Was the Old Testament God Really That Angry?

The Old Testament seems to really stump a lot of folks, mostly, I fear, because they don’t know it that well, and don’t understand it, because they don’t really take the time to actually read it. The problem is, you can’t really truly appreciate the New Testament without knowing and understanding the Old. The New Testament fulfills and explains the Old. The biggest way being that all sacrifices were fulfilled in Christ’s ultimate and final sacrifice. But more on that another time.

The Old Testament talks a lot about God’s judgement, wrath, and justice to be sure; but so does the New Testament. But the Old Testament also has just as much to say about God’s love, mercy and grace as the New Testament does, if not even more. Even from the very beginning in Genesis 3, after Adam and Eve sinned for the first time, God graciously covered them with the skin of an animal instead of giving them the death they deserved, and which He had promised to them if they disobeyed.

The remainder of the Old Testament shows a constant struggle between God and His people in which they turn away from Him, shake their fists at Him, commit unspeakable atrocities against Him, and worship anything and everything but Him; and God often times punishing them, but then restoring them. God often speaks kindly to His incredibly wayward people, offering them unlimited grace and forgiveness in spite of their sin. He begs them to return to Him and to seek Him, as He still does for us today.

God’s people are often compared to an incredibly unfaithful wife who sells herself to others as a prostitute. No one would ever take back a wife like that, but God has done this on multiple occasions. Hosea is all about this concept, and Isaiah also has a lot to say about it, as do many other Old Testament books.

The main passages that have inspired this particular post are Isaiah 52-56. This passage is rich in God’s promises of love and mercy and grace. It shows us the lengths God was willing to go to, to redeem people of all nations to Himself. Hundreds of years before it even happened, this passage includes detailed accounts of what would happen to Jesus, God in the flesh, as He came to earth to live a perfect life, yet die a horrific death and a final sacrifice to obliterate the sins of God’s people (52:13-53:12 This is the Gospel according to God)! It shows us God’s amazing plan for His people, for those who do come to Him in repentance; how they will be forgiven and given unlimited peace, how God will have unlimited compassion on them, even though for a while He did turn His face from them and allowed them to go though terrible trials (54:7-8). He invites all people to come and eat and drink from Him without price (55:1-2)! He begs the wicked to forsake their evil ways and thoughts and return to Him (55:3-7)!

Chapter 56 begins by reminding us not to be afraid of God separating those of us who are not Israelites, but who who have come to Him in repentance from His people Israel, but at the same time reminds us not to be arrogant in thinking that we are better than God’s people Israel, since we are now grafted in to the promises of God. Paul covers this in more detail in Romans 11:16-36.

God has never changed. There is no difference between the Old Testament God and the New Testament God. He remains the same, even today. He offers His unlimited kindness and grace to all people now, and asks us to do the same, because there will come a day, when time will run out, and God will have to deal justly with those who refuse to come to Him. He will judge them by the law, as they desire, instead of by His righteousness which He offers through the perfect life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. God tells us that we cannot be righteous on our own all throughout the Bible, and offers to give us His righteousness, but many people still think they are good enough on their own; that they can be judged by God based on His law of perfection, and still come out clean. But, as the saying goes, “Nobody’s perfect!” The Bible clearly confirms this fact in places like Psalm 53:1-3 and Romans 3:12.

Therefore, I implore you, along with the amazing and great God whom I serve, who, although He is just, and holy, righteous, and full of wrath against sin, offers unlimited peace and forgiveness of sins through the perfect life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ; I implore you to return to God; forsake yourself and your own ways, because they aren’t good enough (as definitely neither are mine!), and give yourself completely to God! This is the only way to be saved from His wrath that is to come! This is my prayer for you, as well as all who do not love God and keep His commandments! After all, it’s God’s kindness toward us now, that should lead us to repentance!

May God’s grace and peace be with you!

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The Authority of the Bible and Dietrich Bonhoeffer

I am quite thankful to be able to read about a man who held to such great faith and to the Truths of the Bible amid the challenges that Dietrich Bonhoeffer faced. He grew up in with parents of prestige, especially his father, who was a scientist. He also grew up in an intellectual neighborhood and studied under some great minds. He had great respect for his father and his teachers, even though he disagreed with their conclusions in their theology. He was able to think for himself and come to some great theological and biblical conclusions that truly shaped his life and the way he lived it.

He also faced some great social and political turmoil, much similar to what the Church faces today. Preaching the true Gospel was not popular socially, and, in spite of Germany’s rich theological past, became politically incorrect as well, and eventually got him put in jail, then into a concentration camp, and eventually killed.

In spite of all of these things, Bonhoeffer unapologetically preached the absolute authority, and thus the inerrancy and infallibility of the Bible, and from that, the true Gospel of Jesus Christ. He also encouraged his students to “feel at one with the doubter; …he did not indulge in cheap apologetics which from their lofty base fire upon the battlements of natural science. We must think with the doubter, …even doubt with him.”

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Dietrich Bonhoeffer

I was particularly inspired by the following letter he wrote to a brother-in-law who was said to be “as theologically liberal as he was conservative.”

First of all I will confess quite simply-I believe that the Bible alone is the answer to all our questions, and that we need only to ask repeatedly and a little humbly, in order to receive this answer. One cannot simply readthe Bible, like other books. One must be prepared really to enquire of it. Only thus will it reveal itself. Only if we expect from it the ultimate answer, shall we receive it. That is because in the Bible God speaks to us. And one cannot simply think about God in one’s own strength, one has to enquire of him. Only if we seek him, will he answer us. Of course it is also possible to read the Bible like any other book, that is to say from the point of view of textual criticism, etc.; ther is nothing to be said against that. Only that that is not the method which will reveal to us the heart of the Bible, but only the surface, just as we do not grasp the words of someone we love by taking them to bits, but by simply receiving them, so that for days they go on lingering in our minds, simply because they are the words of a person we love; and just as these words reveal more and more of the person who said them as we go on, like Mary, “pondering them in her heart,” so it will be with the words of the Bible. Only if we will venture to enter into the words of the Bible, as though in them this God were speaking to us who loves us and does not will to leave us along with our questions, only so shall we learn to rejoice in the Bible….

If it is I who determine where God is to be found, then I shall always find a God who corresponds to me in some way, who is obliging, who is connected with my own nature. But if God determines where he is to be found, then it will be in a place which is not immediately pleasing to my nature and which is not at all congenial to me. This place is the Cross of Christ. And whoever would find him must go to the foot of the Cross, as the Sermon on the Mount commands. This is not according to our nature at all, it is entirely contrary to it. But this is the message of the Bible, not only in the New but also in the Old Testament.

And I would like to tell you now quite personally: since I have leart to read the Bible in this way-and this has not been for so very long-it becomes every day more wonderful to me. I read it in the morning and evening, often during the day as well, and every day I consider a text which I have chosen for the whole week, and try to sink deeply into it, so as really to hear what it is saying. I know that without this I could not live properly any longer.

I find this particularly inspiring because, although I had much less education, I too went through theological training in 5 years of Bible College, but it wasn’t until after that that I came to truly love and appreciate the Bible in the way Bonhoeffer described above. His words are far more eloquent than mine, but what he shared in that letter are my thoughts exactly.

I wanted to share this to encourage some and for others, to help them better understand why I think and believe the way I do.

Thanks for reading! Grace, love and peace!

*all quotes taken from ‘Bonheffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy’ by Eric Metaxas

Sin is Like AIDS (Another way to Explain the Gospel)

I’ve always kind of struggled with the idea that Adam’s one sin ruined us all and made us all sinners.  It doesn’t seem fair does it?  I mean, one person ruled the fate of all mankind just by eating a piece of fruit?

Over the years I’ve come to understand that the sin committed by Adam was much worse than just eating a piece of fruit.  He wanted to be like God, which is why he gave in to the Serpent’s lie when he told them that they would be like God if they ate the fruit.  Adam was also supposed to be the protector of his wife and he just stood by as she was being tricked and then he took of the fruit himself.  Have you ever noticed that their eyes were not opened until after Adam ate of the fruit, even though he ate after Eve did?  Just something to think about.

I believe that God has helped me to see a better way to understand what happened in Eden and what is happening now with an illustration.  When Adam took on the disease of sin by taking of that fruit, he took on a disease that would spread to all of his offspring.

We are facing a disease today that is very similar to the disease of sin.  AIDS is a result of sexual immorality and generally is contracted when sexual immorality takes place.  The disease is often spread to the sexual partner, and in most if not all cases, to the offspring.  Now wait a minute, that baby didn’t have sex outside of marriage did it?  And yet it contracted AIDS because of it’s father’s choice.  That is just like us.  We may not have been there in the garden of Eden to choose to disobey God, but the disease of sin was spread to us because of the nature of what sin is.

AdamSin

We are all born with the disease called sin, and are hopelessly and terminally ill with it.  For some people, its symptoms are very mild and it does not show itself very often.  For others, the symptoms are very strong.  The point is, the symptoms of sin are different for everyone and the severity of the symptoms is different, but the fact of the matter is, we are ALL, every single person on this earth, born with the terminal disease of sin and without hope of a cure on our own.  And if we are not cured of it, we will die of it.  The only way to be cured of it is by a miracle.

The only person who can do any kind of real miracle, especially of this magnitude is God.  Why would God help us when we have chosen to consistently turn our backs on Him?  Because He is full of grace.  He came down to earth as a man who had no earthly father to pass the disease of sin on to Him because God is His Father.  He was born without the disease of sin, lived His life completely perfectly without the disease of sin, and yet died as a result of the effects of the disease of sin in everyone else even though He didn’t ever show a single symptom of the disease of sin.

Christ has died

Then He rose from the dead so that He can save those who have died because of the disease of sin.  He holds the only cure for this awful fatal disease and offers this cure for anyone who wants it.  The problem is, most people don’t realize their need for the cure.  Many think they don’t even have a disease that needs curing, or don’t think they have the disease badly enough to need a cure.  Now, we all know that the first step to being cured of a disease is acknowledging that we have a disease that needs to be cured, that we need help.  But most people are too blind to see that.

He is Risen

But for those who do acknowledge that they have a terminal disease that they have no hope of curing themselves and who ask God to cure them of that disease, He answers and gives them the cure.  He sees them as healthy as Jesus, who lived without sin and who died as a result of sin and rose from the dead.  God gives them the hope that they will also rise from the dead one day to live forever without the awful disease of sin.

The sad reality is, the world would rather flaunt their symptoms and try to force everyone to believe that they aren’t sick or that it’s ok to be sick since everyone is sick rather than seeking the cure for their sickness.  And they will die of their disease and be forever separated from the Holy and Righteous God Who has the only cure for the disease of sin by His grace through faith in Jesus Christ.  Without Christ, no one is cured of sin.  Just like with AIDS, no matter how healthily you choose to live or what good choices you make, it cannot be cured but by the miracle that God provided through Jesus Christ.

I realize that this is not a perfect way to explain the Gospel, but I believe that the essential message of the Gospel is included and that this is another way to explain the Gospel to others in a way that can help them understand the seriousness of sin and the amazing Grace of God.  Be encouraged!  There is hope!  Grace, love and peace!

Sometimes, I Don’t Believe the Gospel

I think we all struggle to truly believe the Gospel at points in our lives.  This is most often evidenced when we fail to be “doers of the Word and not hearers only” (James 1:22).  For instance, being fearful of awkward conversation and thus failing to share the Truth of the Gospel with someone, or saying that we love our neighbor and we believe that we should, but failing to help meet their needs.  There are tons of examples of saying we believe something, but failing to allow it to change us and failing to live what we believe, or as my pastor said, “We don’t put feet to our faith.”

Keep Calm Gospel

In order for the Gospel to change us, we have to believe it.  In Titus 3:8, the Apostle Paul has just presented the Gospel in a nutshell in verses 1-7, especially 4-7 and is now letting us know that “The saying is trustworthy” “the saying” of course, being the Gospel, and “trustworthy” literally means, in the Greek, “faithful.”  How do we know that it is trustworthy?  Because as Paul said in 2 Timothy 3:16, “All Scripture is breathed out by God.” As my friend Matt said, “The Scripture is never wrong, we are.” I believe that the Bible is the inerrant, infallible and authoritative Word of God, because its authority comes from God Himself and it never leads us astray.  If we read it and know it well AND apply it to our lives, and I can testify to this truth, that my life is not the same, and I can speak for many many others that their lives are not the same as a result of believing, knowing and applying Scripture to their lives.

Paul tells Titus to “Declare these things…with all authority,” in 2:15.  So does Paul have authority?  Yes, according to Titus 1:1-3.  He gives a short version of his credentials here summing it up in the statement in verse 3, “…I have been entrusted (with the Gospel) by the command of God our savior.” If you want an extensive list of his credentials see 2 Corinthians 10:1-12:10.

Ultimately, Paul’s authority comes from our God and Savior Jesus Christ who had all authority in heaven and on earth and He commanded all believers to go and preach the Gospel to the whole world (Matthew 28:18-20).  The fact that the Gospel is true is a guarantee from God, and as with any fact, it cannot be changed.  He wants us to also guarantee this Gospel and endorse it.  We are charged in Titus 3:8 to insist on the truth of the Gospel “so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works.” If we aren’t insisting on the truth of the Gospel and Scripture, we aren’t going to follow it, and we aren’t going to allow it to change us.

Applying the Gospel to our lives is one of the hardest things about being a Christian.  I will be the first to admit, that I love studying and soaking in God’s Word, but have failed to apply it in the past.  I can attest to the fact that when I have begun to apply the things I have learned from the truths of God’s Word to my life, it brings about amazing changes.  I definitely don’t apply it perfectly, otherwise I would be perfect.  Isaiah 58 tells very well how God feels about those who love knowledge but not application and then shows what application looks like.  My pastor summed it up as:  “Yes, you love to learn, but you do not love to obey or apply!”

Gospel sharing

The last section of Titus 3:8 says, “These things (good works) are excellent and profitable for people.” Our good works can look like acts of service to others, which is a benefit to them.  But hopefully in the meantime, we are also sharing the truth of Scripture and the Gospel with them, so that it is beneficial not only to their physical needs, but to their spiritual needs as well.

Sometimes, I don’t believe the Gospel with my actions.  I always believe it in my head.  I love studying the Scriptures and now, I love applying them, even though it’s very hard sometimes.  Like I said, I don’t always apply Scripture perfectly, but it’s something I’ve really been working on in my life and I encourage everyone to do the same!

How is Jesus Greater than Adam if All are not Saved?

Romans 5:18-19 can seem like a tricky passage.  (18 Therefore as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men.  19 For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.) When one is reading it, it seems to have contradicting ideas if not read carefully and with context in mind.  As always, context is king.  In this passage Jesus and Adam are contrasted as types of each other and each one’s actions bear a consequence, one good and one bad (this is a major understatement). 🙂

 

AdamandChrist*cheesy photo perhaps, but this is the picture that Scripture seem to paint.

 

The passage from verses 12-21 of chapter 5 (just to gain a bit of context) begins by stating that sin came into the world and therefore death followed, because of one man, Adam.  The entire human race, every single person who would live after Adam is counted as having sinned with him.  The one command God gave was broken, and even though there was no law given, sin and death still reigned because death is the result of sin and everyone dies.  There is no escape from physical death for anyone.  So even though people may not have been disobeying direct commands of God before the law was given, they were still sinning, just not in the sense of disobeying a direct command like Adam did.

 

Then comes Christ.  Christ’s act of a lifetime of perfect obedience and an obedience that led to His death, and of course, His resurrection, brought about not only a reversal of the curse to restore people to their original created state, but to give them God’s righteousness and a share of His eternal glory (Hebrews 2:10-11).  John MacArthur, in his commentary on Romans, makes a good point.  He says, “It might be said that Adam’s sinful act, devastating as it was, had but a one-dimensional effect-it brought death to everyone.  But the effect of Christ’s redemptive act has facets beyond measure, because He not only restores man to spiritual life but gives him the very life of God.”

He also says later, “Jesus Christ broke the power of sin and death, but the converse is not true.  Sin and death cannot break the power of Jesus Christ.  The condemnation of Adam’s sin is reversible, the redemption of Jesus Christ is not.  The effect of Adam’s act is permanent ONLY if not nullified by Christ (emphasis added).  The effect of Christ’s act, however, is permanent for believing individuals and not subject to reversal or nullification.  We have the great assurance that once we are in Jesus Christ, we are in Him forever.”

One last brilliant quote from MacArthur and I’ll move on.  “It was the one sin by the one man at the one time that brought God’s judgment and its resulting condemnation.  But the gift of God’s grace through Jesus Christ is not like that.  God’s judgment on Adam and his posterity arose from but one transgression.  On the other hand, however, the free gift arose not simply because of that single transgression but from MANY transgressions, and its result is not simply RESTORATION but JUSTIFICATION (capitalized emphases added).

 

Why then are verses 18-19 so tricky?  (18 Therefore as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men.  19 For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.)

At first glance, verse 18 seems to be suggesting that all will be saved and verse 19 seems to suggest that not everyone was made a sinner by using the word “many.” But as I said earlier, context is king.  Paul, and the rest of Scripture have already established that all are sinners.  And we know that not all will be saved by the plethora of Scriptures that tell us that those who do not receive the gift of salvation will not inherit the kingdom of God, but will receive everlasting punishment.  I could give an exhaustive list of Scriptures to back that point up, but I feel that that is unnecessary.

Therefore, we must conclude that when verse 18 says “one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men,” it means that justification and life are made available to all men, not that all receive that justification and life.  John Calvin explains it quite well.  He says, “He makes this favor common to all, because it is propounded to all, and not because it is in reality extended to all; for though Christ suffered for the sins of the whole world, and is offered through God’s benignity indiscriminately to all, yet all do not receive him.”

 

Book of Romans

 

Verse 19 emphasizes the meaning of verse 18.  In most translations, even in the Young’s Literal Translation, which is a favored translation among those who teach universalism, the article ‘the’ is placed before the word ‘many.’ Most commentators conclude that ‘the many’ in verse 19 (“…the many were made sinners…” v. 19) refers to everyone, while “the many” who are “made righteous” refers only to believers.  While I believe that this is a logical conclusion and don’t disagree, I think that ‘the many’ likely refers to believers only in both instances.  I believe that “the many” refers to those mentioned in verse 17 “…who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness…”

 

It is true is it not, that all believers were made sinners as much as everyone else?  The only difference is, they will be and already have been made righteous by Christ’s act of obedience.  Everyone else is trying to make themselves righteous by relying on their own “goodness,” but we know that no one can make themselves righteous.  Only God can make one righteous through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ by His grace.

 

Many have already died (spiritually, because we already know that everyone dies physically whether they are saved or not), but many have also been made alive (spiritually) by the free gift of God by the grace of Christ (v. 15).  And not only that, but those who are made alive are not merely restored to the way humans were originally created, they are given the righteousness and glory of God!

THAT is how Jesus is greater than Adam, even though not all will be saved!  Salvation is offered to all, but is only effective to those who receive it.

JesusgreaterthanAdam  *This is true for the believer who has put on Christ’s righteousness, but not for those who remain in Adam.

 

I can’t pretend I know all about this.  Salvation seems like a simple concept, but when we look more deeply into it, it is more complicated than we think it is.  We cannot fully understand many things about God.  But as my friend Johnny Mac says, “…when we cannot understand the Lord’s ways, we must avoid the quicksand of human reason and stand in faith on the rock of God’s righteous character.” (I know I said I was done with Johnny Mac quotes, but had to throw this one in; sorry not sorry! 😉 )

Faith Cannot Save You…

There are many theories out there about what is required of people to attain salvation.  Some believe that you have to perform religious rites and rituals such as be baptized, take the Lord’s Supper, be a good person, give money to a church or other religious institution, etc, etc.  Others believe that all you have to do is have faith.  Just say you believe certain things, say a prayer, sign a card and you’re good.  These are just a few of many different thoughts on what makes one right with God.  But what if I told you that I don’t think any of these things has any sort of power to save?  No, not even faith.  Not in and of itself anyway.  I’ll explain that in a bit.

First, I want to address the idea that works and religious ceremony can save a person.  The main passage of Scripture that comes to mind for me is Titus 3:5: “He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to His own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.” I believe this same concept can be found in Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus in John 3:5.  Jesus had just told Nicodemus that he had to be born again to be saved.  Nicodemus asks, “How can anyone be born when they are old?  Can they enter a second time into their mother’s womb and be born?” So Jesus essentially says, “Let me give you another hint.” Then in verse 5, “Jesus answered, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water (the washing of regeneration, not physical birth nor baptism) and the Spirit (Renewal of the Holy Spirit obviously), they cannot enter the kingdom of God.'” In other words, Jesus was saying that there is no kind of work you can do to be saved.  Salvation is all the work of God.

 blog Baptism

Some believe that “washing of regeneration” refers to being baptized.  But then that would mean that baptism is a required work before salvation.  These same people use the idea of circumcision to back up their point.  In the Old Testament, God required the Jews to be circumcised as a sign of their separation as His people.  But Paul refuted the idea that circumcision saved people in Romans 4:9-17.  He made the point that Abraham was considered righteous on the basis of his faith before he was circumcised AND before there was even any law to abide by.  The law didn’t come about until Moses’ time which would have been approximately 500 years after Abraham’s time.  Just for fun, and to make my point, I am going to write out the passage below and replace the word “circumcised” with the word “baptized.”  I’ll only use 4:9-13.

Is this blessing upon the baptized, or upon the unbaptized also?  For we say, “Faith was reckoned to Abraham as righteousness.” How then was it reckoned?  While (after) he was baptized or (before he was) baptized?  Not while (after) baptized, but (before he was) baptized; and he received the sign of baptism, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had before he was baptized, that he might be the father of all who believe without being baptized, that righteousness might be reckoned to them, and the father of baptism to those who not only are of the baptism, but who also follow in the steps of the faith of our father Abraham which he had before he was baptized.  For the promise to Abraham or to his descendants that he would be heir of the world was not through the Law, but through the righteousness of faith.

To sum it all up, I believe that John MacArthur made a great point that is a bit shorter.  He said, “For the Jew, Passover is a collective symbol of deliverance and circumcision is an individual symbol of justification.  For the Christian, communion is the collective corporate symbol of our relationship to Christ; baptism is the individual symbol of it.”  These things are just symbols of, not requirements for, salvation.

Now what about faith?  Faith is great.  By grace alone through faith alone can we be saved.  But did you notice which comes first?  Grace.  Grace is what truly saves, and the only kind of grace that can save is God’s grace.  Grace is what gives us faith.  Grace is a gift of God, but so is faith.  Although the picture may be a bit cheesy, the quote on the picture below is what really grabbed my attention.

Blog Faith

John MacArthur once again made a really great point in his commentary on Romans about Abraham’s faith.  He says, “It was not the greatness of Abraham’s faith that saved him but the greatness of the gracious Lord in whom he placed his faith.  Faith is never the basis or the reason for justification, but only the channel through which God works His redeeming grace.  Faith is simply a convicted heart reaching out to receive God’s free and unmerited gift of salvation.”  He continues, “Although faith is required for salvation, it has no power in itself to save.  It is the power of God’s redemptive grace alone, working through the atoning work of His Son on the cross, that has power to save.  Faith is NOT, as some claim, a type of work.” (emphasis added)  Can I get an AMEN??  😛

I think that some people do have “faith in faith,” in other words they think that if faith is strong enough, it will save.  But what does James say about this?  He says, “You believe that God is one; you do well.  Even the demons believe-and shudder!  Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless?  Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar?  You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness’- and he was called a friend of God” (James 2:19-23).

The point James is trying to make is that if your faith does not move you into action, or is not accompanied by works, it is not real faith.  It is dead faith.  Likewise, good works, by themselves are useless.  (See 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 which bears the idea that love is characterized by self-sacrifice, but not all self-sacrifice is an act of love.)  You cannot have one without the other.  If I say that I believe that a chair is going to hold me up if I sit in it, but I refuse to sit in it, I will never be able to prove that my faith is real, because it is likely not real.  The works fulfill the faith, but these works and this faith can only come by the grace of God, which alone can truly save.

I sincerely hope that this was encouraging to some and challenging for some.  But most importantly, I hope that the truth has been spoken in love.  I understand that I don’t always have everything right, and as always, I invite anyone who wishes to add encouragement or ask questions and converse about these things.  Grace, peace and love to all through the Lord Jesus Christ!

“I Said the F Word Today…A Lot!

For those interested, here is the AMAZING story of God’s miraculous provision for us while we were on the World Race!  This one is by my amazingly talented wife.

And I promise, I’m done, this is the last post today.

From March, 2013:

“I think it is best for you guys, and the squad, to go ahead and proceed as if you are definitely going home.”

The tickets were bought. On March 5th, at the end of our 6 month debrief with L Squad, Josh and I would be flying out from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and landing in Kansas City, Missouri.

Our Race was over. It was a hard reality, but one we had no choice but to face. With an over $10,000 deficit in our fundraising account, and our final deadline for fundraising here, there was just no feasible way we could stay for the final five months of the Race.

Tears were shed, emails to family sent, and an announcement was made to the squad. In my journal, I wrote, “It feels real now. Now that the decision has been made. It’s so hard to announce it to the squad. I think because I know it will hurt them. So, it’s hard. God, I just want You to be glorified in it all. To me, it seems like providing a miracle is the best way to do that, but I know You didn’t, and You don’t do them to prove anything. Please help the squad to understand and to grieve properly.”

I had started the grieving process, and the squad had, too. Sometimes, I was okay with it, and sometimes I was incredibly sad. Sometimes I felt no emotion at all.

Losing the rest of the Race, something that Josh and I have been preparing for for almost two years, is a big deal. We weren’t just losing the experiences and the passport stamps, we were losing our family. We were losing the 60 people that we have lived every day of the last 6 months with. They have laughed with us, cried with us, told us their deepest struggles, and loved us.

I had gotten to the point of being at peace. I didn’t want to go home, but I was at peace about it.

This morning, I dragged myself out of bed, grabbed my Bible and journal, and headed downstairs for our worship/teaching session. Cheyanne was leading worship, and I closed my eyes and began to sing. I wasn’t particularly happy or sad, but not fully into worship either.

After a line or two, Anton came over to me, and said, “Question. Do you want to stay on the Race?”

“Yeah, I do.”

“Okay. We’re going to say something after worship.”

During the worship and teaching, I was looking forward to that “something”, but with a bit of nervousness. I wasn’t sure what to expect, and honestly I was emotionally spent after the last few days.

In my journal, I wrote, “God, please do an incredible work through this last push from the squad. You know that I am at peace about going home, but it’s definitely not what I want. I’m Abraham, with the sword poised above my son. Provide a ram. A way out of this. I WILL SING PRAISE, I WILL SING PRAISE, NO WEAPON FORMED AGAINST ME SHALL REMAIN. I WILL REJOICE, I WILL DECLARE, GOD IS MY VICTORY AND HE IS HERE!”

After the teaching, Tess got up to make announcements, and invited Anton to come up. He grabbed his Bible and computer, and began.

“I wanted to talk to you guys about something really important, and that is Josh and Jen. They are not going home because they choose to. They are going home because they need $10,000. There’s $10,000 just sitting in this room. We are the body of Christ, and we have the power to help them. So, here’s what we are going to do. We are going to pass out pieces of paper, one for everyone. There are 56 of us. The math works out to about $180 a person. If everyone gives $180, they will have enough to stay. If some give more, that will give room for others who are only able to give less. We’re going to tally them up, and if it’s not enough, we’ll do it again. If it is still not enough, we’ll call AIM and see where that will get us.”

The papers were passed out, and I began to pray. Tess came up, and asked if I wanted to share anything. I grabbed my journal, and made my way to the front. As I spoke, my squadmates wrote down things on the papers, walked up to the front, and dropped them in a box. Anton took the papers out, one by one, and tallied them on his computer.

“These last few months, especially this one, has been an emotional rollercoaster. I’ve been joyful, I’ve believed, and I’ve been upset, and angry. I want to share some of my journals from this last month with you.

There was one night, when there was a miscommunication with the AIM office, and they were going to buy our tickets home in two days. We were going to have to leave before debrief, without closure. I was angry. I sat on the roof of our building, crying my eyes out, and crying out to God. ‘God, I’m angry. I’m disappointed, I’m broken hearted. Why would You give us this dream only to cut it short? Why don’t we get the same opportunity because we are married? Why would You give me a family that I love so much, just to take them away? I’m so filled with regret over what I didn’t get to do. I don’t want my Race to be regret. Why did You promise me You would provide everything I need if You haven’t? Why haven’t You come through for us?’

I have never in my left felt so much like Job-alone, and forgotten by God.

A few days later, while at PenHOP (Penang House of Prayer), I wrote, ‘God, I am so glad that You are always with me. You can take it when I get mad, when I ask questions, when I doubt You…I ask You, please give Josh and I Cambodia, India, Kenya, Uganda, and Rwanda. My heart hurts to think of all the people that I can touch and that can touch me in those countries. I want to be a part of Your work there. I fell in love with these countries and the people a long time ago, so my heart hurts thinking about not going. And it hurts thinking of not being with the squad. I love them; they are my family. I want to be a part of their lives, and I want them to be a part of mine. Whatever happens, I want to remember that You are GOOD. Nothing changes that. You are GOOD, and You are GOOD to me.

If this is our last 2 weeks on the Race, I want to enjoy and live every second of it to the fullest. If it isn’t, I want to live the rest of the Race like this…You said, YOU WILL CALL TO ME AND COME AND PRAY TO ME, AND i WILL LISTEN TO YOU. YOU WILL SEEK ME AND FIND ME WHEN YOU SEARCH FOR ME WITH ALL YOUR HEART. I WILL BE FOUND BY YOU.’

So, I just wanted to share with you guys a little bit of my emotional journey over this last month. I love you guys, and even if we go home, I want God to be glorified in it all.”

I sat down, and Josh stood up to share.

“Back in Central America, God told me that we would be staying for the whole Race. I didn’t want to share that with anyone, because I didn’t know if I was actually hearing from Him, or if it was just me. When I had my spiritual counseling session yesterday with Michelle and Moriah, I was asking the Holy Spirit if I really do hear from Him. I felt like I knew the answer, but I still didn’t want to say it aloud. They kept asking me, ‘What’s the answer?’ Finally, I said, ‘Yes.’ I really do believe that I hear from Him, and that He told me that we are staying.”

As Cheyanne played, I sat in my chair, with my elbows on my knees, and my head down in prayer. “God, please do something. Please, please, please. Do something.”

I opened my eyes. Anton handed Josh a slip of paper. Josh made his way back up to the front. I could tell by his body language that something was going on. “Just say it, just say it,” I thought. My stomach was in butterflies.

“…Well,” he said, “they must have tallied it wrong, or I am reading it wrong, but it says $12,012.”

I’m not exactly sure what happened after that. I kind of had a sobbing, emotional blackout. I think the squad started cheering, clapping, crying, I’m not sure. Someone embraced me from behind.

We’re staying. We’re staying on the Race. We’re fully funded. I couldn’t believe it.

I stood up, with tears streaming down my face, and made my way up to the front. Shaking, I said, “We’ve been waiting and waiting for a miracle. And…you guys are our miracle. I don’t even know how to say thank you enough. But thank you, so much.”

Then, our squad surrounded us, and prayed over us. Johnny led the prayer, and it was powerful. Lots of hugs, tears, and spontaneous worship.

“Well,” I said, “I guess I have to fill out visa paperwork for India now!”

Today has been an absolute whirlwind. It still hasn’t sunk in yet. Fully funded. We are fully funded. More than fully funded.

After talking to Seth Jr at AIM, it turns out that due to an earlier miscommunication, he is pretty sure that tickets were accidentally bought for us to go to Cambodia a few weeks ago. He still has to check on it, to make sure they are still there. Praise God.

AAAND, as our tickets home were already bought, he also needed to check to see if AIM could get a refund on them. If not, that cost would go to our fundraising account. Their total? About $2000. BOOM.

So there you have it. Every last penny (and a lot more) of $31,000 has been raised. We have waited for this day for almost two years. And God made it happen in a more amazing, beautiful way than we ever imagined. The Body of Christ in action.

Because of you, and because of my squad, we get to stay on the Race. It’s still unbelievable as I type this. I said so many times over this last month that all I wanted was for God to be glorified in this. We did it. HE did it.

My journal entry from after the worship service:

“AAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!!!!! GLORY TO GOD! I have never before felt so loved by You, and by my squadmates. You are incredible and worthy to be praised!” 🙂
From joshandjenmendenhall.theworldrace.org