Monthly Archives: August 2011

The “W” Word

Three wise monkeys

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Both of my children love to play at the mall play area. Stephanie and I love that they love it. It’s fun enough that they have a blast and soft enough that they’re safe – so we can just sit and watch.

One day, when Noah was 2 years old, he was playing with a boy who was too aggressive. I understand that all little boys hit and push when they play, but this kid took it to the next level. Before I knew it, he had Noah by the throat and was pushing him against the play equipment. In an instant I was on my feet yelling, “get your hands off of him!” I didn’t have to think about what to do for a second. That kid was going to hurt my son and I wasn’t just going to sit there and let it happen. Wrath was welling up inside of me and I had to do something about it.

Learning to love wrath

We justify and understand the reasons for our own wrath, but we’re naturally uncomfortable with God’s. Even people who are OK with it tend to apologize for Him. We act as if he’s a rabid pit bull who keeps biting through his chain. But we don’t need to apologize for God. His wrath isn’t out of control like an angry dog. His wrath is far more controlled than our own. The answer is not to apologize for or be embarrassed by God’s wrath. The answer is to love all of God’s qualities – even His wrath.

God’s wrath makes us squirm because we’re aware of our own sin. We may try to deny it, but we can’t run from it for long. The Bible says that the heart is “deceitful” and “desperately sick” (Jeremiah 17:9 ESV) and that we are “by nature children of wrath” (Ephesians 2:3 ESV). Even when our sin is against others, we know that God is the most offended party (Psalm 51:4). So what offends us isn’t God’s wrath. What offends us is being the object of God’s wrath.

We want to believe we’re innocent. We know we’re not perfect, but we can always compare ourselves to someone worse than us. If all else fails we can say, “at least I’m not Hitler,” and feel a lot better. We form our own standards of what is right and good, instead of what the Bible says is right and good.

Look at the Scales

By volume, the Bible talks about God’s wrath far more than His love. We all want God to be loving – and He is – the Bible says that “God is love.” However, it also says that He is “Holy, holy, holy.” So loving is not his only quality. He is also just, holy, immutable, omniscient, all powerful … and more. There is nothing more unloving and unjust than a God who has no wrath towards evil. God’s wrath illustrates and emphasizes His love. Theologian P.T. Forsyth said, “If we spoke less about God’s love and more about his holiness, more about his judgment, we should say much more when we speak of His love.”

The best way to love God’s wrath is found in the word propitiation. This probably isn’t a word you’ve ever used in conversation. In fact, this may be the first time you’ve ever seen it, but it’s a beautiful word. Propitiation comes from the Greek word hilasterion, which means an atoning victim. Jesus is both described as being the propitiation (Romans 3:25 ESV, 1 John 2:2 ESV, 1 John 4:10 ESV) and making propitiation (Hebrews 2:17 ESV) for our sins. By being a willing atoning victim, Jesus absorbed the wrath of God on the cross. Jesus (the God-man) took on the weight of God’s wrath and became the only acceptable “mediator between God and men” (1 Timothy 2:5 ESV). So to hate God’s wrath is to hate the cross, where His wrath was satisfied. We can love God’s wrath because, in Christ, we don’t have to bear it.

God’s wrath executes judgment against evil. God’s wrath vindicates the innocent. God’s wrath displays his power over wickedness. Some people can’t believe in a God of wrath. I can’t believe in a God who has no wrath.

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Filed under Biblical Theology

What is freedom anyway?

Police Sketch of David Berkowitz, "Son of...

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Between the Summers of 1976 and 1977 David “Son of Sam” Berkowitz brutally murdered 6 people and injured 7 others. He was caught and confessed to, at least some of, the murders in August 1977. He was tried and given 6 life sentences, for a total of 365 years in prison.

In 1987 he became a Christian after reading Psalm 34:6. Ever since then, he has taken a life of ministry seriously. He’s not going to seminary or planning to become a pastor, but he works with other inmates inside the prison. He has been eligible for parole 5 times since 2002, but it has been denied because he refused it.

He’ll be eligible for parole again soon and already plans to refuse it. In a letter he wrote earlier this month he said, “I have no interest in parole and no plans to seek release.” He went on to say, “I am already a ‘free man.’ I am not saying this jokingly. I really am. Jesus Christ has already forgiven and pardoned me.”

Free? Really?

A “free man?” David Berkowitz really considers himself to be free? He definitely has a different definition of freedom than most of us. We would still be haunted by guilt and miserable in prison. Granted, he didn’t say he’s glad to be in prison, or even that’s where he would choose to be. He never said that he was in the best circumstance possible – he said he’s free. He’s free from the guilt of his past. He’s free from condemnation from God (Romans 8:1). He’s free to spend his time “sharing my story of redemption and hope with those on the outside.”

The Bible says, “so if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36 ESV). Freedom in Christ isn’t constrained the way physical freedom is. When the Son has set you free, you really are free. When you’re really free, it doesn’t matter how captive others think you are.

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Winning my daughter’s affection

My daughter never liked me much. At least not until recently. Beginning when she was a baby, she would always want Mommy more than Daddy. Her big brother Noah and I had always been tight, but Hannah was making me work for it.  I quickly developed a bad case of LE (lactation envy). I was certain that, if I could have a more active role in feeding her, things would change. But I digress.

This post has far more to do with my response than Hannah’s rejection. I never liked it when Hannah ran away from me or reached for Mommy instead. It was painful to hear her cry when I picked her up. However, I never responded to her rejection with rejection – I pursued her.

Woo, woo, woo

I knew Hannah avoided me because she didn’t know me. She didn’t know that I loved her more than any other man ever will. She didn’t know that I made sure she had everything she needed. She didn’t know that my eyes glowed every time I talked about her. She didn’t know … anything. So I showed her.

Little by little her Daddy reservations whittled away. She would let me hold her longer without crying. She would laugh when I tickled her and she even started reaching for me. Just a few weeks ago Stephanie and I picked her up from church. She saw me walk in, screamed “Daddy” with a huge smile on her face, ran past Stephanie and leaped into my arms. She was getting it.

The Father’s pursuit

The Bible says, “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside” (Romans 3:10b-12a ESV). We all respond to God the way Hannah responded to me as a baby. God knew that, left to ourselves, we would never look for Him. Left to ourselves, we would run away from Him, or rebel and fight Him. He knew what we didn’t know.

He knew that He loves us more than the people whose approval we sacrifice to get (Psalm 36:7). He knew that only He could provide us with what we need (Philippians 4:19). He knew that we bear His image, so He treasures us more than the rest of His creation (Genesis 1:26-31). So He pursued us … and He showed us.

Remarkably, He started this even before Jesus defeated Satan, sin and death on the cross, “God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8 ESV). So the cross wasn’t when God started pursuing man, the cross was where His pursuit got most personal.

So if you know the God of the Bible, it’s because He pursued you (John 6:44). If you’re wrestling with who He is and whether you really want to follow Jesus, it’s because He is still pursuing you. That is just a glimpse of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

***I’m spending some time at the beginning of my quest as “perfectly fractured” to explain some basic beliefs I hold and the goals of this site. Since perfectly fractured is “thoughts on culture, worldview, the gospel and more . . . but mostly Jesus,” it seems proper to explain why these thoughts are important. To see the first two posts in this series check out Broken Beginnings and Pardon me, your Imago Dei is showing.***

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Filed under Gospel, Soteriology

Unbelievable … that’s the point

Jonah Cast Forth By The Whale, by Gustave Doré.

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I recently read a post on CNN’s belief blog by John Blake. CNN certainly isn’t my main source for truth, but it’s interesting to see faith from different eyes, so I read the blog occasionally. I didn’t agree with everything, but the post was actually pretty good.

In case you haven’t read it, Blake talks about the dangers of speaking what I call “Christianese.” Some Christians have developed our own language that’s akin to a secret fraternity handshake, you speak a secret language to show that you’re in. We do it by talking about “naming it and claiming it” or asking a stranger if he’s been “washed in the blood” – talk about scaring a visitor away from your church. Ultimately it’s dangerous because “when Christians develop their own private language for one another, they forget how Jesus made faith accessible to ordinary people.”

What concerned me wasn’t the post itself. After all, it was pretty good. My concern was the video at the top of the post by Kirby Ferguson. It took things to the next level. In fact, the video was horrible. It pointed out that we misunderstand much of the Bible itself (for the record, I couldn’t agree more that most people don’t understand the Bible). However, Ferguson seemed to believe that the biggest misunderstanding of the Bible is to believe it. I mean, do you really want to believe the Bible? If you do, you have to believe that God parted the Red Sea, Jesus walked on water and Jonah survived in the belly of a great fish for three days. After all, the word “believe” in the Bible really means to “belove” as in “hold dear.” So don’t stress, you don’t really have to believe the Bible … you can just love it.


For a second I got nervous. Do I really want to believe this? Am I just being gullible? Is it intellectually responsible to place everything I hope for in the God of the Bible? Did I sign up for the wrong job? The wrong faith? I mean, those stories are pretty unbelievable. Maybe there really is more freedom in believing that the Bible is more of an allegory that points us to God. Believing that the Bible is God’s revealed truth of Himself is a leap. As you can see, it was a very disconcerting second.

Then I remembered something very important. Believing the Bible is where freedom truly is. Is it really freedom to believe in a God who is incapable of parting the Red Sea, walking on water or (more importantly) resurrecting from the dead? Of course it’s unbelievable … that’s the point. If God was confined to doing only what we could easily believe, He would cease to be God. The qualities that makes Him hard to believe are the same ones that verify His divinity.

Furthermore, how can you love a book that you can’t believe? That’s far harder to believe than a God who can do the impossible. If God can’t even write a decent autobiography I have no interest in Him at all. Obviously, I can’t go into all the reasons I believe the Bible is true and is God’s written revelation of himself in this post. There will be plenty of time for that later, but please don’t give up on the Bible because it’s hard to believe. If it wasn’t hard to believe, there would be less to capture your attention. Instead, use it to encourage you to believe in a God who is far greater than you are. A God who is all powerful, all knowing and who can’t be held down by death!

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