Fatherhood

A familiar and beloved hymn in my life has been BE THOU MY VISION. It plays in my head and in my heart often. The second verse goes like this –

Be Thou my Wisdom and Thou my true Word

I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord;

Thou my great Father, I Thy true son;

Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.

“Father” is one of the great attributes of God. As the Creator, our Eternal Father is the sustainer and provider of all that He has made. However, He is only Father to believers in His Son Jesus Christ, whereby they become His legitimate children. Fatherhood implies a loving and close relationship with children, which is not often the case with earthly fathers flawed by sin (to various degrees of intensity). Still, despite the far-reaching consequences of sin, God remains a good, wise, righteous and loving Father.

One of my favorite fathers is pictured in this blogpost (one of my sons-in-law). The picture reminds me of the joy that a new father experiences when holding his child close to his heart. When hope has been fulfilled. When the future is in front. When the good imprint of the father is on the child. When a godly father begins to lay down truth about God so that his child can come to know and love their Father God and experience the reality of “Be Thou My Vision.”

Psalm 78:4,6-8 says, “We will not hide them [God’s Word] from their descendants; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, His power, and the wonders He has done…So the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children. Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget His deeds but would keep His commands. They would not be like their ancestors– a stubborn and rebellious generation, whose hearts were not loyal to God, whose spirits were not faithful to Him.” He is a Perfect Father for His imperfect children – those who trust in Him. Passing on the heritage of faith is the most important thing an earthly father can do.

If you’ve ever been in counseling, you have heard the phrase “family of origin.” Family-of-origin issues plague families just as they did in Adam’s family, in Noah’s family, and Abraham’s family. Generational sin is passed down in a cycle that cannot be broken apart from God’s grace. God, through the redemptive work of His Son Jesus Christ, is the only One who can break the cycle of legacy sin. Despite the consequences of sin, God remains a good, wise, and loving Father. He is a Perfect Father, patient and compassionate, loving and trustworthy.

Genesis 12:1-2 says, “The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.” God was faithful to His covenant even when Abraham messed up. Yet, even in disobedience, Abraham never lost his God-vision.

Abraham has been called the “father of many nations.” But first, he was a legitimate child of Father God. God was Abraham’s Vision. The vision came in “the midst of common toil” when Abram received God’s call when he lived in Ur with his father Terah who served other gods and worshipped the sun and moon. Ur was a wealthy port city characterized by power and idolatry, not a great environment in which to grow up. Yet, even when Abraham strayed, he never lost his God-vision.

By God’s grace, I have an amazing 89-year-old father, so it’s never been hard for me to draw parallels between him and my Heavenly Father. But, I realize it is difficult for children who have had overbearing demanding, unloving, or abusive fathers to then trust in our Heavenly Father. “Chip off the old block” may be a cliche, but earthly fathers powerfully imprint their nature and nurture on their children. It may be uncanny, but it’s true. The cycle continues without God’s cycle-breaking intervention.

God called Abram out of his family background stigma, and He still does that today. The 2nd verse of “Be Thou My Vision” indicates a close family relationship that can be described by the word “oneness” – between believing child and Heavenly Father. As God speaks to us personally in His Word and we speak to Him in prayer, we become a close knit family – Father and child, the way it is meant to be. Spiritual oneness can be experienced through the sin-cycle-breaking power of God’s Holy Spirit.

John 5:19-21 says, “Jesus gave them this answer: ‘Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, and he will show him even greater works than these, so that you will be amazed. For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it.”

Father God, be Thou our vision always.

Famine of Truth

Photo Credit – Kim Clayton Lance

John 4:10 says, “Jesus answered her, ‘If you knew the gift of God and Who it is that asks you for a drink you would have asked Him and He would have given you living water.’ ” John 7:38 says, “Whoever believes in Me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”

Famines test our ability to trust God. Among other biblical examples, Abram and Sarai went to Egypt to evade a famine, but found that following natural plans apart from God’s plans ended in disaster (Genesis 12). A scarcity of knowing what God says leaves us vulnerable and depleted of truth. What “scripture has said” is dangerous to be forgotten. While physical hunger or thirst pains can make us desperate, spiritual hunger and thirst pose a bigger threat to our eternal survival.

Following a 2020 spring season of fear and isolation in the discovery mode of the Covid pandemic, a new and more regular way of doing things emerged. In the earliest days, negotiating toilet paper shortages, grocery deliveries, mask wearing, and a general sense of high caution without much knowledge was the new normal. Slow down from busyness was both a gift and a curse. It depended on how that time got spent…

Life felt a little prison-like. Lack of human contact has taken a heavy toll on families, friends, and church communities. As months have rolled by, we found new routes for getting things done – Amazon orders, senior hours at stores, Zoom meetings, outdoor activities, church online, etc. We’ve navigated different tolerance levels for pandemic protocols, CDC guidelines, and government rhetoric. We have gone to lengths to get our families together, trying to satisfy our sensibilities of what is safe.

But, what happened to our hearts and heads? Another new normal was the default of filling more time and space with whatever did not satisfy or quench. Absorbing America in an election year (2020), in the Post Christian/ Post Truth era, revealed a devastating moral bankruptcy. How did this occur? “We The People” have been simply starving to death. We are dangerously prone to total biblical illiteracy, rejection of the authority of God’s Word, rejection of God.

We are indeed desperate and may not even detect how our truth famine is slowly killing us. Deep down, our heads and hearts crave a feast of God’s Truth. What is it that really keeps us safe? Morally and spiritually? Pay attention to the warnings…

2 Timothy 4:3-5 says, “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardships, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.”

Regain your sensibilities and keep your head by feeding on God’s Word. Don’t be easily deceived, easily lie-buying. Easily not searching out matters. Easily letting media rule the day. Easily censoring right things in exchange for wrong things. And easily letting errors and falsehoods creep into every thought of the human heart. Easily forgetting history. Forgetting God’s story, God’s Word.

A famine of truth is best satisfied with a feast of God’s Truth… Jeremiah 2:13 says, “My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken Me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.” God’s Word is the only thing that holds spiritual food and water for us and keeps us from dying of spiritual hunger and thirst. If we neglect it, we will be digging a cistern full of cracks. We will be increasingly desperate, embracing every form of deception.

Here is the simple truth repeated. John 4:10 says, “Jesus answered her, ‘If you knew the gift of God and Who it is that asks you for a drink you would have asked Him and He would have given you living water.’ ” John 7:38 says, “Whoever believes in Me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” Amen.

Moon Beam Wonder

Psalm 19:1 says, ” The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands.”

On Friday, October 2nd, 2020, the eastern night sky held in tandem three visual treats for me and my husband: a day late Harvest Moon, the red planet Mars, and the Northup Grumman’s Antares rocket launched from Wallops Island. We live in a heavily wooded area yet miraculously saw all three sights at the same time from our front yard – an unusually tiny viewshed. Serendipity!

My husband possesses a passionate sense of wonder, especially about heavenly bodies. My excitement for such sights pales by comparison. I guess I let the cares of the world rob my sense of wonder way too often. But, what a shame! When I saw these three wonders on that night, I couldn’t help but think about the beauty and spectacle of what I was able to see that night with the naked eye!

Such occasions always move my focus to Creator God and the wonder of His Creation. I recount that the same things that rob us of our sense of wonder when we look at God’s Creation are the same things that rob us when we consider the grace of God in Jesus Christ. We forget the beauty, the spectacle, the amazement of so great a salvation. So great a grace and mercy!

I pray that this “sky high” event reminds me to consider an even greater passion. Mark 9:15 says, “As soon as all the people saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with wonder and ran to greet Him.” To consider the splendor of God’s Creation, and to want to know my Abba Father better. To consider the way God cares for His Creation, and to want to appreciate it more. To consider the provision God made for my eternal life, and to seek Jesus Christ with all of my heart.

Romans 1:20 says, “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – His eternal power and divine nature — have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” That orange moon! That red planet! That rocket launch! The wonder of it all. May we never forget the One Who Created it all and saw that “it was good!”

Clearing the Air

Mark 4:37-41 says, “A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, ‘Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?’ He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Quiet! Be still!’ Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, ‘Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?’ They were terrified and asked each other, ‘Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!’ “

Several days ago, it was a temperate, low-humidity September day, I wondered why I didn’t need my sunglasses. Because the sun was definitely shining… (a puzzle). I later learned that the wildfire smoke from California had drifted eastward so much so that it smudged up the skies, reduced the brilliance of the sun, and added unusual coloration to our sunsets.

John Bacon, in a USA Today article, has recently reported that the West Coast fires have burned an area larger than the state of Connecticut. Sobering. Hard to imagine! But, this puts things into perspective.

Add this: drifting California smoke was high enough not to bother East Coast asthma-sufferers, but low enough to produce a cloudlike cover, subduing normal sunshine. Covid has been like those wildfires. A challenge the size of Connecticut! A subduer of normal sunshine! A squall that won’t die down. We mask-wearers long for breaths of clean, unobstructed air. Will it all clear someday?

On this same beautiful September day (2020), I sat around a table on a colonial town street, having a brown bag dinner with a group of lady friends. It was inspiring to see each other without the use of Zoom. In our new-normalizing, we enjoyed reflecting on the silver linings of Covid (yes there are some). I’d describe these silver linings as opportunities to do things differently. Outdoor dining has turned out to be a real treat. Using our patios and screen porches more at home is another. Not so much gas guzzling these days. Not many road trips. More walks and bike rides. Attention to things long forgotten due to busyness. Appreciating things previously taken for granted.

There is One true silver lining – the One who causes the wind and waves to obey Him. We need to clear the air…We need to remind ourselves of this timeless truth:

Matthew 6:26-30 says, “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will He not much more clothe you — you of little faith?”

Take off the masks on your heart and mind. Breath in the clean air of God’s Truth. Nothing happens apart from His control. The winds obey Him. Nothing is suffered that He doesn’t sift. The waves obey Him. His plans and purposes cannot be thwarted. Have faith. Clear the air. See the silver linings.

Contraconditional

What kind of love is this? Romans 8:38-39 says, “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (NKJV)

For a long time I have equated unconditional love with “agape” love, the Greco-Christian term meaning “the highest form of love, charity.” But, that God might care about me too much to love me just unconditionally is a new thought. I recently discovered in the writings of Dr. David Powlison a more complete concept – “contraconditional” love, closer to “high” agape.

Whereas unconditional love sends a message of detachment with no direct personal involvement, contraconditional love is a love that personally suffered for me, that went to the Cross for me, that conquered the jaws of sin and death for me. It rises much higher. Whereas unconditional love is said to be tolerant and accepting no matter what, contraconditional love is merciful and won’t ignore the cries of my heart for much more than toleration and acceptance.

God’s love is far more than a vehicle for “feeling good about myself” or being unchallenged in any way by manipulations, demands or judgments that are characteristic of conditional love. The contraconditional love of God goes way beyond taking me just as I am, and moves to making me new.

Turns out, there IS a condition – the condition of dependence upon what Jesus alone accomplished by God’s initiative, and not on what the recipients of God’s great love accomplished for themselves. The loving-kindness of God is the gift of unearned grace that is offered through the work of Jesus coming into the world to save sinners. This love is not a blanket approval of sinners like me. Instead, it is a passionate act of sacrificial love offered freely to those who would receive the gift in faith.

In educational circles, we often hear much about the needs of learners to possess self-esteem and unconditional positive regard. But, God’s contraconditional love won’t leave you alone with that flat, lifeless idea – being simply affirmed or indulged. God is very patient. His love seeks to change you, renew you, restore you, rebuild you. He seeks to lead you to repentance. God’s heart’s desire is to reconcile you to Himself through a Savior. God intends the end result to be transforming you into the image of Jesus so that you can share that same contraconditional love of God with others.

Acts 20:32 says, “So now, brethren, I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.” (NJKV)

What kind of love is contraconditional? John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

I don’t want acceptance. I want an inheritance.

Be Affected

Photo credit: The New York Public Digital Collection (EM2578), Jonathan Edwards engraving, 18th century.

Here’s something to think about. It might seem odd, but truly outstanding coming from Jonathan Edwards:

“I am bold in saying this, but I believe that no one is ever changed, either by doctrine, by hearing the word, or by the preaching and teaching of another, unless the affections are moved by these things. No one ever seeks salvation, no one ever cries for wisdom, no one ever wrestles with God, no one ever kneels in prayer or flees from sin, with a heart that remains unaffected. In a word, there is never any great achievement by the things of religion without a heart deeply affected by those things. The reason is this: they are not affected with what they hear. There are many who hear about the power, the holiness, and the wisdom of God; about Christ and the great things that He has done for them and His gracious invitation to them; and yet they remain exactly as they are in life and in practice.”

This Jonathan Edwards quote I heard from Matt Chandler (Lead Pastor/The Village Church/Texas) after a frustrating morning of trying to live stream my own church’s service. YouTube kicked me off at 5 minutes and 31 seconds. The audio cut off early into the sermon. I tried to access the live stream on my phone rather than my laptop… Needless to say, I was ready to call it quits until I heard this quote and its related sermon.

Chandler’s sermon was a call to “know (in your gut) what you know (in your head).” Why is this so difficult for Westerners? One reason is because we think knowing more will automatically change our lives. But, this is not so. Ephesians 3:17-19 is part of a prayer of Paul for believers. It goes like this (NKJV): “(I Paul, pray) that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height – to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”

One of my favorite pastors, Dick Woodward (who is now with the Lord), said that the best book of the Bible to memorize is Ephesians. This is probably because he knew that Ephesians draws attention to spiritual resources that are available to us, that sometimes get overlooked and under-experienced. The things we need to know (in our gut) after we know them (in our head). The things that make us wrestle with and cry out to God. The things that disrupt our hearts away from clinging to unchanged life and practice.

We need to be affected by not just the Truth, but a genuine relationship with the Person of the Truth – Jesus Christ. It is the only way we change. We sail in wooden ships, but Jesus still walks on the water and stills the storms. We need to experience this. Sometimes great opportunity for heart change lies within the context of great struggles. Like a pandemic. Like social turbulence. Like an election year. Like personal safety being in shorter and shorter supply. What better time to experience the width, the length, the depth, and the height of Christ’s love which passes knowledge?

Ezekiel 36:26 says, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” Only then will I experience 2 Corinthians 3:2-3: “You are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read by all men; clearly you are an epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart.”

Being affected will happen when I will truly “know what I know.” From head level to heart level. I will be affected when I experience the Truth I have heard and read. I will be affected when the divine ink on my heart writes a genuine knowing. Being affected by the love of Christ which passes knowledge makes me seek God diligently, cry out louder in prayer, flee from sin, and allow the Holy Spirit to crush my heart of stone so it becomes flesh.

Be bold. Don’t let your heart be unaffected.

Tracing a Line From Woke

The most impossible-seeming thing we do on planet earth is to come face to face with our sin problem, requiring the grace of the Holy Spirit. Coming to grips with the Truth of our fallenness since Creation’s story means facing the BIGGEST LIES ever told – that a Holy God doesn’t exist, that we are our own gods, that we don’t need a Savior…

I John 3:11-15 says, “For this is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another. Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother’s were righteous. Do not be surprised, my brothers and sisters, if the world hates you. We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him.”

The conviction of the Holy Spirit is what exposes what’s rotten in my heart. The inability to repent simply resides in humans on planet earth. More specifically, I am unable to live a life of repentance apart from Christ. I confess my need of a Savior whenever I measure my perverted motives against God’s declarations about my inborn nature, my pride, my fear of man, my lack of goodness, my intent to destroy things. These inevitably line up.

Yes, injustice greatly bothers me. Especially my own contribution to it. And, we each contribute. We all contribute to the shadows of consuming hatred and divisions between peoples. Racial injustice threads back to Creation where you find that hate and murder are born into the heart of brothers. Maybe we have forgotten how Cain treacherously killed his brother Abel, “brother” being the operative word.

Just trace it. Our inborn slavery to sin is no less monumental that the notorious outworking of sin that brought slaves to America or that caused the Holocaust. Being “woke” to injustice, particularly racism, could be a constructive thing if it led us to the foot of the Cross in repentance. It would then lead us to a genuine love for Jesus Christ and for others.

In an article by Elijah C. Watson (okayplayer.com), I discovered that author William Melvin Kelley of Harlem coined the term “woke” in a 1962 New York Times essay entitled, “If You’re Woke You Dig It.” I will read Kelley’s essay later, but I understand from Elijah that, almost 50 years later, this term “woke” has bubbled into a cultural trend word. Along with it comes the sadness that restoration looks unreachable.

I also learned that musician Georgia Anne Muldrow introduced “woke” to Erykah Badu who then used the term in her recording, “Master Teacher.” Maybe you’ve heard it (I haven’t). Recent, resultant adoption of the term by the masses, meant to capture empathy for the black experience (the kidnapping of black ancestors and their movement into a hostile home), still hasn’t led to a loving dialogue among brothers in the human race. Yet, we hope…

What happened in the Garden, when America was far from existing, was the mishandling of things meant for good. This still happens. The “woke” dialogue that we pray for will not happen until we are transformed by a perfect Savior into people who desire to love their brothers. We have prevented ourselves from tracing the pattern back to original sin. The repentance that leads us to the Cross, and thereby the true meaning of God’s love, is the only hope we have for any kind of racial restoration or reconciliation. Ever.

We are stuck in agony because we haven’t traced “woke” back to the Garden of Eden – what happens when enmity between brothers is replicated over and over and over. Seeing the darkness of our own hearts and calling out to the God who made provision for us through Jesus Christ is our only real hope to bridge any kind of gap between hostile hearts. The American homeland is not just an inextinguishable, wearying battleground for black people. It is hostile for all people until forgiveness is found in a Savior.

We will know when we have passed from death to life. Because some of us have. We will come face to face with a Savior. We will love as Christ loved. We will have His heart. We will be more than woke.

Don’t Touch The Stove

God preserves my life when His Word prevents the fingers of my heart from getting burned by the hot stove of adversity and temptation. Think about this – rules created by parents are sometimes for the benefit of the parents, but more often than not, for the benefit of the children. “Don’t interrupt me while I’m on the telephone” is a much lesser guideline than “Don’t touch the stove, it will burn you.” God’s Word tells us what is hot and what not to touch.

Psalm 119:89-94 says, “Your word, Lord, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens. Your faithfulness continues through all generations; You established the earth and it endures. Your laws endure to this day, for all things serve You. If Your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction. I will never forget Your precepts, for by them you have preserved my life. Save me, for I am yours; I have sought out Your precepts.”

God is the Perfect Father. God’s Word is like this – it is for the benefit of His children. It is life-breathing and life-preserving rather than life-snuffing. It is designed to benefit us and help us to live under the protection of our Sovereign Father God. When life’s heat comes, I need to know wherein lies my hope. I don’t want to get burned.

If I hear Him correctly, one of the most life-giving precepts we find in God’s Word is the practice of waiting. He is the all-knowing parent who knows what the end result is and how we should get there. If we will only wait for Him. Wait on His answer, wait to see His work, wait in order to experience the refining and deepening of our faith, wait in order to depend on Him more fully.

Micah 7:7 says, “But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me.” God will hear me, but do I first hear Him? God’s Word is so available, so near, so accessible. How do I so quickly miss the point of His laws, precepts, counsel?

When we don’t wait, we often touch the scalding stove. We find out, the hard way, why God’s directives were put into place. When we skate on the newly frozen pond, we find out that there are still vulnerable cracks that will cause us to sink. We should have listened. We should have believed. We should not have doubted.

Psalm 27:14 says, “Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” If I wait like I should, I may not get my heart’s first desire. But I will likely get a new heart’s desire in which I desire God more that my pressing first desire. If I wait, I’m confident that God will transform my heart so it lands in the place He always wanted it to be, with a bigger vision and better heart’s desire – Him.

James 5:7 says, “Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains.” This is how I will withstand the burning heat of the hot stove of life. I will trust Him and wait for Him in all circumstances.

MIAWA

Anger is something God obviously feels when He describes Himself in Exodus 34:6: “And He passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, ‘The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.’ ” Psalm 30:5 says, “For His anger lasts only a moment, but His favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.”

Anger makes a value judgment, assesses that something is wrong, says “I’m against that,” and actively stands to oppose that thing. Anger is definitely consistent with God’s character. Yet, without the work of the Holy Spirit guiding believers into applying biblical truth to our handling of anger, we will not know how to mercifully enact anger in a God-glorifying manner. We are tempted to vent anger in a harmful way, storming around, slamming doors, yelling, crafting vengeance, and/or implementing retaliatory violence! Or, we are tempted to stuff anger in a harmful way and passively, aggressively make people’s lives miserable including our own. Destruction is guaranteed to follow either way.

There is a constructive way. Ephesians 4:26 says, ” ‘In your anger do not sin’: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.” Action is called for. Many verses indicate that there is a godly way to handle anger without it leading into sin… God’s Truth gives us the only profound wisdom for allowing anger to inform our responses and actions in a God-honoring manner.

I am currently taking a counseling class entitled “Dynamics of Biblical Change.” My professor, Dr. David Powlison (now deceased), has written a challenging journal article called “The Constructive Displeasure of Mercy” (The Journal of Biblical Counseling, Fall 2006). He says that anger has three opposites. The first two are indifference and pleasure. The #3 opposite he calls “the constructive displeasure of mercy.” I see Dr. Powlison’s point is – be angry, yet withhold destructive hostility and simultaneously respond with patience, forgiveness, generosity, and mercy. It seems backwards. But, it is God’s heart. Indeed, the gospel turns so many things upside-down!

The #3 anger opposite (Powlison’s “the constructive displeasure of mercy”) confronts wrong and is pleased to get mercifully messy in the process. The #3 opposite also rescues sufferers and calls wrongdoers to honest accountability. Simultaneously, displeasure can be expressed mercifully. But, how?

To help process this idea, I offer this acronym. MIAWA. Mercy In Anger Without Aggression (it’s easier for me to remember). Inspired by Dr. Powlison, my own version of anger’s #3 opposite force is MIAWA. Mercy in anger without aggression means that, while I hate the wrong that is happening, I will do something about it. My anger is appropriate if I take steps to properly oppose what is evil…

Meanwhile, I’ll be slow to anger as God is, and won’t express anger wrongly. I will see evil clearly in all its aspects, but from God’s point of view. I will longsuffer with difficult people and events. I will be compelled by a different, but divine purpose. Kindness. Honesty. But, no counterattack. I’ll work tediously to solve what is bad, even if it takes a lifetime. In the face of stubborn evils, I’ll choose a merciful path.

Extending mercy while being angry? Extending forgiveness in the face of terribly evil things that get perpetrated on a regular basis on planet earth since Genesis? Seriously? I am sure the answer is yes. For a faithful believer, forgiveness doesn’t mean I’ll ignore or excuse what is wrong. I’ll need to name the evils, out loud at times, silently at other times, prayerfully at still other times. And then, prayerfully wrap those call-outs in God’s redemptive purposes.

Psalm 103:10 gives us the unvarnished Truth about God – “[God] He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.” MIAWA is God’s pattern for redeeming what seems unredeemable. MIAWA returns kindness where it is most certainly undeserved. It does not cover up what’s bad and does not pretend all is well. Yet, with a kind heart, it energetically works to redeem the unredeemable.

Adopting a lifestyle of MIAWA (mercy in anger without aggression) cannot be done in our own strength. MIAWA must be supernatural. The Holy Spirit must move us to take action, to sincerely offer to others patience, forbearance, and forgiveness. And without venting or stuffing anger, but by processing it out in prayer. Isaiah 61:1 says, “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners.”

So there’s God’s call. The Spirit alone must provide the dynamic. Now, this is my prayer. Dear God, please help me to express my anger with constructive merciful love, slowly and according to Your timing. Help me to remember what MIAWA means.

Hero of the Faith

In my lifetime, I have had more than a handful of heroes. I am very grateful. My dad and my husband are obvious ones. An amazing son and two great daughters. A few more include some great Christian school teachers, administrators, and professors. But, today I want to single out Ravi Zacharias, undoubtedly the foremost Christian Apologist of modern and postmodern times. This great hero of faith passed away on May 19, 2020 after a brief battle with cancer.

In my life’s trajectory, I was long ago privileged to be a Christian high school student who understood the importance of Apologetics. With excellent Christian high school preparation, I was able to navigate college and career and family life with a solid biblical worldview. I gained an ability to defend my Christian faith. As a Christian school teacher and administrator, I deeply respected the Bible teachers who embraced the urgency of Christian Apologetics and who worked diligently to well train their students to be apologists.

In recent years, one outstanding Bible teacher with whom I had the privilege to work also became a close friend. Karen was genuinely a gift to her senior high school students. Her ability to train them was fueled by the Holy Spirit and developed under the influence of Ravi Zacharias. I encountered one of Karen’s students a few months ago who heralded Karen for the excellent preparation she received that enabled her to engage in intellectual debate with her college professors and navigate through a culture of peers with philosophies and faith issues splashed all over the spectrum. With faith still intact, I must add.

Ravi’s God-given vision in ministry (RZIM) was, and still is, to help believers to think and thinkers to believe. Thinking and believing – also the reality in my friend Karen’s ministry to young people. I am doubly blessed. Thankful for the godly influence of Ravi Zacharias paired with the dedicated heart of Karen to teach Truth and how to skillfully think about Truth.

Not coincidentally, in the livestream memorial service for Ravi Zacharias on Friday, May 29, 2020, part of Psalm 37 was read by Ravi’s daughter Sarah Davis. This scripture was the inspiration of my blog that I started 5 years ago (that you are reading now). Psalm 37 provided comfort and truth to me at a time when I walked through institutional spiritual warfare never before experienced in my lifetime. The voice of Ravi Zacharias reminded me to expect battles to be intense, and to remember the Battle Winner, Jesus Christ. Not as if waving a magic wand, but based upon faith strengthened through an intellectually sound apologetic. Thinking and believing.

Psalm 37:1-6 says, “Do not fret because of evil men or be envious of those who do wrong; for like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away. Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit you way to the Lord; trust in him and He will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun…” Even when the battle is intense, the Battle Winner is the trustworthy Lord.

Ravi’s daughter Naomi spoke about the blessing of her loving father. She testified that the most outstanding thing about her dad was that he loved her and saw her. Really saw her. Like Christ does. In a world where becoming invisible is on the uprise, Ravi, like Jesus, really saw people. He looked. He saw. He made people visible, cherished, valued, loved.

As God often does, in one moment He connects life events into a tapestry so that you can see His capable hands orchestrating a purposeful whole. During Ravi’s memorial service, God connected many things for me. Psalm 37. The music of Matt Redman and Shane & Shane. The message of Pastor Louie Giglio (Passion City Church, Atlanta, GA). The comments of Ravi’s brother Ramesh, showing me that the influence that one believer can have in one family is phenomenal. And the influence of a hero is a gift that continues giving long after his or her passing.

All these memorial reflections made me rehearse and be grateful for the spiritual heroes God has placed in my life. Those who helped me to think and to believe. Thank you Ravi Zacharias for helping believers to think and thinkers to believe. You are an enduring hero of the faith!