By / Apr 3

Tolerance. The modern, cultural elite praise this virtue in every school setting, media outlet, and job training workshop. There seems to be no truer way to love another person than to fully accept everything about them. Christians have often joined the tidal wave of this mainstream value and often long to be known for their acceptance of others' opinions and lifestyles. On the surface it seems to be a positive virtue, one that exemplifies the life of the Christian.

But have you ever considered that tolerance is never encouraged in the Bible? The fruit of the Spirit includes love and kindness, but missing from the list is tolerance. In fact, Christians aren't called to tolerance, because we serve an intolerant God.

Just consider a few stories from the Old Testament:

The Garden: God didn't tolerate Adam and Eve's sin. He didn't accept their lifestyle choice to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. He banished them from Eden and left an angel with flaming swords to guard the entrance so they couldn't return. 

Noah and the Flood: While the sanitized version of this story is pleasantly detailed in children's storybooks, we cannot forget this story is about immense judgment. Picture a tsunami of destruction instead of a nursery filled with smiling stuffed animals. The flood involved terror, suffering, and death. It was a catastrophic event that only one family survived.

Uzzah: One of the most uncomfortable accounts of divine intolerance is found in 2 Samuel 6. This story recounts Uzzah's attempt to steady the ark of the LORD after an oxen stumbled on the journey back to Israel. When he reached out and touched the ark (an expressly forbidden action), God didn't say, “Well, his heart was in the right place. I know he was just trying to help.” Uzzah's instinctive response was met with God's intense anger, and Uzzah was immediately struck down.

We could go on and on throughout the Old Testament, considering Achan, Korah, Aaron's sons, the Canaanites, and the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah, just to name a few. All perished by the very hand of God. He did not tolerate their sin; he punished it.

Greater judgment

Lest we somehow think Jesus represents a different God than the one of the Old Testament, though, consider his teaching to the disciples in Matthew 10:14-15:

And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town. Truly, I say to you, it will be more bearable on the Day of Judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town.

Jesus claims a greater judgment than Sodom and Gomorrah for those who reject the message of the gospel. He warned many would believe they knew him, only to learn they have been rejected with these words: “Depart from me, all you workers of evil!” (Matt. 7:21-23; Luke 13:22-27) Rather than find welcome into God's kingdom, they would find themselves in a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Both the Old and New Testaments display a God who doesn't tolerate sin. Yet there is one story in Scripture that demonstrates most clearly the intolerance of God.

It is the story of the cross.

Take a fresh look at the terrifying and uncomfortable reality of the cross. Here is an innocent man—whipped, beaten, nailed to a tree, bearing the sins of the world. For you. For me. Is this the picture of a tolerant God who ignores evil? No, this is a gruesome picture of divine wrath and judgment. The story makes no sense if God is a tolerant God.

The cross demonstrates God's character in all its complexity. It shows his love, kindness, and mercy united with his justice, holiness, and wrath. It perfectly demonstrates a God who surpasses understanding. The Lord is giving us a glimpse into the immensity of his love for us. The love of God is not a tolerant love. It is much better. It is a redemptive love.

Tolerance is unloving

Sin must be paid for. To tolerate evil is to deny justice. God unleashes his full wrath on evil because he's good. If good tolerated evil, it would cease to be good. Refusal to tolerate sin, then, is an essential part of loving others well. It might be tolerant for a mother to let her children play in a busy street or run with scissors, but it's not loving in the least.

We also should hate sin because it's harmful, even if we don't always understand the harm that may be caused. As a child is unaware that a car may quickly appear, we must understand that we're unaware of all the dangers of sin. God, our loving Creator who understands our frame more fully than we do, bids us to flee from evil and find abundant life in him alone. Life outside the revealed will of God doesn't ultimately fulfill; it leads to misery and emptiness.

As his people, then, how should we live? Romans 12 provides helpful insight:

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. . . . Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

God calls us to abhor evil, while at the same time warning us against being agents of his wrath. We should hate the act of stealing while showing mercy and compassion to one who steals. Loving people well doesn't mean we must embrace the choices they make. It means we openly welcome and embrace all who come into our lives with a heart of understanding and the message and hope of the gospel. We love people well when we call them out of sin into relationship with King Jesus. It may not be the world's definition of tolerance, but it's the truest way to love.

This was originally published by The Gospel Coalition.

By / Mar 23

And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt. (Deuteronomy 10:19)

It is hard to argue that immigration policy in our nation is controversial, divisive and lacking. Far too often, leaders in both political parties use immigration as a wedge issue to raise money and pander to base supporters, rather than digging into the quagmire that is our immigration system to actually solve problems.

There was a time in recent history when I viewed immigration through a mostly partisan, punditry lens, as well. I was more likely to refer to a certain class of immigrants as illegal rather than undocumented before understanding that deportation proceedings are matters of civil law and not criminal law. More often than not, I would think of undocumented immigrants as malicious criminals who were taking more away from our societal structures than they were contributing to the fabric of our nation.

Then, in 2011, my wife spent a summer of law school in an internship with a faith-based, pro bono legal clinic called Justice For Our Neighbors. Her experiences working with undocumented immigrants who were victims of human trafficking and domestic violence opened our eyes to just how broken our entire immigration system is. It also provided tangible ways for the body of Christ to live out Scripture.

Rescuing the vulnerable from abuse and trafficking

This is what the LORD says: Do what is just and right. Rescue from the hand of the oppressor the one who has been robbed. Do no wrong or violence to the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place. (Jer. 22:3)

My wife worked with women and children to get U & T Visas, a special category of immigration status for victims of abuse and trafficking. She met many women and children who fled their home countries to escape an abusive husband, only to have him follow them to America where he continued the violence. She met many others who fled profound poverty, only to come to America to face exploitation and even human trafficking at the hands of evil employers.  

Every story was unique, but they all shared key characteristics:

  • vulnerable populations in the United States
  • no legal status
  • living in the shadows
  • manipulated
  • abused
  • exploited by criminals

Why wouldn’t these individuals come forward when they are most directly impacted by this darkness and are best situated to help make our nation’s neighborhoods and communities safer? It’s because they fear deportation and having their lives turned upside down when they’re sent back to a country with significantly less security and opportunity than this one.  So special visas were created to incentivize victims to come forward and work with authorities to catch their attackers.

The work my wife did that summer not only brought her up close and personal to immigrants but also immigration law and public policy. She discovered truths that defy cliché and well-worn talking points. For example, she discovered the reality of the proverbial demand that immigrants wait to get into the country through legal means. She learned that there is no one single line and that waiting times for many individuals lasts more than two decades.


We began to realize that perfectly rational people who wanted to abide by the law would still find our tangled web of immigration policies difficult to comprehend and nearly impossible to navigate. If you faced life-threatening poverty and violence, needed to put food on the table, or thought there was an opportunity to better your life and you needed that chance now instead of five to 20 years in the future . . . well, now you begin to understand how broken our system is.

It became clear to us that the talking points did not seem to do justice to how unjust our system is.  The situation is not as simple as politicians from both sides of the aisle would have us believe.

Viewing immigration through the lens of the imago dei

Do not oppress a foreigner; you yourselves know how it feels to be foreigners, because you were foreigners in Egypt. (Exodus 23:9)

It’s not that I no longer believe in prioritizing border security and the rule of law. With an ever-more dangerous world and increasing instability in nations to our south, these things are vitally needed to protect not only our own citizens but the communities of all nations in the Western Hemisphere. The legal implications and policies are complicated. But one thing is not: our current system is broken and in need of reform. Our current system incentivizes illegal immigration. Without reform, the problems both political parties preach about will only get worse.

My wife’s experiences in the summer of 2011 opened our eyes to all the people affected by our nation’s immigration policies. We are no longer able to view America’s immigrant communities in the abstract. We can no longer tolerate a pre-existing narrative of who they are in order to reinforce partisan viewpoints on immigration.  

Instead, we see the desperate faces of precious mothers, fathers, sons and daughters who are marked first and foremost by the imago dei. We may, and certainly will, disagree about the best way to fix the broken immigration system in America, but as Christians who recognize the dignity of all human beings, we must not settle for a vilified caricature of an entire group of God’s children. We must look our immigrant brothers and sisters in the eyes and commit to working toward a solution, both for the sake of our own stability and security and for theirs.

By / Mar 17

One of my less exciting Christmas gifts to myself this year was a sparkly new crown on one of my upper molars. It began in October with a simple cleaning that led to the discovery of a small cavity. It wasn’t bothering me in the least, but I decided to go ahead and get the work done as preventative maintenance. Midway through the procedure, mouth numb and tooth drilled, the dentist looked at the tooth and my x-ray and gave me the bad news, “I think we need to do a root canal.”  

They whisked me out the regular dentist chair and led me to a different room. Another needle was inserted, drilling commenced, and I was given a foam wedge to bite on to make it easier to keep my mouth open for the next two hours. The loud, high-pitched drill screamed, my lips cracked with dryness and at times I felt unable to breathe as water pooled at the back of my throat. Sounds fun, right?

In the midst of rather uncomfortable circumstances, I kept reminding myself of three truths:  

  1. The dentist working on me was competent and good
  2. The work he was doing was for my benefit and protection
  3. Eventually, I would be back at home and this would all be over

Mulling these thoughts over in my head brought peace in the midst of the discomfort. The greater reality of my momentary experience kept me from flailing wildly in my chair, fighting with the dentist, or trying to think of various escape plans (which I most certainly would have done had I not been sure of these three truths).

As I sat uncomfortably in the chair, I realized that these are the same principles that anchor my soul in the storms of life. Knowing that God is able and good, he actively works all things for my benefit and protection, and one day soon I will be safely home in heaven secures me in the midst of life’s painful trials.  

God is both able and good

Reflecting upon the goodness of God in the midst of trials helps us to bear them with courage. Knowing that everything that comes into my life flows from a loving, forgiving, gentle and compassionate Father changes my interpretation of my circumstances. God does not give me over to the whims of fortune or chance. He loves me so much that the very hairs of my head are numbered.  

My inability to see the entire scope of my life prevents me from knowing what is best for my soul. Waiting, suffering, trials and afflictions come at just the right season to prune me so that I may bear more fruit. When I focus on the pruning shears, I grow fearful, but when I focus on the One doing the pruning, I have renewed hope in the midst of suffering. Without this perspective, I am tempted to wrestle and fight with God, running from Him in my distress. However, the more I trust him, the more I come to him as a daughter, running into his arms for comfort. God loves me too much to leave me in sorrow, unless the trial must be for the betterment of my soul.

The work is for my benefit

When I went into the dentist that day, I was in no discomfort. I thought my teeth were in pretty good shape. However, underneath the surface, decay was causing problems that would eventually cause me pain. The dentist could see the underlying problems and worked for my good to restore the damage.

In similar fashion, God is always working to restore and redeem me from the sin that so easily entangles my soul and causes me to run my race weighted and weary. As Thomas Case wisely noted, “Behold, I show you a mystery: sin brought affliction into the world, and God makes affliction carry sin out of the world. God has never intended more good to his children than when he deals most severely with them.  He would rather fetch blood than lose a soul.” What grace is ours that God redeems affliction and fashions it for our good!

Soon I will be home

As I sat in the chair with various instruments in my mouth and unappealing sounds ringing in my ears, I closed my eyes and pictured being at home. I considered that soon this temporary discomfort would be over and I would be back at home, going about my day.  

In a similar way, afflictions teach us to long for our heavenly home. The longer we live and the more trials we endure, the greater our hope for our eternal dwelling. Losing faith in this world propels us to hope in the world to come. Second Corinthians 4:16-18 encourages us in the midst of suffering:

“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”

May we have eyes to see the eternal glories that await and hearts to trust our gracious Heavenly Father.

By / Sep 12

It's been a few years since I learned that our struggle with infertility would require more treatment in order to attempt pregnancy. While I am now the mom to twin boys, the day I heard the hard news is still vivid in my memory. Few things feel worse than waking up from surgery and hearing the words, “it was worse than the doctor thought, you will need more treatment.” I went into surgery hopeful and came out feeling like I had been punched in the stomach (physically and emotionally). This is not how we planned. This is hardly what we wanted. And this diagnosis only prolonged, and solidified, that we weren’t just a couple who was having a hard time getting pregnant again. We were infertile, at least for the time being.

I wish I could say that my response to this news was always Christ-like and admirable. It wasn’t. But through this trial, God taught me some specific things about his character, my depravity, and his goodness in all things. I believe that God was absolutely sovereign over my infertility in the same way that I believe he was sovereign over my miscarriages. It was not a surprise to him. In fact, it was designed by him for my good, and he doesn’t want me to waste this suffering. Below are a few things I’ve learned about not wasting your infertility. It’s hardly exhaustive, but it’s a start. If you are struggling with infertility, too, I pray that God uses it to encourage you as we walk this road together.

Not wasting your infertility starts with a deep and abiding trust in the God who knows the end of your infertility. He knows the end of it because he gave it to you (Gen. 50:20; Job 2:10; Ps. 88:6-7). But he also knows the end of it because only he can truly heal your body and give you a baby. Know God’s word. Study it. Live off of it. It is in his word that you will see God and know him more deeply. You will find that he is good all of the time, that he loves you more than you know, and that he wants to give you a greater knowledge of himself through this devastating trial. In his word you will find comfort for your soul. Not wasting your infertility is a constant fight to see God as good, but it’s a fight worth having.

Not wasting your infertility means you worship even when your heart is breaking. John Piper says that the “unwasted life is the one that continually puts Christ on display.” That’s what worship is, giving God the glory due his name. Worship means treasuring Christ above all things, even a baby.

Along the lines of the previous two points, not wasting your infertility means praying boldly. Only when we trust God as the all-sufficient creator, healer, sustainer, and good God that he is can we worship him and also pray to him boldly. Knowing God enables us to pray to him with confidence that he can and will act in our best interests. Infertility is a disease of the helpless. You can’t change your condition. You can’t make two blue lines show up on a pregnancy test instead of one. But God can. Your experience with being utterly helpless to change your circumstance puts you in fellowship with many biblical characters. Pray like King David in the Psalms (see Psalm 27, 28, 30, 56, 62 and many others). He faced great difficulty and tribulation. His prayers were honest, bold, and worshipful because he trusted in God to be his hope and salvation.

Not wasting your infertility doesn’t mean you don’t grieve and feel pain. This might seem like an odd addition, especially when statements like “don’t waste this season” are the entire point of the post. But the unwasted life isn’t the triumphalistic life. The apostle Paul accurately described walking through this life as, “sorrowful yet always rejoicing” (2 Cor. 6:10). That applies to infertility as well. We are sorrowful because it’s devastating, painful, and sometimes lifelong. But we are rejoicing because we have hope that this is not all there is. It’s not that we are happy with our circumstances. There is nothing happy about not being able to get pregnant. Oh, but there is a great Savior who has given us everything we need through his death—including comfort in our pain.

Not wasting your infertility means taking your thoughts and emotions captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Cor. 10:5). Infertility brings with it a minefield of scary scenarios and questions (What if I can’t get pregnant? What if I miscarry again? What if I can’t afford treatment). Those thoughts tend to bring emotions, which then bring stress and worry. Infertility, like all suffering, has a way of putting pressure on us and our relationships. Infertility doesn’t bring with it a free pass on how I treat people, my husband especially. It also doesn’t give us license to daydream about the myriad of “What if’s” that come with infertility. I have learned this the hard way. God gave us real emotions and feelings, but they are not morally neutral. And our husbands are real people who are often hurting just as much as we are. The concept of talking to yourself, instead of listening to yourself is especially helpful when you feel your emotions taking over. Ask yourself, “is this feeling true?” (Phil. 4:8). If it is, you have a faithful, sympathetic Savior who understands your feelings. If it’s not, that same Savior is able to comfort you and change your feelings for his glory.

I didn’t put any practical suggestions in this post because I’ve learned that practical application is often person-specific. What helps me stay busy and use my season of waiting for the good of others might not work for other people, and that’s normal. But even more important, the practical cannot happen unless we embrace Christ as our greatest treasure in our season of infertility. Sure, we can find ways to stay busy to take our mind off of the pain, and those are good things to do (I’ve done it). But busyness in order to run from the suffering is not the same things as busyness in order to fill the season with good things. God has designed suffering to chisel us more into the image of Christ, to draw us closer to himself, and to give us a greater vision and understanding of his glory. We could easily miss that if we fill our schedules in order to forget.

I don’t know the outcome of my journey of fertility. As of right now, I know that in his kindness he has given me twin boys to love and care for. That’s a gift I never thought I would receive. While I would love more, only he knows the end of that longing. I don’t know where you, dear reader, are at either. But I do know this: no matter where we are in the journey of infertility, God has a lesson for us. His purposes for us are sure and good. He will test us, he will chisel us, and he will show us more of himself every step of the way. And after he has tried us, by his grace, we will come forth as gold (Job 23:10).

This article was originally published at The Gospel Coalition.

By / May 12

In my first blog on racial reconciliation, I proposed a gospel-centered vision for racial reconciliation. I suggested that the historic fall of Adam and Even in the Garden of Eden and sin are the fundamental reasons why racism exists and that the gospel of Jesus Christ is the solution to the problem of racism. This sin entered God’s original, perfect creation through the disobedient act of humanity’s first parents, Adam and Eve (Gen. 2:17; 3:1-19). Their act of disobedience to God’s demand brought a universal curse on the entire creation. One aspect of this curse is enmity between humanity (Gen. 3:15; 11:1-9). Consequently, no natural means (neither governmental policies nor a movement as powerful as the Civil Rights movement) is capable of eradicating the problem of racism because racism is a theological and a spiritual problem (Eph. 2:1-10). In this blog, I propose that Jesus’ death and resurrection are God’s provisions for racial reconciliation. I will support this assertion by considering New Testament texts that present both Jesus’ death for all sins and for all nations and his resurrection from the dead as God’s provisions for all forms of racial hostility.

The universal power and problem of sin

In Romans 1:18-3:20, Paul offers a stinging indictment against Jews and Gentiles: Namely, both groups have sinned. They've failed to honor God to the degree that he demands, and are consequently guilty before him. Neither Jewish particularity nor Gentile ignorance will justify sinners in God’s law-court (Rom. 2:1-24). To the contrary, Paul asserts that neither group will be justified in God’s law-court by works of law because both groups fail to meet God’s standard of obedience and because both groups are in bondage to the law due to sin’s power (Rom. 2:1-3:20).

In Romans 5:12, Paul highlights the universal power of sin by emphasizing the root cause of it: Adam’s transgression. Paul asserts that Adam’s transgression introduced sin, physical death, and spiritual death into the world with the result that all sin. In the words of Romans 3:23, Adam’s transgression resulted in all people sinning and falling short of God’s glory. Paul develops the universal power and problem of sin even further when he describes sin as an evil tyrant that reigns over sinners (Rom. 6:12, 14) and when he argues that the universal power of sin increased when the law of Moses entered into history (Rom. 7:7-24).

According to Paul, the power of sin manifests itself in a variety of different ways. One way sin’s ugly face shows itself in the real world is by means of racism. This becomes apparent in Romans 14-15 by means of the presence of Jewish and Gentile divisions in the church. Interpreters disagree about the first century social setting that provoked Paul to write these words. In my view, Romans 14:1-15:13 reflects ethno-racial tensions between Jews and Gentiles. At a sociological level, these tensions probably arose in the Roman congregations due to the Gentile Christian minority becoming the majority in the Roman churches after the Roman emperor Claudius expelled the Jews from Rome (Acts 18:2). Once Jewish Christians returned to Rome after Claudius’ edict expired, they likely found themselves to be the ethnic minority in the Roman churches, which were largely Jewish congregations prior to their expulsion.

In these verses, Paul’s comments suggest that ethno-racial tension due to some form of racism/ethno-centrism was alive and well in first century Christianity. For example, Paul uses ethno-racial language throughout these chapters. He refers to Jewish food restrictions (Rom. 14:2-3, 6, 15, 17, 20-21), the Jewish Messiah (Rom. 15:5-6, 8), Jewish circumcision (Rom 15:8) and he refers to Gentiles as recipients of God’s salvation in Jesus along with Jewish Christians (Rom. 15:9, 11, 12). The division between Jews and Gentiles in the Roman congregations becomes apparent from Paul’s exhortations to receive one another (Rom. 14:1; 15:7), not to judge one another (Rom. 14:13) and to bear the weaknesses of one another (Rom. 15:1). He more explicitly identifies the alienation between Jews and Gentiles (Eph. 2:11) when he asserts that the latter had no ethnic connection to God’s promises of salvation to the Jewish people prior to their faith in Jesus, the Jewish Messiah. Thus, sin firstly alienates people from God and secondly from one another. But God offered Jesus as the provision and the solution to the sin problem that produced a racism problem. The ethno-racial inclusive nature of God’s offering of Jesus for Jews and Gentiles is evident in Romans 3:29-30 when he asserts that God is the God of both Jews and Gentiles who have faith in Jesus Christ (see also Rom. 4:1-25).

God’s provision for racial reconciliation: Jesus’ substitutionary death and triumphant resurrection

After Paul argues that Jews and Gentiles are guilty before God and under his just condemnation due to their sin (Rom. 1:18-3:20), he then argues that God offered Jesus Christ to pay for their sins in order to justify them by faith and to incorporate them into the people of God (Rom. 3:21-4:25). In Romans 3:21-22 and in 3:24, Paul discusses God’s saving righteousness and justification. He asserts that God’s saving righteousness is revealed apart from the law by faith in Jesus Christ (Rom. 3:21-22). In Romans 3:22b-23, he expresses that God’s revelation of his righteousness is by faith because Jews and Gentiles have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God regardless of ethnic distinction. In Romans 3:24, Paul continues that all must be freely justified (declared to be in the right) by God’s grace through the redemption provided by Jesus’ death. To be justified by God’s grace in Romans 3:24 is a verbal way of referring to the revelation of God’s righteousness by faith in Romans 3:21-22. In Romans 4:6-8, Paul states that the reason God renders the verdict of not guilty upon those who have faith in Jesus Christ is because God reckoned/counted to Jesus’ account the sinners’ sins and he reckoned/counted to the sinners’ account Christ’s righteousness. This reckoning of sin to Christ’s account and this reckoning of righteousness to the sinners’ account exonerate sinners in God’s law-court. In Romans 3:28-30, Paul uses ethno-racial vocabulary in the context of justification. He asserts that God is the God of both Jews and Gentiles since he declares to be in the right both groups by faith and makes both groups his people by faith in Jesus Christ.

However, why does God accept both Jews and Gentiles by faith and why does he justify them by faith even though they are still sinners (Rom. 3:23; 5:8)? The answer is in Romans 3:25: God offered Jesus to be a substitutionary atonement for Jews and Gentiles so that he would propitiate his wrath due to their sins and so that he would forgive them of their sins by faith. Paul confirms this in Romans 4:7-8 and 4:25 when he affirms that God does not count the transgressions of the justified against the transgressors who have faith in Jesus (4:7-8) because he handed Jesus over in death as a substitute for their sins and raised him from the dead to achieve their justification (Rom. 4:24-25). The sufficiency of Jesus’ death for sinners is certain because God also raised him up from the dead for their justification. Consequently, the gospel of the crucified, resurrected, and glorified Lord and Christ freely offers to every tongue, tribe, people, and nation God’s solution for the problem of racism and his provision for racial reconciliation. Through the death and resurrection of Jesus, the one and true living God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ becomes the God of Jews and Gentiles (Rom. 3:21-29).

By / Apr 22

Each New Year brings new stories of catastrophic events. In 2013, we saw the Boston Marathon bombing, firefighters dying while trying to save others and then an Indiana bus crash that killed a youth pastor and his pregnant wife. And 2014 has proven to be a difficult year for many as well. In March a plane carrying 227 passengers and 12 crewmembers mysteriously disappeared. Earlier this month a FedEx truck slammed into a bus carrying students, a deranged white supremacist opened fire and killed three at a community center in Kansas City, and a ferry in South Korea capsized killing at least 87 with 215 passengers still missing.

The terrible stories of lives lost and sadness go on and on. Perhaps tragedy struck your life in a very real and personal way. It can be tempting to look to the rest of 2014 with fear, but we can face the future in faith because God is loving, sovereign and the provider of ultimate hope.

In Matthew, Jesus encouraged the disciples not to fear. In doing so, he provides us with a glimpse of the protection, care and sovereignty we all receive from God:

“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows” (Matt. 10: 29-31). 

In this passage, Jesus challenged his disciples not to deny him in fear of bodily death. Through this we see that we too have a great hope in God. Jesus reminds us that God is mindful of man (Ps. 8:4). We are of more value than sparrows. He also reminds us that God is sovereign—knowing even when two sparrows are sold for a penny.

We don’t have to fear because we have a loving God who is sovereignly reigning over the events of our lives. He is good, and though he doesn’t promise that we will live carefree lives (1 Peter 4:12 warns that trials will come), he does promise to finish the good work he began in us (Phil. 1:6). He promised a Savior who would bear our grief, carry our sorrows, be wounded for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities (Isa. 53:4-5). Our hope and peace is ultimately found in Jesus.

So as Christians we can look to the future, and even the possibilities of danger and disaster, but not as those who are uninformed. We are informed. We know the truth of the gospel and we know that there is life after death. We live by faith and with hope, and we grieve with hope (1 Thes. 4:13-14). We don’t have to fear the worst for the remainder of 2014. We can trust God’s sovereign hand and pray that whatever comes our way he would fulfill his promise that it would be for our good and his glory.

By / Jan 3

Right now people all over the world are reflecting on what was 2013. There were potentially great joys and triumphs along with days of despair and discouragement. But there is one thing that you can guarantee happened in 2013, and you can be sure awaits you in 2014: God has been faithful and will be again.

Those words—God has been faithful and will be again—appear in the lyrics of “He’s Always Been Faithful”, by Sara Groves. In the song she recounts God’s faithfulness through each morning and each season: “Season by season, I watch Him amazed; in awe of the mysteries of His perfect ways.” Every page in God’s word shouts of the faithfulness of God. Each story leads to Jesus and to the redemption of the world. And we see God’s faithfulness to us now.

In Deuteronomy 32:4, Moses speaks of God as “The Rock” whose works are “perfect” and ways are “justice.” He is “a God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he.” And we read in 1 Thessalonians 5:25 of Paul’s confidence in the faithfulness of God: “He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.” Psalm 88, though a lament, still sings of God’s faithfulness: “I will sing of the steadfast love of the Lord, forever; with my mouth I will make known your faithfulness to all generations…O Lord God of hosts, who is mighty as you are, O Lord, with your faithfulness all around you?” (1-2, 8).

Today, as you reflect on your 2013, remember the faithfulness of your Father. How has God been faithful to you? This year you can count on the Lord to be faithful again. This doesn’t mean that everything will turn out as you desire. This doesn’t mean each prayer will be answered as you wish. But it does mean that in God’s goodness and sovereignty, he will work all things together as he sees it to be good for you (Rom. 8:28). We may not see the evidence of God’s faithful hand until the end of 2014 but we know it will be there. Be encouraged to know that 2014 will be marked by the faithfulness of God.