Upholding the Holiness of God

In Deuteronomy 32:48-52 God’s informs Moses that he is to go up to Mount Nebo, where he will see the promise land and die. God quickly reminds Moses why he cannot enter the land with the Israelites. He recounts how Moses broke faith with him and neglected to uphold the holiness of God in front of the Israelites.

I was struck by the phrase “upholding the holiness of God.” What does this mean? What does it look like when a person does this? How can we do this in front of others? How will it affect others when we do? As you can see, lots of questions popped into my mind.

The holiness of God has to do with two things: the complete uniqueness of God and the purity of God. God is totally different than anyone or anything we know. He is in a high class of his own, with no close seconds. He is completely sinless and perfectly pure. He can have nothing to do with sin, except pouring out his wrath on sin.

We can uphold this by living a life that proclaims the holiness of God – telling others about his nature, perspective, and practice. We can learn to hate sin like he does and stand up for righteousness, which he loves. We can repent when we fail and give in to temptation, and we can seek help and counsel from others. We can humbly challenge those around us when we see them straying off the right path. We can encourage those who are living in a way that pleases God.

This is the role of the body of Christ – to uphold the holiness of God to each other. The Christian life is meant to be lived in community. When we see others living in a way that pleases God, we can be inspired to do the same. When we understand more about his nature and ways, we will wisely fear him and make good decisions.

Lord, help us today to uphold your holiness before man.

God's Love

One of my favorite authors is Andrew Murray. In chapter two of his book Absolute Surrender, Mr. Murray focuses on the fruit of the Spirit love. He talks about God being the source of love and how Jesus and the granting of the Holy Spirit are amazing examples of God’s love.

Mr. Murray states, “The Lord Jesus Christ came down from heaven as the Son of God’s love. ‘God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son’ (John 3:16). God’s Son came to show what love is, and He lived a life of love here on earth in fellowship with His disciples, in compassion over the poor and miserable, in love even to His enemies. And, He died the death of Love. And when He went back to heaven, whom did He send down? The Spirit of love, to come and banish selfishness and envy and pride, and bring the love of God into the hearts of men.”

What motivated God the Father to send His Son to earth for us? What motivated God the Son to subject Himself to life as a human and great suffering on the cross for us? What motivated God the Father to send His Spirit to us? What motivates the God the Holy Spirit to work in our lives today? The answer to all of these is love…amazing love.

Our God loves us deeply and demonstrated His love so profoundly in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the granting of the Holy Spirit to Christians today.

Does God’s love encourage you? Does God’s love comfort you? Does God’s love inspire you to love Him more and more? Does God’s love inspire you to surrender all of your life to Him and live all out for Him?

Christ’s Second Coming

Christ came as a baby, lived 30 years on earth, died on the cross, rose from the dead, and ascended into heaven. This was his first coming and the amazing story of the gospel.

As sure as his first coming, Jesus will come again to earth at the end of the age. He will come to gather Christians to be with him for eternity, and he will gather all non-Christians and send them to hell for eternity.

In Practical Religion J.C. Ryle wrote, “One thing, at any rate, is very certain. There will only be two parties of mankind at the last great day: those who are on the right hand of Christ, and those who are on the left; those who are counted righteous, and those who are wicked; those who are safe in the ark, and those who are outside; those who are gathered like wheat into God’s barn, and those who are left behind like tares to be burned. Now, what will your portion be?”

The second coming is both an exciting and a sobering event to consider. If you are a Christian, you can anticipate great joy and blessing as Christ gathers you to be with him. If you are not sure about your salvation or if you are not a Christian, you can (and should) be terrified of the possibility of eternity apart from Jesus Christ.

Scripture makes it clear that in the final gathering – the separation of the saved and unsaved – mankind will either be in or out of heaven. What group will you be in?

Take time to carefully consider this question. Do not quickly assume you are in. Do not simply believe the best about yourself and wrongly believe you are in. What a shame it would be to believe you will spend eternity in heaven and in the end be completely wrong.

If we acknowledge that we need a Savior and place our faith in Jesus’ finished work on the cross, we will be saved. Repent and believe today, and look forward to Christ’s return.

A Life-Changing, Life-Shaping Trial

Here is the opening story to chapter 9 of my book. It tells the story of one of the greatest trials I have faced and how God shaped me through it. It is a testimony of God sustaining me in the midst of great loss, God bringing good out of bad, and God guiding my every step, even when I didn't realize it.

When my father woke me up on the morning of August 14, 1988, I knew immediately that something terrible had happened. I could see it in his ashen face. My mom and brother stood in the doorway behind him, their watery eyes staring right at me. The look on their faces, more than anything, drove me from early-morning grogginess to total and instant alertness. I sat up in bed. A hundred horrible, imagined possibilities flashed through my mind.

Tears welled in my dad’s eyes as he sat on the edge of my bed. I held my breath in anticipation, afraid to ask. After a seeming eternity, he choked out the terrible words. “Trevor has been in a really bad car accident. He didn’t make it.”

For a moment, the full reality didn’t hit me. I pictured Trevor lying in a hospital bed, injured but still joking with the nurses and doctors, complaining about hospital food, and aching to get outside to shoot a few hoops. Then the rest of my father’s words caught up with me, and my stomach lurched. It felt like the floor had just disappeared from beneath me. I fell back onto my pillow and closed my eyes in the sudden confusion and despair.

Not Trevor. Not my best friend.

Trevor and I had been inseparable from the time we were toddlers growing up on the same rural, New Hampshire road. For as long as I could remember, we’d been playing together: battling imaginary spiders or battalions of ferns in the forest behind my house, challenging our older siblings to baseball or basketball, or just sitting around on rainy days playing Stratego or Monopoly. As childhood had given way to adolescence, our friendship had matured and strengthened. We carried our love of sports onto the court and ball field in middle school, where our previous years of teamwork and practice gave us an enduring ability to predict each other’s moves and play off each other’s strengths. Off the field, we spent countless hours discussing school, movies, and sports.

Our last conversation had been at Trevor’s house three weeks ago, the day before I left for a long family vacation. It was the summer before our senior year, and we spent a lazy afternoon hanging out in the sun, talking about our memories of the years gone by and our hopes and dreams for the year ahead. It was a rich conversation, one of the best Trevor and I ever had.

And now, sitting in my bed surrounded by my grief-stricken family, I realized it was the last conversation we would ever have. I broke into tears.

As the days passed, we learned more about the circumstances of the accident. After a night of video games and bowling with some of his coworkers, Trevor had caught a ride back to the restaurant where he’d left his car parked. They were traveling too fast over a narrow, twisting back road, and they failed to make a turn. Despite having their seatbelts on, they were both killed instantly.

In the days and weeks after the accident, sadness and confusion grew in my heart. I didn’t understand why God had allowed Trevor to die. I knew Romans 8:28 and knew God promises to work all things for good for Christians, but I didn’t see how this was good. I’d recall Ephesians 6:1-3 where God says those who honor and obey their parents will enjoy long life. I knew Trevor well, and he honored and obeyed his parents, but he died at the age of 17. I asked, “Why Lord?” but I didn’t get an answer.

I firmly believed God was in control, but I wanted to know why he had let my best friend die. As I mourned, I took long walks in the woods, visited Trevor’s grave, and recounted the many great memories we had together. Many days I returned to the question, “Why, Lord?” Initially I was asking for an explanation, but my question grew to a dangerous demand for God to justify himself to me.

I knew I was headed down a slippery slope, and I realized that I needed to lay down my demands and trust God. Over time I began to notice a surprising change in my heart. Instead of becoming angrier, I found myself experiencing a growing sense of peace. Though God wasn’t fully answering my questions, I felt him gently comforting me.

God spoke to me through Isaiah 55:8-9, which states that his ways and thoughts are higher and better than mine. He gave me faith to believe that he does work all for good, even if I didn’t see the good. He enabled me to trust him and his promises, even though I didn’t know how Trevor’s death fit into his sovereign plan for Trevor, Trevor’s family, or my life.

I still don’t know exactly why God took Trevor to be with him in August of 1988. I do know that God used it to teach me the importance of trusting him, no matter the situation. He used it to give me a greater faith in him, and for that I am grateful.