A New Perspective On Today

Dear all, my friend Evelyn Brooks and I did a blog post swap! Here is her encouraging article on rejoicing in today. You can find more of her writing here.

“This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” — Psalm 118:24

Sometimes, God’s Spirit brings understanding in the most unexpected ways. Like through an egg carton. 

It was a bright morning, and I was making breakfast. As I moved to put away the egg carton, I saw Psalm 118:24 printed on the inside of the top. 

“This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118:24 ESV)

All of a sudden, it was like a burst of clarity struck me in the face. The day mentioned in the verse wasn’t just some hypothetical 24-hour period to think of on Thanksgiving. This was the day the Lord had made. This one, right here. 

It seemed like I’d been going through a season of hardship where I knew each day would be tainted by some new struggle. Having a fresh perspective by putting this verse into the context of the present transformed the way I saw my day, and hopefully it does the same for you.

In essence, Psalm 118:24  tells us that God has made this day, no matter what comes, and it is something to rejoice in. 

No matter what anxiety you have. 

No matter if you feel like a frazzled mess. 

No matter if you forget to pray.

No matter what mistakes you make and setbacks you experience. 

Our God is the Intentional Creator, which means that if He made this day, then nothing about it is an accident. Romans 8:28 says “And we know that God causes all things to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them” (NLT). He has a vision for all our “bad days” and will turn them into something more stunning than we could ever imagine. The Lord knew the challenges you’d face and made today something worth rejoicing in anyway

To be honest, I feel a little fake right now since so much of what I’m talking about are lessons I’m still trying to learn and trust. However, I want to remind both myself and you that this is a process, and you shouldn’t get discouraged when your faith-walk isn’t as picture-perfect as you’d like it to be. Thank God for His abundance of grace. 

In the middle of our messy, stressful, or painful days, God is in control and faithful to walk with us even when we can’t feel His presence. I don’t know about you, but these facts begin changing how I define a good day versus a bad one. Rather than minimizing the struggle, trying to gain God’s vantage point on our days gives a comforting perspective. It’s incredible how many moments begin jumping out at you when you pay attention to the little, simple ways God floods your life with goodness. 

So, no matter what today holds, rejoice because God weaves beauty into even our most mundane, imperfect days, and He is always present in them. 

Peace That Passes All Understanding

Before I start this post, I want to apologize for not posting on Tuesday. We had a crazy busy week and it slipped my mind. I hope the post will be worth the wait. And it’s not as long as the last one, I promise 😉

And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.
Colossians 3:15

The Hebrew word for peace is Shalom. It means not only the absence of war and strife but “wholeness”. When a complex world is working together as one piece, in harmony, there is shalom. When a “broken” relationship is “restored” or “made whole”, there is shalom. Through Jesus’ sacrificial death, He made whole our broken relationship with God on the cross. He made Shalom between us and God. That’s what I explained in my last post. Jesus’ death provided judicial peace.

But that judicial peace also allowed us to have experiential peace. This is the peace that is spoken of in Philippians 4:7.

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Experiential peace is the peace that we feel in our hearts and minds.

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.
Isaiah 26:3

When we worry, the shalom of our trust in God is broken. We don’t believe that God can provide, or carry us, or that He can love us. The wholeness of our relationship is broken. We try to put the pieces back together by our strength. It doesn’t work. We were never meant to live without God. We were never meant to live without His friendship and presence. We cannot live a life of shalom, a whole life, without Him. So when we trust Him with our lives, He restores our broken relationship. And we have peace. We are whole.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.
John 14:27

This world does not have shalom. It’s broken. People search for peace. They search for that missing thing that will make them whole. Some think they’ll find it in power. In money. In human relationships. In family. In a career. In fame. But as humans created by our God, we can find shalom only in the one that created us because we were created for Him. Without the One we were created for, pieces are missing. People can not feel true experiential peace before having judicial peace. People cannot feel true peace without first being restored to their God.

As believers, we are already restored. We stand before God in Christ’s righteousness, with no strife between us. So when we feel the temptation to worry, or to search for wholeness in other things, let us approach the throne boldly and go to the One who can make us whole, and give us peace.

Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way. The Lord be with you all.
2 Thessalonians 3:16

Peace: Our Standing Before God

And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.  Colossians 3:15-17

Here’s the post I promised on the 1st point I made about Colossians 3:15-17 in this post. 

As I was pondering different verses about peace, I realized that two different kinds of peace are talked about in the Bible regarding our identity as believers. As I further researched, I found more on the subject. One kind of peace is regarding our standing before God “judicial peace”, and the other is our state of mind and heart as believers “experiential peace”.

Judicial Peace

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 5:1 

And through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. Colossians 1:20

But he was pierced for our transgressions;

he was crushed for our iniquities;

upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,

and with his wounds we are healed.  Isaiah 53:5

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.  Ephesians 2:13-16

We were once enemies with Christ. We were in rebellion against God. The Old Covenant (the Law of Commandments) separated us from God because, to be with God, we had to faithfully fulfill all of God’s commandments. However, because of our sinful flesh, we couldn’t. Only the completely holy could be in the presence of a holy God. We could not access His presence. God created the sacrificial system so that the Old Testament believers could atone for their sins. In Hebrew, atonement, “kafar”, it means covering or blotting out (one might even say “painting over”). The blood of the animal symbolically paints over the sin. The penalty of sin is death (Romans 6:23), and eternal death, at that. Death is separation from the living. So the penalty for sin against an eternal living God is eternal death. The sacrificed animals covered the sin of the person up to that point so that they would be clean. It was a result of their repentance, and it served as a reminder to them that sin was deadly. In spilling the blood of an animal, they were restored to the covenant, where they received God’s mercy and forgiveness because God is faithful to be Himself (He is who He is).

Death was the only way to Life. Only through the death of the living could one satisfy God’s wrath and atone for debt. We could not provide that sacrifice. We had already sinned. If we were to die, we would forever remain indebted, in eternal death in hell. If we were ever to access God’s presence, we needed a sacrifice that could satisfy the debt eternally. 

This is where we get to the doctrine of Atonement. Atonement, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, means “the reconciliation of God and humankind through the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ”. Before, the sins of the Jews were atoned for once a year by the animal sacrifices. But now, our sins are atoned for by the death of Jesus Christ. The atonement of animal sacrifice only covered the sins of the here and now, but the atonement of Jesus Christ is sufficient to cover all our sin, past, present, and future. 

If our debt is paid, and God has blotted out our guilty record, then there is no reason for us to be in enmity with God any longer. If we believe this to be true, we are reconciled to God. 

Reconciliation is what I talked about before when I said we could not enter God’s presence. Before the Fall of humankind, we had access to God. Adam and Eve would walk with God in the garden. They would talk with Him. However, when Adam and Eve sinned, they could no longer enjoy His presence. They were unclean. They were guilty and ashamed. Jesus’ death and sacrifice erased the guilty record of humankind before the Righteous and Holy God. Since our sins are atoned for, we can now go back into God’s presence. 

How Judicial Peace Transforms Our Lives

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. Romans 8:5–9

We are no longer hostile to God. We are no longer enemies with Him. Therefore, we can set our minds on the Spirit. The Holy Spirit gives us life, and gives us experiential peace.

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written,

 “For your sake we are being killed all the day long;

  we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. Romans 8:31–37

Unlike our relationship with God before, where we were against Him, we are now on His side. When God, the immortal, eternal, all-powerful, strong King of the Universe is for us, nothing can stand against us. We can now stand in His presence, come boldly to His throne in times of need (Hebrews 4:16), with the promise that He will graciously give us all things. We are reconciled to Him. There is no more separation! Who can separate us from the love of Christ? Nothing! 

We are safe in His love because we have peace in our standing before God.

I used ESV for all my verse quotations.

Many thanks to my uncle who helped out with the tricky and deep theological bits.

Tuesday’s post will be on experiential peace, the second kind of peace.

10 Songs that Glorify and Teach About God

“There are ultimately no neutral lyrics. All songs share a message about how we should view the world.”

― Keith Getty, Sing!: How Worship Transforms Your Life, Family, and Church

In light of my last post, I would like to share with you 10 of my favorite worship songs. These songs aren’t necessarily from the “Worship Music” genre or are necessarily my TOP Ten, but they all worship the Lord! These songs share the ultimate message: they teach who God is, what He has done, and they glorify Him because He is God. (The songs are not in any sort of order.) 

  1. Jesus, Strong, and Kind by CityAlight

For the Lord is good and faithful

He will keep us day and night

We can always run to Jesus

Jesus, strong and kind

The Australian group CityAlight wrote a beautiful song that’s easy to sing and bring us back to the simplicity that Jesus is our strong sovereign God but also our kind, faithful Friend. We can always run to Him.

2. Regeneration by Shai Linne

Naturalistically- the only way for him to hear it

Jesus said, “You must be born of the water and the Spirit”

No other way to enter heaven

That sounds like Ezekiel 36: 25-27

In this new birth, the Spirit is the source and the agent

The water symbolizes spiritual purification

Flesh can only produce flesh- that’s true and factual

Regenerating work of the Spirit is supernatural

Shai Linne is a pastor and a rapper. He preaches at church, and he preaches through his music. His songs are constantly teaching deep theology. The song Regeneration teaches about who God is and how he saves us, how we die to our flesh, and are born into His marvelous light. It teaches the doctrine of regeneration.

3. Forever by Kari Jobe

Forever He is glorified

Forever He is lifted high

Forever He is risen

He is alive, He is alive!

Kari Jobe sings of the death and resurrection of Jesus, and you get to the chorus, and it’s a glorious proclamation that He has defeated death, and He is glorified! I highly recommend listening to the live recording of the song along with the spoken word called “the Word” by Isaac Wimberly. It’s magnificent. 

4. Our God by Chris Tomlin

Our God is greater, our God is stronger

God, You are higher than any other

Our God is Healer, awesome in power

Our God! Our God!

This classic Chris Tomlin worship song is popular for a reason. It declares God’s attributes. He is better and higher and more glorified than any other thing in the universe. Since we rely on Him, if He is for us, nothing can stand against us.

5. 10,000 Reasons by Matt Redman

You’re rich in love

And You’re slow to anger

Your name is great

And Your heart is kind

For all Your goodness

I will keep on singing

Ten thousand reasons

For my heart to find

Another classic worship song from one of the best, Matt Redman. We bless and worship our Lord because of what He does and who He is! He is loving, long-suffering, lifted up, kind, and good. 

6. Waymaker by Sinach

Way maker

Miracle worker

Promise keeper

Light in the darkness

My God

That is who you are

This passionate song was coined by an African gospel singer, Sinach. She wrote this song broadcasting His fidelity and Holy Spirit’s work in our lives. He guides us, is a light unto our path.

7. I Choose to Worship by Rend Collective

I will praise You through the fire

Through the storm and through the flood

There is nothing that could ever steal my song

In the valley You are worthy

You are good when life is not

You will always and forever be my song

We worship Him because He is God, He is worthy, and He is good when life is not. This song is from the great Irish band Rend Collective, a fresh voice in modern Christian Music. 

8. The God Who Stays by Matthew West

You’re the God who stays

You’re the God who stays

You’re the one who runs in my direction

When the whole world walks away

You’re the God who stands

With wide-open arms

And You tell me nothing I have ever done can separate my heart

From the God who stays

Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ (Romans 8:38-39). While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us, and that is the greatest devotion ever (Romans 5:8). He is faithful (Deuteronomy 7:9). This song is a beautiful reminder of God’s love and faithfulness. 

9. In Christ Alone by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend

Til on that cross, as Jesus died

The wrath of God was satisfied

For every sin, on him, was laid

Here, in the death of Christ, I live

This hymn has become a modern classic. This hymn that I grew up with is full of hope and reminds us of who our Savior is. It portrays the Gospel and who we are now because of it. 

10. We Believe by Newsboys

And the gates of hell will not prevail!

For the power of God, has torn the veil!

Now we know Your love will never fail!

We believe, we believe!

A modern creed, this song is a powerful declaration of our faith in Christ. It states that even in temptation, in our weakness, we stand on the foundation of Jesus our Rock. Newsboys are known for their passionate songs that fuel the believer to persevere in life’s hardships. 

God’s Word Through Song

I don’t remember reading Colossians 3:15-17 until a couple of days ago, and I marveled again at how the Scriptures are so rich and thought-provoking. Quite often, they reveal things that you thought you knew, but you learn that you knew only superficially or not at all. 

And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.Colossians 3:15-17 

There are 3 themes I would like to explore in this verse:

1. Christ’s peace ruling in our hearts

2. God’s truth through song

3. Thankfulness in all of life

In this post, I will be tackling the second point. I know that seems confusing, but as I started to study the first point, I realized it was much more complex than I imagined and that I needed to postpone that blog entry to a later date. That being said, let’s talk music!

Let the Word of Christ Dwell Richly

The word richly is πλουσίως (plousiōs), and it occurs 4 times in the New Testament. It can also be translated abundantly. Cambridge defines richly as: “in a very special or valuable way, or in a way that is greater than usual”. God’s word is to dwell greatly, valuably in us. We are to study His Word, and teach it to and share it with others. We are to count it valuable. We are to magnify it. How beautiful His word is to be to us! 

Theologically Sound Worship

Colossians 3:16 explains that singing hymns and worship songs should be a means to the dwelling richly of God’s word. This means that the worship of the Lord should be founded on truth. So many worship songs today are based on feelings. Songs about “being carried away in His love” and “the way He holds us” become the way we worship our God. I’m not here to say that there is something inherently wrong with those songs. Feelings are a part of worship but should come after a realization of truth. Our God is so much greater and grander and worthy of the most excellent praise than to be worshiped because of our fleeting feelings. The Scriptures give us wonderful insight into why and how we should praise our Lord:

O Lord, you are my God; I will exalt you; I will praise your name, for you have done wonderful things, plans formed of old, faithful and sure. Isaiah 25:1

Our worship should be based on His works. He is faithful. He keeps His promises. He is sure, He is unchanging. Therefore, we should praise Him, because amidst our changing emotions and our waywardness, amidst our sense that we are: “Prone to wander, Lord (we) feel it!”, He is faithful. 

Sing to God, sing praises to his name; lift up a song to him who rides through the deserts; his name is the Lord; exult before him! Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation. Psalm 68:4-5

Our worship should be based on who He is. In the Bible, a name represents the identity of the person. When we say, “Praise His name!”, we aren’t saying praise the actual name, the letters, but the identity of that name, what the name represents. His name is the Lord, and we sing praises to His name. We sing praise because of who He is: He is the Father to the fatherless and the protector of widows. He is holy!

‘Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” –Revelation 5:11-13

We worship God because He is God. God the Son was slain. He is eternal and sovereign and is wise. He counted all that as loss. He was beaten and betrayed and left bloody to die. All-powerful, dead on the cross. What beauty! He is worthy to receive all adoration. All of creation will one day proclaim God the Father as worthy of eternal glory, and the Son of eternal praise.

Conscientiously Choose Your Worship Music

I believe that when we are listening or singing songs to worship God, we should be paying attention to three things: 

  1. Worship based on what He’s done
  2. Worship based on who He is
  3. Worship because He is God, and He is worthy

Let’s let God’s word dwell richly among us as we praise Him!

Dear Teenager, Doubt is O.K.

I love my school. It is intellectually challenging, fun, and diverse. It’s brimming with great teachers and educators. However, when I started high school, I was not ready for the spiritual attacks that I would face. Day after day, I would face secular, humanistic, atheistic worldviews. Teachers would teach their views as if they were facts. I was told that all religions were connected and that religions such as Christianity found their origins in shamanistic tribal beliefs. We watched a movie teaching the evolution of apes into humans, where we watched half-men crawl around discovering “real emotions” for the first time. I knew all these views existed, but I was not ready for all the subtle messages under teaching that would grip my thinking and shake my beliefs. However, I am thankful for those times because it taught me valuable lessons about doubt. I’d like to share with you some of what I’ve learned. 

Too many teens today are told that they shouldn’t doubt, they shouldn’t ask questions, but just “have faith”. This is disastrous. Those who give this advice mean well but are terribly mistaken. We need to face our questions and doubts. If we close up these thoughts inside of us, we brew the feelings longer, and this could lead to even greater doubts. Talking about your questions with others will show you that first, you aren’t alone in your questioning, and, second, most times there are answers. 

Seek and You Shall Find

 “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. ‘ – Matthew 7:7-8

Too many people seek quickly and give up, left with a superficial and often dissatisfactory answer that leads to disbelief. When you have questions, seek diligently. Observe all possible answers. Ask your parents or trusted elders for resources that will give you rich, logical, meaningful answers. For example, someone may have doubts about passages such as 1 Timothy 2:9. “Likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire.” At first glance, this seems to mean that women can’t braid their hair or wear jewelry. Oppressive, right? 

But one needs to seek. The word “seek” in Matthew 7:7-8 is not just referring to looking for something. It is speaking of passionately pursuing absolute truth. One cannot simply come to a conclusion from reading one verse and therefore saying that since it is in the Bible, it is true. One must compare Scripture with Scripture. One must find out historical and cultural context. One must research the meanings of the words in the original language. If one did for 1 Timothy 2:9, one would find that Paul is simply pointing out that inner beauty is most important and should be praised, not outer beauty. Women should strive to adorn themselves with patience and kindness, not elaborate hairstyles or expensive jewelry. If you would like to know more about this topic, check this out.

This may seem like hard work. But God has given us an amazing promise from God’s word. If you seek, if you pursue the answer to your question, you will find. If you ask God for guidance and help in your doubt, you will receive. We must cling to this promise as we struggle against our doubt. We cannot give up. We must seek the answer. For if we seek, we will find. 

God Is Big Enough For Your Questions

‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. ‘ – Isaiah 55:8-9

God’s knowledge and wisdom are higher than everyone’s thoughts. Notice the analogy Isaiah uses: the heavens. The word translated “heavens” is “shâmayim”, and it is the same word as used in Genesis 1:8. 

‘And God called the expanse Heaven. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day. ‘

The word used here means sky, either as where the stars are or the atmosphere. Knowledge of the sky in the ancient world was expansive, but not as amazing as our knowledge today. We now know that there are billions of stars in our galaxy and that there are other galaxies in the universe. If you traveled at a speed of 56,000 km/h, you would reach the nearest star to earth (other than the sun), Proxima Centauri, in 81,000 years. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are His ways higher than ours. He is ultimately wise and great and sovereign. Our questions don’t daunt Him. Our doubts don’t faze Him. He knew we would doubt before we were even born. He is all-knowing. 

He also understands our struggle to believe. Hebrews 4:15 says:

‘For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. ‘

Jesus was human and has been tempted in every respect as we are. He has heard the questions, struggled with temptations, and has triumphed over death and sin. Let us look to Him in our struggle and our doubts. He is big enough for our questions.

You Are Not Alone

I have dealt with doubt throughout my teen years and still struggle with it. I have struggled with topics like women in the Church, evolution vs. 7-day creation, or complementarianism. However, I have resources that I have learned to draw from and learn from. The first resource that I would advise to you is a trusted, godly, learned adult. Talk to them about your doubt and ask them what has helped them in their journey of faith. Share with them that you want to seek the truth. The second resource would be finding sound theological and/or apologetical websites, books, podcasts, etc. from which you can draw and from which you can grow. Theologians such as John Piper and Timothy Keller and apologists such as the recently deceased Ravi Zacharias have formed great resources that you can learn from. (Links below.) 

Teen, trust, ask, and seek, for you will find.

John Piper

Timothy Keller

Ravi Zacharias

Website for finding Hebrew And Greek original meanings of words

Apologetical Creationist Science Website