What I Am Certain of In Uncertain Times

When I hit an AirBnB the first time, the space that typically feels the most unfamiliar is the kitchen, because so much is hidden, and I need to use some of the hidden things. You know, like spoons! I always figure where things are by trial and error. This experience of discovering things in kitchens is pervasive, it happens every single time, because there is no universal standard for organizing kitchens; but that, of course, is also exactly what makes your kitchen (or, by extension, your home) distinctly personal. How you arrange your kitchen, your home, is unique to you.


How do you experience unfamiliar “rooms” and “floors” of the Bible? If you are only familiar with one house, yours, what happens when you venture out and spend time in a new place? 


Theologian Sebastian Moore observed that “God behaves in the Psalms in ways that [God] is not allowed to behave in systematic theology.” That’s a theologian joke! Is it possible, is it possible, that the good news is not “one size fits all” but is irreducibly rich, relational, and contextual? And what is lost in the translation of the Scriptures from Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek into modern languages? Do we believe that the power structures in place when the King James Version was produced accurately translated the broad intention of God for all peoples, or maybe the translation favored the majority group that still believed women and people of color have less value?


And how then can we be certain that our experiences of the divine—both familiar and unfamiliar—are authentic? How do we know that the experience of one person is “approved” by Holy Spirit when we haven’t had the same experience? How do we recognize God’s form and function, how He moves, what He is doing, especially when we are afraid? The Psalmist offers one answer:


Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil;

for you are with me; your rod and your staff—they comfort me. (Psalm 23:4)


Comfort comes from recognizing the protective presence of the divine Shepherd. Sheep are in an uncertain and sometimes violent world, but Jesus says that the sheep follow the Shepherd “because they know his voice” (John 10:3). What is the most consistent mark of Jesus’s voice and presence that help us recognize him in the new and unfamiliar, the things we don’t yet understand? What is our North star that guides us in navigating through the world as followers of Jesus? I believe the answer is love.


If God is love (“Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love” 1 John 4:8), God’s form and function is revealed whenever we humans love one another (“No one has ever seen God. Yet, if we love one another, God remains in us, and his love is brought to perfection in us.” 1 John 4:12). If we keep our senses, our minds and hearts, tuned to the divine frequency of love that resonates in all living creatures, we will be able to see God in unexpected persons and places, including a newborn in a feed trough in the most unremarkable of places amongst the least regarded people group.


Why would God so empty and humble himself to be like us? Why would the Creator voluntarily reduce Himself to be like what He has created with all its limitations and difficulties? Why else but to enter and fully know our lives, every part, every trial, every temptation, every uncertainty, and therefore to love us as we are?


Jesus knows the dysfunctions of our families (Matthew 20:20–24), the anguishes of chronic illnesses (Mark 1:34), the shadows of terminal diagnoses (John 4:49), and even the unspeakable sadness of the death of beloved children (Matthew 9:18; Luke 7:12). Mary, His Mom, too, would one day experience the death of her beloved son. Jesus gets our suffering and uncertainty at a very human level.


The Bible reveals to us the character of God. It is in knowing who He is, recognizing the Shephard, that we can be certain in the unknowing of new things, new ideas, and new places.


We know that God is absolutely infinite. This is pretty plain all throughout the Bible, so I believe there is no need to really say more than that. Is that fair? So, if God is infinite, what can we know about God since we are finite during our time on earth?


We can know a good bit, actually. Why? God revealed himself to us. We have His words describing who He is, and what He is like. But, the Bible does not tell us everything about God, nor does God reveal everything about himself. 


Is. 55:8-9

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”


We are left with questions and holes in our understanding of His divine, holy nature, and we are called to seek Him in understanding a constantly changing world. Not shocking, right?


C.S. Lewis wrote that, “We are in no position to draw up maps of God’s psychology, and prescribe limits to His interests. We would not do so even for a [person] whom we knew to be greater than ourselves. The doctrines that “God is love” and “that He delights in [people]”, are positive doctrines, not limiting doctrines. He is not less than this. What more He may be, we do not know; we know only that He must be more than we can conceive.” I’m a fan of C.S.Lewis! 


God is holy. God is love. God is Creator. God is beyond human comprehension and definition. To define something is to prescribe limits on something. God cannot be limited, the finite cannot box in the infinite, right?


To say what Lewis said is not to limit or lessen our theology. What the Bible says about God is factual and real. When Scripture says that God is holy and blameless, then we know God does not do wrong. So, Scripture positively describes God’s holiness so that we can rightly understand – He is holy! This is true even when events don’t go the way we want or expect. Why God does this or that is beyond our understanding. But, provided we remember that what God does is Holy, that He is love, and it is we who wrestle with the finite and imperfect, then we are freed from having all the answers and feeling as if we need to know. We do not need to know, and, bad news, we never will fully know. And that is okay. We are allowed to be creations of the Creator.


It is all too easy for us as we grow in faith to presume knowledge of God leaving us overly dogmatic, overly self-assured, and overly arrogant. I’ll claim that one, I know that no one here suffers from that other than me! But because I pursue Him in all things, and I am equally yoked to an amazing woman who helps me stay focused, my arrogance is gradually weakening. This doesn’t mean my convictions are changing (not all of them at least). It does mean what I was so incredibly sure about before, I’m less positive about now. That is a good thing. Uncertainty brings about humility. Paul said it best, “knowledge puffs up, love builds up” (1 Cor. 13). Certainty puffs up, uncertainty coupled with love builds up.


What we do know for certain about God, what He says about Himself in the Bible, is grounds for eternal worship and adoration. The same is true for what we are uncertain about. The mystery surrounding the Divine leaves us with a proper sense of awe and wonder, which also have the potential to create worship and adoration.


When we go through uncertainty, wrestle with new ground that hasn’t been taken before in our lives, we can rest in the assurance of who God says He is. 


He is compassionate, He is merciful, He is full of grace. He is holy. He is love. Let all that we contend with flow through the understanding that our Shepard is all these things, and He is with us in all things.


Credit: Much of the original ideas and some text credited to Dr. J.P. Kang of The Seattle School of Theology and Psychology

The Great Equalizer

The promise for humanity. The way of humility.

Jesus the equalizer. As I lay in bed last night waiting for sleep to fully overtake me, Holy Spirit started showing me more about how Jesus interacted with humanity in ways that equalized people.


Consider Mary’s declaration from Luke 1 when the angel told her she would be mother to Jesus:


52 “He has brought down rulers from their thrones, And exalted those who were
humble. 53 “He has filled the hungry with good things; And sent the rich away empty-handed.


When the woman was caught in the act of adultery, the oppressive hierarchical nature of patriarchy was on display as there was no man similarly judged as deserving of execution. Those ready to carry out the judgment, which would end the woman’s life were men. We know this because they were teachers of the law and religious leaders, positions from which women were excluded. Jesus’ challenge to the men to consider their own lives was an invitation to humbly identify with the woman they had judged and were preparing to execute. (John 8: 1-11)


The kingdom of this world- ruled by anti-Christ forces- sends a different message. The anti-Christ message we are taught from childhood is that there needs to be a winner and a loser. This creeps into the church and contaminates the Bride with values and ways of relating that are contrary to God’s Kingdom. It distorts are perspective and produces the fruit of division, hatred, and death. When we embrace equity, reject privilege that sets us above others, or conversely refuse to submit to or empower devaluing practices that measure the worth of one human life in comparison to another, the Good news of the Gospel shines through.


Consider the women who are included in the lineage of Jesus. Rahab was a prostitute and a non-Jew. Ruth was a Moabite, a people group who were the product of incest. Tamar tricked Judah into sleeping with her after his sons died and left her childless. Finally, we have Bathsheba, who was taken from her home so King David could use her for sex (what we would call rape today). The Kingdom of God is about how we include and love others as though they are the same as ourselves- no better and no worse.


Consider how this could build and convey unity. The promise and blessings of the Gospel are found in knowing and embracing our place in humanity alongside one another. Our destiny is tied together. This is the historical understanding of the church that has informed practices to care for one another and risk comfort for the sake of our brothers and sisters.


Consider how we are called to practice our faith- live out our discipleship- not just be an audience. Recognizing our common humanity brings freedom and allows love to flow. We don’t have to be afraid of one another or be competitive with one another. We no longer have to subscribe to the bondage of comparison to find our worth.

Prayer for Peacemakers

I was recently invited to pray for Ohio and the nation at the State House in Columbus. When I asked God what to pray for He whispered, “peace.” Though I value the peace only He brings to my heart, it is not a central theme to messages I normally preach. I was excited not so much for the opportunity to speak, but the opportunity to yield so fully to His direction.

He led me first to quiet my heart before Him and to wait. I waited until He initiated the direction. This may have been the hardest part because I so wanted to run ahead and offer my suggestions. But, as He led, He spoke and I listened as He showed me how He wanted to pray through me for the peacemakers He has appointed in this generation.

I have included the prayer below but before you read it, I want to be vulnerable and transparent about the internal battle to obey God and to own my voice without comparison amidst other well respected faith leaders and public servants. I fought the battle of comparison as I stood there as the only person who appeared to have prepared ahead of time with my prayer, printed on paper nonetheless. I fought the battle to keep my focus on glorifying him and my purpose to please God rather than impress man. In the end, I felt victorious not because people I respected yelled, “Amen” as I spoke but because I knew I had fully yielded and allowed Jesus to have His way. He alone was on the throne of my heart and nothing could take away from that victory. I share this in hopes that you will be encouraged to trust Him when He asks you to do something outside of your norm. I have found that obedience removes fear because I know He will back me up when I am in His will. It is not stepping out in presumption but faith in His ability to keep His promises.

Here is the prayer:

Let us quiet our hearts before the Lord… Holy Spirit, come and manifest your peace in our hearts, quieting every anxious thought in Jesus’ name. We fix our gaze upon your faithfulness.
Father, we come to you united in Jesus, humbled yet confidently trusting in you.
Lord, I pray that you would raise up peacemakers in this hour who have your ways in their hearts and will not swerve from the path of steadfast righteousness. Sons and daughters of God who live from peace deeply rooted in righteousness towards peace. Strengthen your peacemakers granting them bravery, courage, hope, and perseverance that they would not grow weary in well-doing nor shrink back and be silenced by intimidation.

Father, grant them wisdom and strategy to honorably and equitably bring forth justice for all people so that our nation would experience prosperity and peace. I pray those who rise up would have pure motives and walk in the ways of the Lord. May they look like, talk like, and love like Jesus, the Prince of Peace.

Thank you, Lord for the new breed of peacemakers you are raising up in this hour specifically called to this generation. Thank you that peace will be the common fruit of their calling but their ministry designations would be diverse.
I pray for those who would be ministers of reconciliation to see clearly the one for whom Christ died and not have their vision polluted or hope dampened by the wisdom of the world. I ask they be equipped and anointed to restore the relationship between God and man and man with one another. I pray for these peacemakers of reconciliation to rise up in every mountain of influence, every state, city, town, and neighborhood across this nation in Jesus’ name.

I pray for the bridge builders to be brave and courageous to stand up to cultural apathy and fulfill the law of love by representing Jesus and bringing revelation light to polarized groups of people. I ask you Father to grant them wisdom, favor, and strategy according to their calling. I declare what the wisdom of the world says is impossible will come to pass to the glory of God. I pray Father, would you raise up these bridge builders in every mountain of influence, every state, city, every small town and neighborhood that our nation would be blessed and your peace would reign.

I pray for those peacemakers whom you are calling to be repairers of the breach that they would stand in the gap for those who do not know any better, that they would be anointed to bring healing to our past as a nation and bring down the giants threatening us as a people. I pray they go forth with the confidence of being backed by the armies of heaven. That all would know there is a God in America and His name is Jesus. I pray for repairers of the breach to rise up in every mountain of influence, every state, city, small town, and neighborhood in Jesus name.

I pray for those peacemakers whom you have called to be ministers of mercy, advocates for the poor, and disfavored. Father, grant them mercy, and protect their hearts so that they would remain soft and not be hardened or calloused by discouragement. Grant them positions from which they can bring forth heaven’s justice in our nation. Thank you, Lord, for rising up voices for the voiceless and for establishing peace in our nation in Jesus name.

I call the peacemakers of this generation to rise up and to come forth in Jesus’ name. Come forth and bear fruit in every mountain of influence for every people group represented in this nation for the glory of God in Jesus’ name. Amen