first glance to see the New Testament writings on submission to authority are written by men who have been imprisoned by the same authorities they command we obey. Peter experienced multiple recorded instances of being broken free from prison and Paul has a long endured stint in prison from which he writes some of his letters.

This should not cast suspicion on the topic but grant context for our understanding. Much of the teaching we are given on how to conduct ourselves in scripture offers an asterisk, the asterisk of *unless God’s momentary design deviates from his natural order. God created everything with a natural order which can be seen in all of creation, but there are times he deviates.

This does not make God a liar or deceptive. Some instruction given by God, such as his instruction to flee from sin, is absolute. Other teaching offers us the natural way of things as a gift with an assumption we remain led by the Holy Spirit in all of our endeavors.

It is important we do not throw out our understanding of the way of Jesus because of a few moments when God’s plan required deviation from the norm. It is also important not to be so rigid we toss out a word from the Lord.

There are things such as what the Lord has labeled as sin God will never call us to do. But the orderly worship we are directed to in scripture might look different depending on the season, and there are times women will be called to eldership as Deborah was called to be judge. There is an order the Lord has created and we must know unless it goes against his nature or promise he can deviate from his created order.

If this were not possible there would be no miracles. How could God turn water into wine if he was contained to the order he created? This does not become our template for making wine but it was how it was for a moment when God chose to work in a different way.

So when Peter is thrown in jail for preaching the gospel, his preaching is not out of rebellion, but a moment in time when he is aware of the grace of God to preach the gospel publicly despite the rules set in place by local authorities. It doesn’t make him a hypocrite. He just understands the default is in all things to submit to authority in the land unless the Lord says otherwise.

Deviation from the instruction of God is not something to take lightly. In fact there should be great conviction and discernment of a word from the Lord before exploring acting in opposition to an authority over you. Paul and Peter both found such an exception in preaching the Gospel. Sharing the news of Jesus was not something the church could give up despite what any human authority might say.

You will note even Jesus acknowledges the authority of Pilate in John 19 but points out Pilate only has authority because of his Father in heaven. God is always the highest authority we submit to. Failure to submit to an earthly authority is only permitted as far as God steps in to overrule.

18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Matthew 28:18-20

You will note Jesus claims highest authority in this scripture passage. Making disciples, baptism, and teaching the way of Jesus are instructions superseding any other. No earthly authority can claim higher than Jesus. You will note the New Testament church is persecuted for these acts. It was never rebellion against the government or speaking out against policy which turns believers into prisoners and martyrs.

This is why slaves and free men worshipped side by side. The slaves remained slaves under the authority of their masters while being free in Christ. Jesus didn’t spark the rebellion of slaves, although the Roman Empire did have a long slave rebellion. In fact there is a whole letter included in scripture which accompanied a former slave named Onesimus. Paul, after some discipling, sends Onesimus back to be a slave. In this letter Philemon, the slave owner who is also a follower of Jesus, is encouraged to free him as he is a brother.

The slave conversation is a conversation for another time, but the early church understood they were not a rebel group. They were not a political organization, but the people of God, a people who remain here not to tear down empires but out of the same compassion of Jesus to make disciples of those hostile to them. They were to focus on freedom in Christ and care for each other’s physical needs under the law of the land.

Democracy makes honoring authorities tricky. We are encouraged to speak up in a democracy. The questions we need to ask are: when should we speak, if at all? Does this scripture still hold up in a democracy? Is the government ever the chosen system to see people saved?

My conviction is scripture absolutely still holds up! I believe we should rarely speak up against the government except to warn of the consequences of actions. Like sending Jonah to Nineveh, God has compassion for the lost today and at times they need to be warned on a mass scale. It is not up to us to change the behaviour but to pray for repentance of the people. Forcing changes in policy does nothing to the hearts of the people. That would be the same approach the conquistadors took as they tore through the New World with violence and forced conversion to catholicism. You cannot force conversion of the heart.

13 Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, 14 or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. 15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. 16 Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. 17 Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.
1 Peter 2:13-17

An urge arises in me at times when I consume media content and news to gossip and critique those in government. Democracy has placed accountability in the hands of the voting public, but we must be sure not to dishonour those in power. Disrespect is the way of the world, and we must avoid being led into sin by the masses. We should think long on whether it is good (of God) to speak or dwell on any issues. I have had to repent numerous times of things I have said about certain people in power. Just because something is true, doesn’t mean I need to speak of it.

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. 3 This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
1 Timothy 2:1-4

As an election draws near in Canada it is important to know how to act and vote. First off, pray for those who are currently in power and those who will step in. Pray for wisdom and for the Lord to use those who oppose him for his purposes as he did with Pharaoh in Egypt. Pray out of compassion for policies regarding the vulnerable and oppressed. Pray politicians would turn to the Lord. Ask the Lord if there is any warning needed to be given out of compassion rather than self-interest. Vote your conscience as you spend time with the Lord and in community. Know the Lord your God is the highest authority. Whom shall we fear when we remain in him?

Light and Heavy


Sometimes we struggle with understanding the words of Jesus because we look at them through a narrow lens of a single passage. For three years Jesus sat with his disciples, teaching them. His teaching was not fully understood in a moment, and his disciples showed their lack of understanding time and time again.

Each new concept learned can be like a system update calibrating our entire understanding of the Kingdom of God and the life Jesus offers. The disciples, however, had difficulty understanding Jesus’ teachings at every turn. They couldn’t update their understanding with the new information. Even when Jesus didn’t use parables they struggled comprehending. Part of this is Jesus has not yet endured the cross, descended into hell, been raised from the grave, ascended into heaven and sent the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit leads us into truth, but like the disciples we often get caught up in drawing conclusions from a single teaching instead of viewing it as a part of the whole teaching of scripture. Jesus gives many statements about following him which when considered in isolation can cause us to form false and conflicting views. One of those concepts visited frequently in Matthew’s Gospel is the difficulty of the way of Jesus. Jesus calls the path narrow and hard, but states his burden is easy.

13 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.
– Matthew 7:13-14

There is but one way to enter the kingdom of heaven. It is through Jesus. Many try to fit part of their journey through the wide gate and still follow Jesus but get stuck on the narrow gate because one cannot go through both gates. They do not go to the same place.

Getting rid of everything other than Jesus is how we unburden ourselves before fitting through the narrow gate. Jesus takes our burdens so we can fit through the gate. Without this it is impossible to enter his kingdom.

Many will choose the path where they need not forfeit their life. They define their own path and cling to things the Lord hates. For these, although they wish to follow Jesus, the call is too high, the path too narrow. All they can see is what must be let go of. They do not view it as an exchange but a sacrifice that is altogether burdensome.

When we first confess Jesus is Lord we place our wills in a posture of total release. This is followed up with a constant exchange as the Holy Spirit reveals specific areas of repentance required in a season.

25 At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. 28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 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. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
– Matthew 11:25-30

Jesus follows up his statement of the way to life being hard by saying his yoke is easy, and his burden is light. That is enough to confound the wise. How can a way be both easy and hard? If you take a look at the two passages, one describes coming to Jesus, and the other is a commentary of the two gates. Jesus invites us to exchange what is hard for what is easy. But ease is only found through a constant exchange. Any attempt to go the way of Jesus without him is without the rest he provides.

When we remain in Jesus’ rest, our burdens are let down. It is not a place to occasionally visit but a place to remain. We should not depart from the Lord only to return later. We are to remain in the rest he provides in all we do. We remain in his rest as we walk in obedience to the leading of the Holy Spirit.

The grace of God allows us to remain in his presence even as we are still being sanctified. Remaining in his presence happens by his grace in our obedience and not by our perfection. We live with an easy yoke and a light burden not because the exchange has been finalized but because it is complete according to what is currently required by the Lord. He will initiate new exchanges in every season as we find ourselves continually sanctified.

21 From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. 22 And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” 23 But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”
– Matthew 16:21-23

Peter has formed conclusions about Jesus, about God, that are based on a partial understanding and emotions. He doesn’t want the death of Jesus to be the end result as he still has a view of the Messiah as a conquering King.

This whole interaction is incomprehensible to me. How does Peter show an understanding of Jesus as Messiah in one setting and then challenge his choices in the next? The way Jesus rebukes Peter’s rebuke is fascinating. Peter’s audacity to take Jesus aside shows how thick headed he is. He thinks he understands but still cannot comprehend the way of Jesus.

Peter can’t comprehend how the path of Jesus could be both as conquering king and slaughtered lamb. The heavy cost of the victorious path is not understood. How can this be your end Jesus?

24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done. 28 Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”
– Matthew 16:24-28

The way of Jesus is both light and heavy. The law points out just how heavy the path to life is. It is impossible for man. To go our own way even in the slightest is a burden that overwhelms and takes us off the path to life. You could call it impossibly burdensome to hang on to even a sliver of your own life. But the burden of Jesus is light, his yoke easy.

Jesus never says laying down our lives is easy. It is his cross on the other side that is light. It is where we are at peace and find rest. Peter’s rebuke of Jesus shows he has not yet come out the other side.

In each season of our lives, the Lord continues to sanctify us. The further we move in step with the Lord, the more we realize the freedom which awaits us on the other side of the cross and the more we know his rest is where we need to be. We also know God is not finished working within us. As a result, the mature will quickly turn to the cross, the place of exchange, a familiar place.

“Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me.” – Psalm 51:11

David cries out, cast me not from your presence. Our home will also become the presence of God. In maturity our desire is to embrace the difficulty of approaching the cross, the place of exchange, bringing our sin and carnal nature and exchanging it for his burden and remaining in the presence of God.

Lord let us not avoid the heaviness of bringing our burdens to the cross. Let us not be cast from your presence, but acknowledge the grace of the season to run to the place of rest and freedom you provide.

The God You Want vs The God Who Is


There are many times in our lives we are confronted with who God is in a way that challenges our current belief. It is beyond our capacity to fully comprehend his eternal nature, thus we make conclusions based on limited understanding. This is nothing new, but has been the ongoing struggle of humans since the beginning. We see as a model the New Testament letters written shortly after the launch of a church, correcting faulty teaching and practices.

For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. 5 As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.1 Timothy 4:3-5

The God who is will not always be the God we want. We have a tendency as humans to pursue the things that feed our passion. In some cases this is a good thing, but in others our hearts are not pure. This makes following what we want to be true, nothing but a lie. Our hearts are often deceitful and are subject to ongoing corruption by the world.

Often when we see God do or say something we like, we take that action or phrase and make an interpretation based on our own desires and perceptions. The truth is God never breaks character. Each word and action are always true to his nature and thus must be interpreted not through our desires but through the whole of scripture. An experience of God today, in the gospels or in the Old Testament is the same God with the same nature. Jesus is the one who spoke creation into being and was worshipped by Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

God is real. He is alive. He is not created from our suppositions. Our defining him as we wish does not make him so. He exists outside of our definition of who he is. He is the Alpha (beginning) and Omega(end). There is no end to his existence and no impact from his creations can change who he is. 

The Triune God spoken of in John 1 as before anything else is the same that exists in Genesis in creation. It is the same God who also cast Adam and Eve out of the garden and brought a flood to cover the earth that wiped out most of creation. He is the same God who made a covenant with Abraham and chose his offspring as the first witnesses to his plan of redemption. He is the same God who took on the form of man for our sake, and by his mercy took the punishment for those who turn to him in repentance. He is the same God who is preparing an eternal place for the elect and will return to bring an end to this age and judge the living and the dead. He has not changed from the beginning and will not in the end. His plan was known to him since before creation and we cannot disregard elements of who he is or what he has done. He is the same God from beginning to end and is true to his word.

The God we worship is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He is the God made clear through his taking on flesh and through his death and resurrection. He is further clarified through the sending of the Holy Spirit who leads us into true understanding of all God is.

In Acts 3 Peter explains to the crowd in Solomon’s Portico the power experienced isn’t in themselves or a new God. It is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (the God of their ancestors) who they put to death in ignorance before being raised back to life. This is not a new God or a new nature but the same God who existed before creation, now revealed clearly in the flesh.

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.2 Timothy 3:14-17

To know God better, we are never to adjust teachings endured since the beginning. There are certain things that are to be unshakable in our beliefs. We are not to tear up the foundations laid in the apostles’ teaching but rather allow the Holy Spirit to expose what is false through scripture in community. We are not to hold experience over scripture or isolate teachings that support our passion. Instead, we are to tear down any false view of God we have so that the truth can be built upon a solid foundation.

God’s hatred of sin is an area of contention for many. We have seen since the garden the reaction God has towards sin. God loathes it and punishes accordingly. We saw it with Adam and Eve, in Noah’s age with the flood and we see it in the requirement of the cross. In James 4 we see friendship with the world makes us enemies of God. 

In Acts 21, Paul travels to Jerusalem and is greeted by the new Jewish believers along with a riot of people looking to kill him because of his welcoming of the Gentiles and doing away with many customs. Instead of examining their views, the Jewish believers were so unwilling to abandon some false teaching they turned to anger and violence. This is not abnormal in the history of the church.

Wars have been fought between Christians over false beliefs. My own Anabaptist history has much persecution for beliefs. The early Anabaptists faced drowning for views of scripture (like full-immersion baptism) seen as heresy by Catholics and Lutherans alike. As the Anabaptists read the bible in their own language they discovered false practices and teaching and looked to correct them for which some were met with death.

Interestingly, for the Anabaptists it was an era of returning to early traditions and understanding the way of Jesus, but the false beliefs of the age (inside and out of the church) were so embedded in believers this movement was met with hostility and pride. We should be very careful when approaching the teaching and wisdom of the present age, always holding it up to our plumbline (the word of God).

No one wants to be caught on the side of false teaching like those who wanted to kill Paul or the other faithful throughout history. The solution seems to be to allow the truth of scripture to convict and correct our understanding. We should not shift like the winds with every teaching but stand firm on the word of God. When the word of God is not comfortable or what God does is not compatible with our understanding, we must confess we are wrong about who God is and what he commands us to do.

I would not want to be like the Jews who didn’t recognize their own God and cried out for his death. To avoid this we must embrace truth even though it requires suffering or difficulty. The radical teaching of Jesus will forever be radical. His words are accompanied by a promise of suffering. The world at large will never accept him, and a choice to be friends with this world is a choice to be an enemy of God (James 4:4). On which side will you fall?

“God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” – James 4:6

Humility is required to embrace correction. Pride will lead us down the path of heresy and keep us there. Pride doesn’t just hinder us in the presence of others, but also alone in the presence of God. Pride impedes us admitting error and wrongdoing which keeps us from the grace of God. As we approach all teaching we must have a desire to have exposed what is wrong both in our current view and in what is newly introduced.

So humble yourself before God. Ask him to expose where you have worshipped a false God. Spend time in the word with others asking God to build up a right view of who he is and what he has called you to. When Jesus makes a command, follow it. When you need the correction of a letter in the New Testament, take it. And when the God of Abraham (Old Testament) makes no sense to you, seek to know him as the one true God.

Grace is inaccessible if we remain proud. There is no grace for willful ignorance to the truth or disobedience to his commands. God’s grace leads us through correction to holiness. If that is not the direction we are headed, we will not know his grace. Through humility, however, his grace will forever bring us from glory to glory until we reach our eternal home with Christ.

Hide not from the truth of who God is. We must not create for ourselves false gods reflecting what we desire. That is not God.  There is only one God who is, was and always will be. He is the I AM and no created thing can alter the Uncreated One.

Peace I Leave With You


Do you know what you were made for? The answer to this question is one which many men and women search their whole lives to find. This question comes from a place of unrest. The conflict within a person causes them to seek meaning, often from many different sources.

Finding your purpose through relationships, activities, work and even helping others will not lead you to the peace you seek. For a while one may be satisfied feeling the high in the newness of something, but they will find themselves again searching for meaning. Most people have numerous crisis points as they discover themselves or assess their lives, often in their teens, midlife or even retirement.

A life of crisis was never in our design. It is a result of having no peace, or Shalom. Shalom is wholeness. It is the state of something being aligned, harmonious, unbroken. It is the way we were created and what our souls long for. Without this peace, we will forever have chaos within and create chaos around us.

We translate the word Shalom (Hebrew) and Eirene (Greek) to peace, but there is such depth to the word shalom that can be missed in translation. The word peace in English has a fairly narrow focus. When first created or translated from Anglo-French in the twelfth century, the word peace was used to mean a freedom from civil disorder and spoke to a unified nation. It evolved to include “friendly relations between people” over the next hundred or so years. In all these cases it spoke to a relationship between separate entities.

The Greek or Hebrew word has more depth to it. It speaks to something being as it was made to be, whole, in order, prosperous. As believers, we know sin has impacted every created thing and thus peace is only made possible through Christ. Nothing, not even creation itself was untainted by the fall. So nothing can be at peace without the blood of Christ.

Peace is accomplished from the finished work of the cross. The restorative work of the cross brings us to a place of peace. That is why the peace of Jesus is complete whereas it fails from any other source.

Peace is the result of living as we were created to. We were created to live for Jesus. In all we do, we are to do it with our eyes fixed on Jesus. We do all things with and for Christ. Peace only exists when that focus is unbroken, when each action is “what we see the Father doing”.

16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
Colossians 1:16-20

One could say the Gospel summed up in one word is peace. The message we bring to the world is that of peace. Our message is that through repentance there awaits restoration in Jesus to the way you were made. You can find peace through calling Jesus Lord. By placing your hope and trust only in Jesus, you can find rightness with God and be made fully whole.

True Shalom is not primarily about circumstances although that is included. It is about an alignment of creation with its natural state. Shalom was created by and for Jesus. Since the fall of man, the concept of peace has always been accompanied by hope, hope in the one that would restore what was corrupted.

Jesus does not just bring peace in circumstances, but rather a holistic peace that remains beyond the experience. He in fact is our peace. We were created by and for him so our wholeness is dependent upon him being our focus. That is true for all. The inner chaos of a life not centered on Jesus will soon bubble over to the outside. Likewise, the peace Jesus gives will in turn bubble over to the world around.

26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.
John 14:26-27

This hope for peace was realized in the person of Jesus who in turn sent the Holy Spirit to bring us a peace within that cannot be touched by the outside world. Jesus was and is the answer for a world without peace. He is the one that can restore us to the way we were made for he is the word that spoke us into being. The word that became flesh to dwell among us is the one that spoke creation into being. (John 1) The Holy Spirit in turn reveals Jesus and makes known his instruction to us producing the fruit of peace in our continued obedience.

If we try and pursue peace apart from aligning under the Lordship of Christ, it is not peace we pursue. Pursuing an end to a conflict, for example, is not the same as pursuing the biblical concept of peace. We must also understand the world’s pursuit of peace without Jesus is a fool’s errand. There can be ceasefires for a time and an end to specific external conflict but the chaos can only be stilled through the blood of Christ.

We have used the word peace in such a narrow capacity that we haven’t allowed the true fruit to ripen. This word with such depth of meaning, which for so long has been used as a blessing in coming and going, has lost its meaning.

We as believers can and should seek an end to world conflicts, but always alongside the message of the peace of Christ. We must acknowledge that our pursuits apart from Christ are pure vanity. We could stop wars and rescue millions of slaves but without Jesus they will eternally be without peace. This doesn’t mean we stop doing the work of the kingdom, but we must know there is no peace apart from the blood of Christ and repentance of sin.

We were made by Jesus and for him. He didn’t stop there, however. Knowing our peace would be lost to sin, he took the form of his creation and through his blood spilled on the cross welcomed us back to peace and a state of living for him. Therefore, let us stop searching for peace apart from Christ and discover it is only through the Lordship of Christ that peace is found.

How beautiful upon the mountains
are the feet of him who brings good news,
who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness,
who publishes salvation,
who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”
Isaiah 52:7

Too Slow to Change


I have been thinking a lot about what healthy change looks like. There are many examples in scripture of an invitation to repentance and a response from either an individual or group. My question is: Is it ok if we delay? Are we allowed to take our time and deliberate, sustaining the old way of life for a time? Change doesn’t happen overnight, right?

The story of Jonah going to the Ninevites has always seemed humorous to me. God sends a prophet who rebels and doesn’t want to go. And when he finally does, his expectation is that the people will not repent and God will bring wrath upon them. He has little expectation of the ability of a sinful nation to respond quickly to God, especially in the face of his own rebellion.

But the response of Nineveh is actually the response the Lord is looking for. They turn from their wicked ways when God shows up and reveals the error of their ways. They don’t delay, but right away change their behaviour and cry out to God. What if they did delay? I think Jonah would have gotten his wish. He would have seen a city destroyed in the book of Jonah.

“if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”
2 Chronicles 7:14

What happens when we are faced with our lifestyle contradicting the way of Jesus? What happens when the bible contradicts our beliefs and actions?

I have a tendency to be stubborn. You might at times call me bullheaded. I have a desire to dig in and fight when faced with something contrary to my beliefs or viewpoint. As I have matured, I have become quicker to repent, but at times I stand in my own way when it comes to being transformed into the image of Jesus. This stubbornness trait has a positive attribute alongside it, but for the sake of this article let’s look at the danger.

“27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.””
John 20:27-29

Thomas, known to many as the “doubting Thomas” is known for his inability to trust solely in the words of Jesus. He needed visual proof in the risen saviour. I have heard people’s thoughts on the positives and negatives of this but I believe to always approach new revelation with skepticism is a sad reality. I remember someone teaching me once to always receive the revelation from God fully in faith, and then to test everything. This approach doesn’t start in opposition, but a desire to be in favor of that new reality. Thomas started with doubt and demanded proof to win him over. We see a patient Jesus in this scenario but Thomas is not praised for demanding proof.

The Rich young ruler gives us an example of a response of a man who saw the cost of change as too great. The change necessary to follow Jesus seemed impossible for him, so not only did he not quickly change, he decided to change was altogether too much. We have no insight into his future. He might have at some point bought in and given up everything for the kingdom of God. But again, that is not the point of the story. When Jesus told him to give up his possessions, that was the time to say yes.

A heart of repentance, or a heart after God, doesn’t put off the yes when he calls. A heart of repentance does not wait to bury our parents, or until we get that promotion. There is no ideal future for the yes, just the timing he has chosen. We have some stories of unrepentant people but so many other examples of individuals quick to change in scripture.

I love the story of King Josiah in 2 Kings 22. As the temple is being restored his people stumble upon the laws God has given the people of Israel. These laws have been disregarded for generations and the people of Israel are living in rebellion. When King Josiah discovers this, he cries out to God and changes his ways. He doesn’t stay on the same path or think about how difficult it would be to shift the culture back to what it once was.

“Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: Regarding the words that you have heard, 19 because your heart was penitent, and you humbled yourself before the Lord, when you heard how I spoke against this place and against its inhabitants, that they should become a desolation and a curse, and you have torn your clothes and wept before me, I also have heard you, declares the Lord. 20 Therefore, behold, I will gather you to your fathers, and you shall be gathered to your grave in peace, and your eyes shall not see all the disaster that I will bring upon this place.’”
2 Kings 22:18-20

As the people of God, we are to be like King Josiah, eager to embrace the plan of God. When that requires change, we embrace it. Change can be for the better or worse, but when it is in obedience to God, it is always good.

Let us not be slow to change. Let us be a people who hang on the very words of God, being quick to jump to his call. I don’t want to miss out on the blessing God has in store, and I don’t want his voice to fall silent in my listening. So for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

Life through Repentance


If you haven’t yet read my previous blog, I would encourage you to read it alongside this one. It gives a glimpse into repentance as a key part of being a person after God’s own heart.

The act of repentance is pivotal to the Christian walk. We cannot follow Jesus apart from repentance. It is this act that moves us into who we are as a new creation in Christ. We must leave behind our old ways, which separated us from God, and turn to righteous living with Christ. It is a big part of the life of a disciple. We are to be continually stepping into a more complete life with Christ.  

I am so thankful for those who have walked me through the process of repentance. Throughout my life I knew it was important, but it wasn’t until the process was broken down that I really found life through it. For so long I would say sorry and hope to not continue sinning, but there was so much more to discover.

It took realizing that in repentance Jesus takes away the entire penalty of sin and invites us into a life that is completely free. The weight and punishment of sin, the shame, is no longer there on the other side of repentance. The cross acts like a filter, removing all that is tainted by the sin we are repenting of. There is nothing left on us on the other side of the cross.

Repentance is the act of turning away from what separates us from God and turning towards him. It hinges on the cross, where the penalty of our sin is nailed with Jesus. On the cross he took the punishment, the weight of our sin. Repentance is the transaction of that, where we choose to hand our sin over and step into resurrection life with Jesus.

This process is not just confession, however. Confession is an outward acknowledgment of the conviction of the Holy Spirit. It is key but not the entirety. “Confess your sins one to another so you may be healed.” James 5:16

I spent a year interning at a church in Fresno California. They had an incredible process for walking through repentance using 6 R’s. I hope this process is as impactful in your life as it has been in mine. May it bring freedom to many new areas of your life.

The first R is: Recognize the nature of God in light of your sin. We need to understand that what we are repenting of is actually in opposition to the nature of God. We are looking to understand what God is inviting us into. Our new life reflects his nature. How does our sin oppose the nature of God?

Repent Of the sin. At this stage we need to remember and repent of how we have sinned. This can take a while. Take time to list the actions of sin. There could be many. Allow God to remind you of them, and say, “God, I repent of these actions.” Repent of the heart behind them. Ask God to reveal the biblical name for the sin (1 Corinthians 6:9-10 and Galatians 5:19-21 are helpful here).

Renounce the lies of the enemy. What is causing you to live in sin? What are you believing that is keeping you in this life opposed to Christ? It is important to take time to ask God. What am I believing that is causing me to act this way? When did this start in my life?” For each lie exposed, renounce it and speak over yourself the biblical truth in contrast.

Receive the forgiveness that is freely offered. Forgiveness does not need to be earned, but rather received. This is an important step though. The ploy of the enemy is to make us feel as though we still need to earn forgiveness and that steals the power of the cross away from us. I love to look at Psalm 103:7-12 at this stage. Remember the cross completely satisfies the penalty of our sin when we hand it over.

Release the Holy Spirit to do his work in your life. As the house is cleaned out, an empty house leaves room for the old to return. Releasing the Holy Spirit to do his work fills that place. Repentance is a turning away from what separates us and turns us to life in the Spirit. This invites new life to take place.

Rejoice in your freedom! Rejoice for who God is! Rejoice in your new life! Rejoice with others too! Testimony is so important. It leaves no room for the enemy to steal the freedom we are now walking in. It builds our faith and our joy while inviting others into the same freedom!

The Heart of David


We know from 1 Samuel 13 David is a man after God’s own heart. In light of Saul’s failures, God chose David to be the prince to succeed the throne.

“But now your kingdom shall not continue. The Lord has sought out a man after his own heart, and the Lord has commanded him to be prince over his people, because you have not kept what the Lord commanded you.”
1 Samuel 13:14

Why David? What makes him so special. There are a lot of things about David that make him the hero of the stories. There are a lot of characteristics I would like to model my life after, but the one that sticks out to me most is how he longs for the presence of God. He is horrified at the thought of being cast from the presence of God.

David is not perfect. He sins. He gives into sexual temptation, and at times seems to have a thirst for blood and violence. These are not traits I want to imitate.

2 Samuel 12 (please take a moment to read this story) is the story where Nathan the prophet is sent to David to reveal God’s heart concerning his actions with Bathsheba. David’s response is that of heartbreak over being out of the Lord’s favor. He turns to repentance and sorrow over the repercussions. On the other side, David no longer holds shame or sorrow.

David’s heart is to dwell in the presence of the Lord. This is not just a future hope. He feels the weight of separation from God through sin and can’t stand the thought of living at odds with God. This is what brings him to repentance so quickly. He doesn’t want to deny what he has done or remain hidden with the cost of the favor of God.

For God it seems a man after his own heart is not a perfect man, but a man who runs to repentance and falls on the grace of God to remain in his presence. It is one who doesn’t minimize his sin, but cries out to God for freedom.

I think as believers, we need to imitate this character trait. When we are shown to not measure up, when we are exposed, do we try and minimize exposure and avoid humiliation? Do we try and hide our shameful acts, or do we cry out to God in repentance, owning our failure and falling on the grace of God?

The latter is what the Lord wants. It is what the heart of passionate obedience looks like. In David’s psalms, there tends to be a side to David where he passionately laments in his trials. When he feels the Lord is not present, he is heartbroken. I don’t think David is being melodramatic or spiritually immature. He doesn’t attempt to just brave through his circumstances. He has come to know he doesn’t want to move forward unless the Lord is with him.

The psalms are an interesting view into David. David is calm and collected in many situations. But when someone is sinning against the Lord, or there is injustice, David gets outraged. He doesn’t condone sin. It is as though David can’t even expose himself to alienating himself from God by ignoring the sin around him.

In all reality David was an enemy to Saul (the king) but when a man comes to inform David of his death and his role in taking the life of the king, David has him put to death. To act outside of justice is inconceivable to David, in his own life and the lives of those under his care.

David’s heart longs for the presence and person of God. His heart yearns for what is true and just. It leads him to repentance. It leads him towards holiness and breaks at the awareness of sin.

I want to be a man after God’s own heart like David. I want, like David, to be quick to repent, quick to fall on the grace of God instead of hiding away. I want to long for the presence of God and be broken over the thought of his presence being withheld. May you in turn experience a David-like heart as you read this.

Set Apart in the Mess


I love the gospel narrative of the life of Jesus. These stories contain quite a collection of people besides Jesus. Some are sinful, ostracized, and uneducated . In other stories we see battle commanders, kings, religious leaders, and successful businessmen. Jesus attends to the needs of the broken and responds to the questions of the elite. He does not maintain his image by who he spends time with but by his consistent words, actions and heart.

As followers of Jesus, we have been consecrated (set apart as sacred) to God. We have been chosen as a holy priesthood, set apart for his purposes. The life of Jesus is our model for how to do that in this world.

We see Jesus does not shy away from interactions with prostitutes, tax collectors, adulterers, terminally ill, beggars or partiers. He doesn’t spend time with them in order to condemn them, but to offer them hope. Jesus is the high priest we model our being “set apart” after. We see from his example we are not called to protect our image or restrict who we spend time with. In fact, this priestly call demands we interact with those who are in need of hope.

Jesus intentionally heads into the areas that are most broken because, as he puts it, “I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:32) Jesus is the hope of the world, a beacon of Hope for the hopeless. Those who recognize their hopeless state cling to Jesus and cry out in repentance.

We are image bearers of Jesus, consecrated for this purpose. When we display Jesus in the dark, those searching for hope come running to the light.

So, if being set apart is not about physically separating ourselves, what does it mean?

37 While Jesus was speaking, a Pharisee asked him to dine with him, so he went in and reclined at table. 38 The Pharisee was astonished to see that he did not first wash before dinner. 39 And the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. 40 You fools! Did not he who made the outside make the inside also? 41 But give as alms those things that are within, and behold, everything is clean for you.
Luke 11:37-41

Our ability to offer the hope of Jesus requires our pursuit of holiness. We can not be set apart unless we are clean on the inside. Sin, by definition, is anything that separates us from God. If we in any way stand in opposition to God, we are in need of repentance. We need to confess our sin, hand it over to Jesus, and turn to live in line with the heart of God. Our being set apart is reliant on the grace of God and our willingness to repent.

Only those who know hope can display the hope available to those looking. Only those who know the goodness of God can display it. Only those who know his mercy and love can testify to the love of Christ. Sin is evidence we do not know these things. God is on display when we come to know God as our source, when the fruits of the spirit are alive in us instead of the temporary and harmful fix of sin. The Holy Spirit produces fruit within us that is attractive to those around us. Sin, however, cuts us off from this fruit and destroys the fruit in our lives. When we live life in step with God, the Holy Spirit produces love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. We do not produce this.

5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming. 7 In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. 8 But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.
Colossians 3:5-10

Being set apart means that we are in pursuit of holiness. We cannot allow sin a place in our lives. There is grace in this process as we repent and turn to holiness. This grace allows us to repent and escape a life of sin. There is no excuse to go back to the old way of living.

Being set apart is an incredible privilege! Think about it. We have been chosen by God, highlighted as his own. We are a royal priesthood, sons and daughters of the king. We have been invited to know the richness of this. God freely offers us the things that the world is chasing after. The pursuits in this world, like wealth and success, are attempts to gain that which the Holy Spirit produces within us. Our being set apart is freedom and not slavery. It is freedom from chasing what only God provides. We get to receive freely from God and join him in what he is doing. Sometimes we hear words like holiness, and think about what we give up. What we give up are the faulty attempts at pursuing what only God can give.

Being set apart is an incredible gift, but must be received. We must put to death the sinful pursuits. One cannot be set apart and still chase after sin. They are mutually exclusive. God shows grace in the process, but we cannot take sin lightly. It keeps us and others from encountering the fullness of God. We are to be clean houses of God in a mess of a world.