It’s not fair!

I can imagine Moses saying…

“What do you mean, Yahweh? I can’t enter the promised land??? I’ve led this ungrateful, foolish, recalcitrant people all over creation for forty years! I’ve listened to their constant grumbling and grousing, settled their petty arguments, and interceded on their behalf when they’ve flagrantly defied you. You do remember that whole golden calf incident, right? And now you are telling me that, because of one moment of completely understandable frustration on my part, you are not going to allow me to enter the promised land? Not even set one foot on the land I’ve been marching towards all these years? It’s not fair!!!”

And David…

“Why can’t I build you a house, Lord? You’ve been drug around all these years with nothing but a tent. It just looks bad that the GOD of Israel lives in a tent, for heaven’s sake! I want to build you a house. After all, you made me King David! I want to do this for you. And you won’t let me because of all the blood I’ve shed? I did it for you! What about the incident with the Philistine and the slingshot? I was just a kid, yet I fought for you, Lord! All this blood on my hands–it was all shed for your people at your command! I want to build a house for you. It’s not fair that you are denying me this privilege!”

Bottom line: God is sovereign!

That may not seem fair to us today. It’s hard in our independent culture to submit to a sovereign God we cannot see or fully understand. But God’s plan is good. It is perfect and it is fair. And some day it will all come together and make perfect sense for those who believe. It most likely didn’t seem fair to Moses or David at the time, either! Yet both men came to accept this truth. Indeed, from an eternal perspective, Moses is enjoying the Promised Land and David lives in God’s Mansion!

What’s your rant? We all have at least one. Most of us have a whole collection.

We can and–dare I say?–should pray for the faith to believe that God’s got this, and for the strength to trust the bottom line:

god-is-totally-sovereign

 

The death that never dies.

In my last post, I had been pondering the consummate question. I was not inclined on that day to dig into the consequences of denying Jesus as the Son of God, so I sort of skipped past it with a reference to “the death that never dies.” Perhaps you’ve been wondering what I meant…

When I was a very young child, I remember hearing “fire and brimstone” sermons that terrified me. That was the intent, I’m sure, but not very healthy for a 5-year-old growing up with nominally-Christian parents. In other words, we never talked about it. When I reached confirmation age, that terror re-surfaced. This time, however, I was blessed to have a pastor that encouraged my questions and was happy to reassure me that I was avoiding such a fate by accepting Christ as my personal Lord and Savior.

I still shy away from the “fire and brimstone” idea of hell. Yes, I’m well aware that scripture speaks of it and that to interpret scripture literally leaves no doubt that such a place exists. Maybe it really does. Maybe it’s also a metaphor for something that, in my mind, is much worse.

When I really accepted Christ as Lord for once and for all, I was in my early 30s. I exchanged a life that felt hopeless for one that was full of promise. I remember thinking that the grass looked greener and the sky more blue than I had ever noticed before! Nature, music, people…everything was more vibrant! A deep joy began bubbling up within me, and my life took on more meaning and purpose than I had ever dreamed possible.

I want to be crystal-clear that my problems did not magically disappear. My children did not become little angels. My husband did not turn into Prince Charming and I did not become Cinderella! I didn’t find the perfect job, our debt didn’t suddenly disappear, our house didn’t turn into something out of Southern Living magazine or Architectural Digest. My church wasn’t perfect, either. In fact, nothing was perfect. Nor has it ever been since then. Jesus Christ is not some kind of cosmic vending machine that spits out whatever version of utopia we are looking for when we push the button that says, “Yes, I believe.” What Jesus Christ offers is hope, the promise of a better life than we can ever imagine. A life that is never again lived alone.

The death that never dies? It is hell, of course. Jesus described it as a place”where the worm does not die and the fire is not quenched” (Mark 9:48), and I have no reason to doubt what He says is true. But in my mind, hell is not just a place reserved for the future. Hell can be here and now. Hell is any day not lived in the company of Jesus Christ. That is an unbearably lonely existence. And, in my experience, that version of hell is much more terrifying than the threat of some future place.

Lonely girl on a chair

The consummate question…and the second one that is like it.

“Who do you say that I am?”

Jesus asked this question of his disciples, and He continues to ask it today. It echoes through the ages, like a resounding bell. It is a rock that never erodes, over which everyone will stumble.

It is undoubtedly the single most important question we will ever answer.

I’m not sure what happens if we simply ignore the question, if we just turn a deaf ear. Perhaps it fades until we can no longer hear it. I’m guessing, however, that to choose not to hear is, in effect, an answer. To reply in any way other than Peter did is to endure a death that never really dies.

But if, like Peter, we profess Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, more questions will follow. Question after question will find its way into our hearts and minds every single day, and each one will hinge on our answer to that first question.

“Who do you say that I am?” is the consummate question.

The second question, “If you believe that I am the Christ, now what?” is like it.

No, you won’t find Jesus explicitly asking that question anywhere in the gospels. But it is implied repeatedly, as the follow-up to the consummate question. And Jesus asks it of us again and again. When we tune our hearts to His voice, each time we are about t0 make a decision about what to do or what to say, we hear Him ask that question. And slowly but surely, our life is changed, transformed into something more, something much better than it was before or would have been otherwise.

However we choose to answer the consummate question, the implications are question marklife-changing. To answer as Peter did, “You are the Christ,” is to grapple with the second question for a lifetime. But the prize for getting the right answer is truly priceless.