Remembering the Cross When We Hurt

In our hurts, pain, broken-heartedness, loneliness, etc., we can feel rather isolated—even abandoned by God. However, feelings do not necessarily reflect reality. When we are going through grief or depression, I dare to say our feelings rarely reflect reality. During these times our feelings will often scream that we are forsaken, God has left us to writhe and die in our pain and misery—alone. But this is not the case at all, although our feelings will defiantly say otherwise.

One of the things that has always amazed me about the Gospel message is God has always “played by the rules.” Although He is God and sinless, He came into our fallen world as a Man, and experienced fully the effects of a world ravaged by sin. Being God, could He not have changed the rules for Himself?   Could He not have bypassed human experience in a fallen and broken world? But He did not, because He is a God of truth and faithfulness. Therefore, He experienced poverty, loneliness, rejection, racism, betrayal, grief, sorrow, pain, stress, disappointment, injustice, etc.

The writer of Hebrews states:

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 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. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. ~ 4:14-16

Some time ago I wrote the following song:

He Is Still Worthy of Praise

Even when storms rob us of sunshine,

    And our laughter turns to cries;

Even when our nights are the darkest,

    And there are no stars in our skies…

Bridge:

We look to Christ,

    The Holy One who cares;

In brokenness,

    We worship Him through tears…

Chorus 1:

(For) He is still worthy of praise;

He is still worthy of honor;

He is still worthy of worship;

He is still worthy of all!

(Repeat)

Even when our minds are afflicted,

    And questions scream with rage;

And our hearts are so deeply wounded,

    Feeling forsaken in some cage…

Bridge:

We look to Christ,

    And bend our knees in dust.

In spite of pain,

    We sing to Him with trust…

(repeat Chorus 1)

Through loneliness and friendlessness,

Through deep darkness and through sickness;

Through failure and tears, through raging fears;

Through broken dreams, and angry screams …

Through temptations, and frustrations;

Through broken-hearts, and worlds torn apart;

Through death of loved ones, when grief overcomes –

Through all the loss, we remember His Cross!

Even when we face disappointments,

    When dreams are smashed on rocks,

And we watch them sink under waters,

    As our hearts are crushed on the docks.

Bridge:

We bow our souls,

    And cannot even speak.

We want to run,

    We want to die,

    Yet to our God we cry … and we seek …

(repeat Chorus 1)

Chorus 2:

God You are worthy of praise;

You are still worthy of honor;

You are still worthy of worship;

Jesus, You’re worthy of all!

You are still worthy of praise;

You are still worthy of honor;

You are still worthy of worship;

Jesus, You’re worthy of all!

… Through all the loss, we remember Your Cross …

Jesus, You’re worthy of praise.

(Words & music by Geno Pyse)

Indeed, when we are going through hurts and loss, may we remember the cross. You are loved, and you are not forgotten. Your pain serves a greater purpose, if you will but continue to trust even though nothing seems to make sense.

Our High Priest and Unnecessary, Distracting, and (the) Wrong Questions

I enjoy studying and discussing theology, provided the discussion is edifying. Theology can raise a lot of questions—some very difficult ones. Note, many of our questions must remain unanswered. “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” (Isa. 55:8-9, ESV). God is perfect in holiness, love, justice, and all His ways. Will we choose to trust Him?

Sometimes our questions of curiosity are simply irrelevant (i.e., the classic “Can God make a rock so big He can’t move?”). However, some of our questions are distracting to more important ones. For example, 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.” Sometimes the question—even debate—arises, “Could Jesus have sinned?” The differing answers go back and forth. The question is not insignificant, but neither is it the most important. Furthermore, it distracts from the wonderful truths being revealed. Two more important questions are: Did Jesus sin? And can He truly sympathize with us when we struggle with our sinfulness? Could He have sinned? Some say yes, others say no. However, what we do know is He was genuinely tempted—therefore, He can sympathize—but He did not sin. Good thing! Otherwise we would not have a Savior.

Could Jesus have sinned? Does He know what it is like to be tempted with the same sins as I am? Maybe, maybe not. What I know with utmost certainty is I can—and do—sin, and I have High Priest and Savior who can sympathize with me—and you. 

You and I will continue to have questions, but may we learn to ask the right questions, instead of being distracted by the unnecessary and wrong ones.

God (Part 2): The Importance of Correct Perception of Him

In his book, Knowledge of the Holy, A. W. Tozer writes how modern man tends to think of idolatry in terms of people bowing to figures carved of stone, metal, or wood. However, idolatry begins in the mind, even if no overt worship takes place. Tozer goes on to explain that idolatry is any entertaining of thoughts about God not worthy of Him, not only worshipping something other than Him.

This has great relevance in our society that views God in so many different ways other than what He reveals in the Scriptures, and that tries to use Him for political and financial gain. This also has great relevance within modern Christendom where many of its adherents often seem to stress more as to whether or not they like the worship services, rather than truly considering if He likes them.

Nearly across the board people believe in God’s love. Certainly love is part of God’s character. The Scriptures declare, “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love” (1 John 4:8 [ESV]). However, it is imperative we understand His overarching attribute—holiness! This attribute is the umbrella to every other one. Holy means “set apart; other; extraordinary; transcendent.” It is the only attribute of His mentioned to the third degree—and in both the Old and New Testaments:

“And [the seraphim] called to another and said: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!’” (Isaiah 6:3)

“And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say, ‘Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!’” (Revelation 4:8)

God’s love is a pure, holy love. His love will never be separated or go against His holiness. Jesus says the Father desires worshipers who worship Him in spirit and in truth (see John 4:23-24). So, to profess God’s love while disregarding His holiness is to make a mockery of true worship and to plummet heart first into idolatry, which leads to holy judgment.

One of the tragic cycles we read of in the Old Testament is the Israelites’ regression into idolatry. Integrating the customs, behaviors, and beliefs of the people around them into the worship of God, only to drift away from Him without even realizing it. Perplexed and angered by the prophets’ rebukes and confrontations, all the while indulging in the immorality of the cult religions of Baal and Astarte, and the child sacrifice of Moloch (something God declares that never even entered His mind [see Jeremiah 7:31]).

One of my great concerns for many churches today is the adapting of customs, behaviors, and beliefs of the secular and pagan society around us, trying to integrate these into the Christian faith, dismissing the very attributes and ways of God He reveals to us in the Scriptures. 

Jesus said of some of the religious people of the day, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me’” (Mark 7:6-7).

And one of the most haunting things He says is, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness’” (Matthew 7:21-23).

God is holy, but He is also loving. Although He is loving, may we remember He is also holy, holy, holy, and His love is a holy love. If we try to tweak these to accommodate our desires or to condone or justify our beloved sins, we are guilty of idolatry. To not desire God as He is is merely to desire a god of our own making.