Monthly Archives: November 2014

Love Covering

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While reading through Proverbs again I was particularly struck by this verse: “Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all sins” (10:12 NKJV).  A companion verse is 1 Peter 4:8, where Peter was quoting the original: ‘And above all things have fervent love for one another, for “love will cover a multitude of sins”’ (emphasis mine).

But what does it mean for love to “cover” sins? 

Junk under a rug is still just junk.

Junk under a rug is still just junk.

I think this is an issue we as the Church and as individuals often face.  Sin is, well, SIN – are we supposed to casually ignore it because we are being “loving”?  Not at all.  True love, as we find in 1 Corinthians 13, is always truthful (v. 6) – and oftentimes the truth is painful to both the giver and the receiver.  God certainly doesn’t just say, “Oh, no big deal.  Everyone sins sometimes.  Let’s just forget about that, shall we?”  No – our sin, our disobedience, brings Him great pain, and ultimately it will cause us and others to suffer as well.

The real problem is that our concept of what it means to “cover” is misinformed.  Love does not hide sin, sweeping it under the rug of ignorance; love always brings light, and with light comes life.

And then I had a beautiful God-thought: love covering.  That is what love does – it provides a covering.  Not to hide the ugliness of sin but to purify and redeem what it touches.  Like the garments God provided for Adam and Eve after they realized their nakedness (Genesis 3:21), our love covering strips away shame and offers wholeness.  Likewise, when the prodigal son returned to his father’s house, the father brought out the best robe and clothed his wayward child (Luke 15:22).  This is what our Heavenly Father does for us.  The love covering He provides is not something that hides sin, but rather it removes filth and shame and guilt, covering the nakedness of sin with the pure warmth of grace.

Now, of course, what Adam and Eve and the prodigal son received were but a shadow of what we now have; our ultimate Love Covering came through Christ: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16, emphasis mine).  It is the power of the cross through the resurrection that allows us to lay our ashes at the feet of Jesus and exchange them for a holy garment of purity and fellowship with God.  In that moment, we are accepting His love as the covering that alone makes us whole.  It is exquisite.

This is easy. Loving is difficult.

But that is not the full extent of the love covering.  God convicted me of this recently.  Only Jesus can provides the atonement for sin and thus the final Love Covering, but we as His Church are called to extend His love covering not only to other believers but to a world that doesn’t know what true love looks like.  Love is wonderful when it is aimed at us, but we often shy away when the time comes to direct it toward others.  I know I do, at least.  After all, it is so much easier to show where someone has gone wrong than offer a solution.

It is so much easier to walk past when you should reach out.  It is so much easier to focus on self than it is to focus on other.  Loving hurts, and that is why we avoid offering a love covering to others, that extension of God’s grace that brings life.

“Love does no wrong to a neighbor, therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” – Romans 10:13 ESV

We are very good at pointing out faults – sometimes we act as though it were our job and not the Holy Spirit’s to convict others of sin – but we don’t often offer a love covering.  People need to see the love of God demonstrated through our actions and words.  Sometimes providing a love covering means that you step in to fill the gap where you know another is weak.  True love offers strength and hope; instead of just pointing out the “gap,” love stretches to cover and fill it.  True love builds up and does not tear down.  It gives when it does not receive and endures when all else crumbles.  And this love, this glorious covering, needs to be extended just as much to unbelievers as to believers, for it is the proof of His Love living in us:

‘“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another.  By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”’ – John 13:34-35

Unfortunately, we are quick to rescind this love covering when others make mistakes.  We draw back and begin to cling to hatred, allowing its little roots to settle in our hearts and minds.  Hatred, though, is a two-way poison.  I am sure we can all agree that hating is an ugly thing.  No one thinks well of hateful people.  But did you ever stop to think about the hated person?  The truth is that, just as hating never made anyone better, so being hated never made anyone better.

Your Savior loved you before you were lovable (Romans 5:8), and His love is what makes you loving, lovable, and lovely.  Jesus Christ already died for every sin – past, present, and future – and it is not your job to decide who should receive the covering of His love.  He gives freely and without measure to all, for His Love has already covered every sin.  Hatred is a bitter cup to bear, whether you are giving or receiving, but God’s love is the wellspring that never runs dry.

Will you choose with me today, this very moment, to set aside hatred and extend His love covering?  Only the covering of His gracious love denies the authority of evil and breaks the bonds of sin.  Only True Love redeems, and only True Love never fails.

love-heart

May we give as we have been given and cover as we have been covered, for His love heals, blesses, and restores that which has been cast aside as broken, cursed, and bruised.  May the Lord expand in you and through you His glorious Love Covering as He teaches you how to love as He loves.

Are there any areas of your life where you need to receive God’s Love Covering?  Are there any people who you specifically need to extend a love covering to?

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Unveiled

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Have you ever wondered what God’s will is?  I know, I know – it’s a rhetorical question.  All of us who are following Jesus have wondered that at some point.  Of course, if you ask such a question, you might get the “preacher answer”: it is God’s will that you be sanctified (1 Thessalonians 4:3).  Because THAT really helps.  Very practical, right?  What does it even mean?  You really just wanted to know what to do.  And so with a sigh you return to the frustrating task of determining the deep and mystical will of God for your life.  Or perhaps you just give up.

The first – and perhaps only – real problem is that we see the will of God as “mystical.”  We even say “the will of God” in reverent tones as if it is some hallowed, unknowable truth we must somehow ascend to or that we’ll only understand after we die and “go to be with Jesus.”

That’s just nonsense.

Don't make "confirmation" your fail-safe.

Don’t make “confirmation” your fail-safe.

We so often want Him to tell us what we should do – what is the right thing, the right choice.  It is important and good to pray, staying in continual contact with God, but it is also very important to recognize our own motives in asking for “confirmation.”  Let’s be honest: we often ask for “confirmation” not because we truly want to know what is right but because we are afraid.  We are so afraid of failing that we want security so that, if anything goes wrong along the way, we can blame God.

This safety-net mindset, however, denies the guiding presence of His Holy Spirit in your life, and it also embraces a view of God that is contrary to His nature.  God isn’t going to trick you, and He isn’t going to let you choose something not good without warning.  You, of course, are free to choose, but you will know if what you are doing is wrong because He is living and active within your spirit!  It is not as though we will get to the end of life and stand before Jesus only to have Him say, “Oh, you know thirty years ago when you got that offer to take the job in Phoenix and you decided not to take it?  Well, I really wanted you to take that job, and I just wanted to let you know that you have been outside My will since then” or “Wow, your life really could have been better if you had three kids instead of two; you were in my will but you really didn’t experience My best for you, sorry.”  It sounds laughable to say it like that, but that is how we treat God’s will most times, so let’s just clarify some things here.

For starters, we should understand what we are talking about when we say “the will of God.”  What exactly does that phrase mean?  God’s will is, quite simply, all His thoughts and desires and plans for His creation, of which you are an integral part.  Never deny your special place in His will!

This is not the fullness of your hope in life!

This is not the fullness of your hope in life!

And secondly, God’s will is not some fine line that we follow from point A to point B.  We are not trains on the railroad tracks of His will that, if ever we should deviate, we suddenly find ourselves derailed and unable to recover.  Life is an adventure, every day of which has been written in God’s book before the foundations of the earth were laid (Psalm 139:16) that we may walk in all the good things He has prepared for us (Ephesians 2:10).  It is a skillfully-wrought story with a plotline that twists and turns, has its joys and its sorrows, but always remains in the control of God, the great Author and Finisher (Hebrews 12:2), who works all things together for the good of His people (Romans 8:28).

Does that sound too simple?  Good.  Because it is precisely that simple.  It breaks my heart when I see people desperately trying to discern God’s will.  God doesn’t want you to be confused, and He isn’t asking you to determine what His will is.  He sent Jesus in order to reconcile all things unto Himself, drawing earth and heaven, sin-bound time and glorious eternity, into beautiful collision, just as He always intended it to be (Ephesians 1:10; Colossians 1:20).  In doing this, He “made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself” (Ephesians 1:9).  Do you understand what that is saying?  It is saying that it is His pleasure to let you know what He desires; and not only is it His pleasure to do so, He has already done so!  Then, to go beyond even that, when we choose to allow the Holy Spirit to renew our minds, we are transformed and made able to “prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:2)!

Many hundreds of years before Jesus came to redeem us, David had the right idea:

“The secret of the Lord is with those who fear Him, and He will show them His covenant” – Psalm 25:14

In the same Psalm, David speaks repeatedly of how the Lord corrects us and teaches us His ways.  We are not left to wander aimlessly, nor are we in danger of “falling off the track” when we are seeking to please Him.  Our Lord is mighty enough to correct you, and, as our Heavenly Father, He is also loving enough to guide you rightly.  He has unveiled within you all the mysteries of His will and taken authority over any darkness and confusion that held you back from knowing it.  Declare your trust in His goodness toward you today!

Are you ready to unveil the adventure of your story?

Are you ready to unveil the adventure?

Flow

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Poppy, camera pouncer -- only a few weeks old

Poppy, camera pouncer – only a few weeks old. It was love at first sight.

On Monday I lost my sweet lovie from South Africa; my mom had to have Poppy put down.  I will never cuddle her again, my quirky yet faithful companion for the five most difficult years of my life.  My heart hurts, but this post isn’t really about my dog’s death.  More than any other death I have encountered, losing Poppy has laid me bare.

There inside my dream
I heard the river roar;
I stumbled through the darkened mist,
But I couldn’t find the shore.

Now this might seem silly to you.  After all, it’s way more tragic when people die because people have souls and are more important – right?  But let me tell you something.  Creation didn’t choose sin; people did.  Poppy’s death has left my heart in anguish, but not merely for the reasons you might think.  I miss her because I am human and I loved her – love her still; but that is not what truly hurts most.  You see, the consequence of sin is brokenness, and creation is powerless to stop that which people chose.  Though we deserve the death brought by sin, creation does not; it is subject to the consequences of our guilt.  Creation cannot choose something better.  Poppy could not have chosen to make her life better by thinking better thoughts or doing better things.  Her little body, like all of creation, fell prey to the brokenness of sin.

Sin always manifests itself in brokenness – this is the curse of sin that creation has been forced to bear.  Romans 8:20-22 tells us, “For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself will also be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.  For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now.”  What is this “hope” for which creation was subjected to brokenness?  The hope is the revelation of the sons of God through Jesus Christ, which brings with it reconciliation and restoration – the redemption of all created things (Romans 8:19-25).

I could have asked, “Why?  Why my Poppy?  Why is there so much pain?”

Happy memories of life around the world with my Poppy.

Happy memories of life around the world with my Poppy.

But asking “why?” can become a dangerous addiction when the answer is very simple: brokenness.  So I am choosing let Him flood my being with His peace.  Peace doesn’t take away the hurting.  Instead it allows me to recognize that suffering is part of life in a broken world and, in doing so, exchange my ashes for beauty at the feet of Jesus.  He is revealing new depths of His gracious love in the midst of the brokenness of creation.

A voice within the mist
Said, “Tell me what do you seek?”
I said, “I have a mighty thirst
But I feel so tired and weak.”
He said, “I am the river

Full of power and truth.
You’ve been looking outside yourself
When it’s there inside of you.”

Those verses I quoted from Romans 8 are followed by a well-known, oft-quoted verse: “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God…” (v. 28).  I claim that promise.  As tears run down my face, I can without hesitation proclaim my unwavering trust in God’s working all things together for my good.  Not to say that all things are good in themselves or that pain is not valid, but to recognize that I am free to rest in the surety of His goodness.  I don’t live a glass-half-empty life, but I don’t live a glass-half-full life either;  I live a life that is always full to overflowing, everyday living all-out, a testament of the fullness of His gracious love.

My mom pointed me to Ezekiel 47:1-12.  This passage never fails to move me deeply.  I encourage you to read it devotionally when you have an opportunity to do so, because there is so much more than just what I am going to draw out here.  Ezekiel is seeing a vision of the new Temple and the New Jerusalem that God is preparing for His people, which, as Jesus-followers, we understand to extend far beyond mere physical fulfillment to spiritual reconciliation with the Father and His purpose for His creation.

Bursting with vivid imagery of the restoration of creation, these verses in chapter 47 describe the river of water flowing from the altar in the Temple.  As Ezekiel is led forth, the river becomes broader and deeper until it is utterly uncrossable.  ‘“Son of man, have you seen this?”’ asks the man leading Ezekiel (v. 6).  Oh, can you hear what that question means?  Have you seen, have you comprehended what the Lord is doing?  The river flows down to the sea, and by its waters the sea is healed.  Where the river goes, its water brings life and healing: “everything will live wherever the river goes” (v. 9).  And the life of the river brings abundance.  The sweet waters of the river tenderly restore everything receptive to its touch; healing flows as part of the life it gives.

And the river will flow,
The river will flow.
Through all of the times of your life
The river will flow.
And the river is love;
The river is peace.
And the river will flow through the hearts
Of those who believe.

Revelation 22:1-5 echoes, almost word-for word, the vision of Ezekiel – except that Revelation has an expanded vantage point because the Messiah, Jesus, has already lived, died, and rose again.  In the previous chapter John writes of the beauty of the New Jerusalem with a view expanded with the knowledge of Christ our Messiah; here, we need no temple, for “the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple” (Rev. 21:22).  John speaks of seeing a “pure river of water of life,” flowing from the very “throne of God and the Lamb” to bring abundant life (Rev. 22:1-2).  Then comes the awe as the manifestation of full redemption is revealed in verse 3: “And there shall be no more curse…”  The flow of the River wipes away the curse of brokenness that comes through sin.  All who thirst, all who desire, may come and take freely of the water of life (Rev. 22:17).  So I ask: are you thirsty and dry today?

So put your hands in mine.
Oh, put your hands in mine,
And let us all go down
And kneel by the river’s side.

We’ll cry our tears of joy,
Cry our tears of pain.
We’ll let them fall down from our eyes
To be washed in the sacred stream,
Even the secret tears
Buried in our memories;
Let them all be swept away to the depths of the endless sea.

The lyrics of this Whiteheart song beautifully capture the heart of the River passages of Ezekiel and Revelation.  When the song says that the river “will flow through all the times of your life,” it is explaining a special verb form that doesn’t translate into English very well.  What the song and the verses are saying is that there is already a release of the River, and the River is flowing continuously.  And what is this healing River of life?  It is Jesus Christ, the Living Water who causes His Life to bubble up within us as an eternal spring that never runs dry but flows abundantly through our hearts and lives (John 4:10, 14).  There is pain, there is joy, and there are secret tears – all are swept up in the River and cleansed that we might receive restoration.  Pain should never define us; instead we should allow it to refine us to a place of deeper strength and greater longing for the fullest outpouring of God’s redemption and restoration of creation.

the river will flowLet the River flow.  Come, Lord Jesus, come.  Amen.

And the river will flow;
The river will flow.
Through all of the times of your life,
The river will flow.
And the river is love;
The river is peace.
And the river will flow through the hearts
Of those who believe.

 

Take a few minutes to listen to the full Whiteheart song here:

“The River Will Flow” — Whiteheart