The Laws of the Kingdom

…through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.

Romans 8:2

All throughout the created world we see laws at work that counteract each other. One law of nature seems to be greater than other laws. For instance, the law of centrifugal force should mean that the rotation of the earth flings us all out into space. Centrifugal force is that feeling of being pushed to the outside anytime you spin around something. It’s that feeling of sliding to the far side of the car when it’s going around a turn.

But the reason we don’t fly out into space is because of the law of gravity. The force of gravity is stronger than the centrifugal force. Another way of saying this is that the law of gravity is above or greater than the law of centrifugal force. It doesn’t make the lesser law less true. It just means the greater law takes precedence. Both laws are true but the greater law wins out.

(Fun fact: the centrifugal force is greatest on the earth at the equator. So gravity is counteracted the most at the equator. Meaning, you are a little lighter at the equator–by about 10 oz or so–than you are at the poles of the earth.)

We see this same principle at work in the judicial system. There are many laws on the books. But in the courtroom the judge often has to decide between two competing laws. This is especially true with the Supreme Court. Both laws are true. Both laws are there for a reason. But often one law takes precedence over another law in a particular case. For instance, a federal law will take precedence over a state law if they are in conflict with each other.

These examples are simply reflections of what is true in God’s Kingdom. In the spirit realm, there are laws at work. And some laws supersede other laws. Romans 8 tells us that the law of the Spirit of life is greater than the law of sin and death. Both laws are true, but one is greater than the other. It is true that sin leads to death. It is true that because of our sin we deserve spiritual death. But a new law was introduced in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We are now saved by grace through faith in Jesus. And having been given the Spirit, we are now set free from the law of sin and death. There is a greater law at work.

Paul describes a hierarchy of Kingdom laws in Galatians 5. The law of freedom stands over the law of the Spirit of life. Yet, the law of the Spirit of life stands over law of sin and death. Paul warns the Galatians to use their freedom to submit to the Spirit rather than to sin. And if we use our freedom to submit to the Spirit, we will walk in the Spirit and the will keep us from sin.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 

So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 

Galatians 5:1, 13, 16

The reason I am pointing out that some laws in God’s Kingdom supersede and take precedent over other laws is to highlight an important truth about healing. This is something the Lord has shown me over the last few weeks. If we want to operate in healing gifts and if we want to pray and see people healed, we need to remember this truth.

What the Lord showed me was that, because the law of the Spirit of life is greater than the law of sin and death, people can be healed of disease. We might call this the law of healing. But He also showed me that the law of freedom (or what we would call free will) is greater than the law of healing in God’s Kingdom.

Let’s break this down.

First, the law of healing is the general principle that God wants people to be healed in their bodies. Jesus is the perfect embodiment of the will of God on earth. Jesus only did what He saw the Father doing. He was God in the flesh. Every single person who came to Jesus and asked for healing got healed. Jesus never turned someone away in the Gospels and said, “You need to be sick so the Father can teach you a lesson.” No. Scripture says, “Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness” (Matthew 9:35).

The life of the Spirit in Jesus was transmitted to those who had illness. Disease is a product of sin and death in the world. The law of the Spirit of life overcame the law of sin and death. It is clear from the life of Jesus that God’s will is to heal disease and sickness.

The obvious question becomes, “Why then isn’t everyone healed?” The same kind of question could be asked about why then isn’t everyone saved. 1 Timothy 2:4 states very plainly that God our Savior, “wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” God wants everyone saved. But not all are saved. Why? Free will. The law of freedom gives people a choice to trust in Jesus or not.

So how does the law of freedom sometimes supersede or have precedence over the law of healing?

One example is a testimony from a woman named Joanne Moody. She wanted to be healed and believed in healing and got lots of prayer for healing but for years was not healed of her chronic pain. It wasn’t until a man spiritually discerned that she had made agreements with certain demonic spirits (spirits of death, spirits of suicide, etc) that anything changed. When the man discerned the truth and led Joanne to break those agreements (with her own free will) only then did prayer for healing actually heal her body. She was completely and totally healed. [See her testimony here.]

She had made agreements with the enemy that were blocking her healing. She was free to make those agreements because of the law of freedom (free will). Only when she renounced those agreements and had those demonic spirits cast out of her did her healing come. In other words, her free will had to cooperate with what God was doing in order for the law of healing to take center stage.

Another part of Joanne Moody’s testimony is that she almost died on an operating table. When this happened, her spirit floated above her body and the Lord came into the room. He gave her a choice to go home and be with the Lord or to go back into her body. She admits that she wanted to go be with the Lord, but she choose, for her son’s sake, to go back into her body riddled with pain.

Think about that scenario for a second. All these people were praying for her not to die. All these people were praying for her to come back and be healed. God wanted her to be healed. Yet, ultimately, God gave her a choice. The law of freedom took precedence over the law of healing. Had she freely chosen to go home to be with the Lord, she would not have been healed. She would have died right there on the operating table.

We see this with Jesus and the ten lepers (Luke 17:11-19). They cried out for physical healing. Jesus then gave them a command to go show themselves to the priests. They had the freedom as to whether they were going to obey. If they didn’t go, they wouldn’t be healed. If they did go, they would be healed. The law of freedom takes precedence over the law of healing.

They all decided to go, and “as they went” they were all healed. Before they even got to the priests, Jesus healed them. So now all of them were physically healed from leprosy but only one came back to thank Jesus, and he was apparently a “Samaritan.”

Jesus responded to the gratitude in the man’s heart (his free will choice to return and give thanks) by granting the man even more healing. Jesus said, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.” That word in the Greek translated as “made you well” is the word for saved (sozo). The man was already physically healed; Jesus then healed him at a much deeper level. The other nine men who were also physically healed made their own free will choice not to return and give thanks, and they did not receive the deeper healing.

What’s the point?

The point is that the law of freedom sometimes takes precedence over the law of healing in God’s Kingdom. Does God want to heal? Yes! Emphatically, yes! This is what we see over and over again in the life of Jesus. Yet, it seems, there is a greater law that is often at work. God does want to heal but more than that He wants us to have our God given freedom of will. Without freedom there is no love. In order for love to be real it must be free. The law of love is dependent on the law of freedom. And so often, in order to see healing, we must freely cooperate with what God is doing and saying.

This is not to say that this is the only reason people are not healed. Don’t hear me say that. There are lots of variables involved with someone getting healed and many of those variables are a mystery. What I am saying is that one of the variables is the reality that the law of freedom supersedes the law of healing in God’s Kingdom. Our freedom is one of God’s top priorities and we must use that freedom to cooperate with Him. Learning to cooperating with God in healing is part of the journey of the Christian life.

We must explore this truth more. I feel like this is just the tip of the iceberg. How does our freedom and our free choices interact with healing? How can we engage the law of freedom in such a way that it enacts the law of healing? There is much more that we have to learn about this truth.

Contemplative Silence or Spiritual Deafness

“Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voiceHe calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” 

John 10:1-5

I spent years thinking I was engaging in the contemplative silence of God, as if to spend time with God was mainly about embracing His silence and learning to be silent myself. But I was mistaking my spiritual deafness for God’s silence. Many Christians, especially progressive Christians trying to embrace contemplative Christianity, are making this same mistake. God likes to talk. Jesus’s own nickname is Word of God. God is not perpetually silent. How many times does Genesis 1 say, “And God said…”? God is speaking all the time. Most of the time, we just haven’t learned how to hear Him (or haven’t taken the time to).

Silence with God is like arguments between spouses. When I hear married couples say, “We never fight!” I get worried. Never fighting is awesome if you are an older couple who has spent decades learning how to communicate. However, for younger couples “never fighting” is too often an indication that one or both spouses are avoiding things for the sake of a false peace.

I have the same feeling when I hear Christians say things like, “God’s primary language is silence.” If you have spent decades hearing His voice, learning to listen and obey, and have learned to enjoy His Presence so much that both you and God can just sit in silence with each other, wonderful! That’s beautiful. But that’s not most American Christians.

Most Christians are never addressing their spiritual deafness because they are mistaking it for God’s silence. God wants to speak, and if our spiritual ears are open, we will hear Him. His sheep know His voice and listen to His voice.

An 80-year-old couple sitting in silence at a restaurant speaks to how they know each other so well. A newlywed couple sitting in silence at a restaurant often signals a breakdown in healthy communication. Not all silence is golden.

I have found God to be most silent when He has already spoken. He is silent because He’s already told me what I need to know and now it is time for me to trust and rest and follow His lead. Too many Christians believe that God is mostly silent and only speaks occasionally. I used to believe the same thing. But I was spiritually deaf, not understanding all the ways that God speaks through the Holy Spirit. My spiritual ears were clogged with doubt, unbelief, and skepticism.

Too many Christians have managed to take a spiritual problem (the inability to hear God) and have spun it into a spiritual attribute (“I embrace the silence of God”). It reminds me of the husband who, when asked about his marriage, says it’s going great only to look over at his wife and see her eyes rolling. She knows their problems are deep and many. He’s the kind of guy who will boast about never fighting with his wife only to experience a divorce a few short years later.

If God is silent, do not assume you are a master of contemplation enjoying the quiet presence of God. Assume, instead, that you are spiritually deaf and have a long way to go in learning to hear God’s voice. Cry out for an opening of your ears. Surrender the false belief that God doesn’t speak to you. Only after we learn to hear the Holy Spirit regularly can we then learn to enjoy God’s silence in a way that is healthy.

Miracle of Freedom

When the crowds heard Philip and saw the signs he performed, they all paid close attention to what he said. For with shrieks, impure spirits came out of many, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. So there was great joy in that city.

Acts 8:6-8

We know that it is a miracle when someone is instantly physically healed. But scripture also calls the casting out of an impure spirit a miraculous sign. When demons are evicted from a person in the name of Jesus it is a miracle because nothing else can get a demon to leave.

When Jesus went to the synagogue in Capernaum and a demonized man stood up and started yelling, Jesus commanded the demon to leave the man. Here’s what happen next:

The impure spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek. The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, “What is this? A new teaching—and with authority! He even gives orders to impure spirits and they obey him.” 

Mark 1:26-27

It’s not that Jewish exorcists didn’t have their rituals that attempted to help those who were demonized. That already existed. What astonished people was the authority that Jesus had. He commanded the demon to leave and it left. No ceremony. No ritual. Just authority. Everyone in that synagogue knew that demons didn’t listen to anyone. Demons did what they wanted to do in a person. But they had to listen to Jesus.

Likewise, the early believers walked in the authority of Jesus and were able to cast out demons. It was miraculous because nothing else would make them leave. And this is still true today.

I love science. I come from a family of nurses, pharmacologists and doctors. But medicine will not make a demon leave. Certain drugs will mute the physiological effects of the demons, but it won’t make them leave. In fact, I’ve prayed for a number of medical professionals–nurses, doctors, etc–and cast demons out of them in the name of Jesus.

I regularly encourage people to seek professional counseling and therapy. I’ve seen counseling help some of my friends. But therapy won’t make a demon leave. It can help people reject the lies that the demons are whispering in their ears, but it won’t make the demons leave. In fact, I’ve cast demons out of a number of therapists whose whole occupation is to do professional counseling.

Only the name of Jesus carries the authority to make a demon leave. Only a person walking in relationship with Jesus, in His authority and power, can cast out demons. Some sons of a Jewish priest tried to use the name of Jesus to cast out demons, but they didn’t have a relationship with Jesus or the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. They got a rude awakening.

Some Jews who went around driving out evil spirits tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were demon-possessed. They would say, “In the name of the Jesus whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out.” Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. One day the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know about, but who are you?” Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding.

Acts 19:13-16

“Jesus I know, and Paul I know about, but who are you.” Every demon knows Jesus and is terrified of Him. And Paul had cast out so many demons that the demonic kingdom of darkness began to learn his name. But the demons knew these sons of Sceva didn’t have the Holy Spirit dwelling in them. They could sense their lack of authority and the absence of a relationship with Jesus.

This is what makes deliverance such a miracle. Nothing else in all of creation has the power and authority to make demons leave. The name of Jesus and the authority of that name is it. People have theological debates about the exclusive claims of Christ. But that debate can only happen in a theological ivory tower full of doubt and skepticism. When you’re on the ground fighting for people in spiritual warfare, there is no debate. Christ alone can get people free from demons. Christ alone can save.

And when you’ve seen the truth of this reality first hand, when you’ve witnessed that only the name of Jesus has the power and authority to cast out demons, it confirms what Peter preached to the crowds that day in Jerusalem, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to humankind by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

Approaching the Throne

You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
    you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
    a broken and contrite heart
    you, God, will not despise.

Psalm 51:16-17

When we come before the Father in our one-on-one time with Him, most of us understand that the weight of sin, shame, and guilt drop off of us. We are washed clean from sin, set free from shame, and no longer carry the guilt we came in with. But those aren’t the only things that we shed in His presence.

A couple years ago, I had this internal vision (a movie that plays in your mind’s eye) while praying. I walked up glass steps and found myself on an elevated platform. It was a long, thin aisle that led to the throne of the Lord. It was crystal clear. There were throngs of angels to my right and left “standing” on a lower level. Imagine a stage at a rock concert that has a runway jutting out into the audience. Now imagine the lead singer out on the runway surrounded by the crowd below him but still elevated on the platform. That’s what it looked like.

As I walked toward the throne on this clear, elevated runway, I could tell that I had “gear” on. Imagine a belt full of weapons and other items that you might see a 17th century Musketeer wear. I had a sword at my side and a scroll tucked in the back part of my belt. I also had two glowing spheres, one blue and one green. And there was a cloak-type-thing on my shoulders.

As I walked to a certain point, I wasn’t allowed to go any farther. An angel informed me that if I wanted to keep approaching the Lord I’d have to take off all the gear. I understood instantly that this gear represented gifts of the Holy Spirit, spiritual weapons, and things I had been given to fight the good fight of faith. It was also the armor of God (Ephesians 6:14-18). Yet, in order to get closer to the Father, I had to shed it. I couldn’t come into His presence with all the gifts and spiritual armor I had been given over the years. I had to come with nothing–just a white robe and nothing else. I had to come simply as a son.

Isaiah 64:6 says, “all our righteous acts are like filthy rags.” We often think of our sin as filthy rags. But the closer we approach the throne of grace, even our “righteous acts” are like filthy rags. We must unload all of our burdens, including all the good things. When we come before God, we not only unload our sin but also our responsibilities that come from family, work, and church. We unload our gifts and our talents too! We come with nothing to offer but ourselves.

We are striped down until all the things that we identify ourselves with are gone. We are left only with our two core identities. We approach God as a creation of the Creator–a human being–and a re-creation of the Redeemer–a child of the Father.

Are you ashamed of something in your spiritual life? The good news is that you don’t have to carry it with you into God’s presence. He invites you to lay it down.

Are you proud of something in your spiritual life? I’m so glad, but God invites you to lay that down as well. If you want to draw nearer to the throne of God, you must shed all the good things too. The closer you get to God, the less you can take with you.

The Turn

“Arise, shine, for your light has come,
    and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.
See, darkness covers the earth
    and thick darkness is over the peoples,
but the Lord rises upon you
    and his glory appears over you.
Nations will come to your light,
    and kings to the brightness of your dawn.

“Lift up your eyes and look about you:
    All assemble and come to you;
your sons come from afar,
    and your daughters are carried on the hip.
Then you will look and be radiant,
    your heart will throb and swell with joy;

Isaiah 60:1-5

“We’re at the turn.”

That’s what I heard the Lord tell me the other day. As I’ve processed it, I believe He was referencing how when people race around a track, there is always a final turn before the home stretch. The home stretch comes right before the finish line.

I believe God was saying, for so many of the people I had been praying for, they are at the turn. This is the turn that happens right before the finish of one season and the beginning of a new season. The new season will bring a brand new life. It’s at the turn that the finish line is in sight for the first time.

One friend for whom I’ve prayed for four years went through infertility, divorce, and loss of her foster children. She’s at the turn. Another friend for whom I’ve been praying for more than four years experienced a traumatic brain injury from a medical mistake. She’s finally leaving the medical facility she’s been in for years and will receive medical care at home where she can be around her family. She’s at the turn.

Another friend has been battling autoimmune disease and multiple misdiagnoses for three years. He just started a new medicine that is looking promising. He’s at the turn. A married couple who had been estranged from their daughter for three years just had a reunion and got to see their grandchild. They’re at the turn. For years I’ve prayed for my sister to find a husband and be married. So have my parents. She’s a few weeks away from her wedding day. She’s at the turn.

And these are all happening in August and September of 2020. A few months from now every single person mentioned above will have a dramatically differently looking life. Their new life is within sight. It won’t be long now! We are at the turn. Darkness has covered their life for a time, but the Lord is rising upon them. Their hearts of sadness are turning to hearts swelling with joy. This is the season we are in right now. Praise Jesus!

I wonder how many more people this word applies to. Have you been praying for something for a long time? I’m not talking about a few months of praying. I’m talking about three, four, or five years of praying consistently for something? It’s hard to faithfully pray for something for that long. But I am seeing all of these prayer requests come into a season right now where the tide is turning. What is that for you?

We’re at the turn. Look for it. Lift up your eyes and look about you. The new day is coming!

Keep Praying

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you…

Ephesians 1:18

What happens when we pray for people who aren’t making the best decisions in their life? How do our prayers affect them?

In eternity, we will have free will, yet we will only choose what is good. I believe this will happen for two reasons. First, our completely purified and redeemed hearts will only desire what is good. Secondly, we will only have good options to choose from.

When you pray for people, you release the Kingdom into their life. I believe this does two things. First, it provides their hearts the option to explore different desires, good desires, that they may not have considered before. They can now choose to follow desires that align with the Kingdom of God that they didn’t have access to before. Secondly, it provides external options to choose from that weren’t there before.

Imagine the person you are praying for in a convenience store full of junk food. Your prayer for them releases in them a craving for fruit. Your prayer also introduces a fruit and vegetable stand from the farmer’s market into the convenience store. Your prayer for them doesn’t force them to make a better choice but it does provide for them better options.

Keep praying.

Daily Grace

Then the Lord said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. 

Exodus 16:4

When Israel was traveling through the desert, the Lord provided “daily bread” for the people. He called it manna. “…in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. When the dew was gone, thin flakes like frost on the ground appeared on the desert floor“(Exodus 16:13-14). There was enough for everyone to take as much as they needed for that day, but only for that day. “Each morning everyone gathered as much as they needed, and when the sun grew hot, it melted away“(Exodus 16:21). They had to gather in the morning. By the time the sun grew hot, the manna was gone.

I have found this same reality to be true of daily grace, especially during a season of grieving. There is enough grace for this day but only this day.

Each morning when I wake up I feel like an above-ground pool that has no water in it. Without water, an above-ground pool is just a thin piece of metal on the outside and a thin piece of plastic liner on the inside. Flimsy. Yet, when it is filled with water, it feels rock solid. I wake up every morning and spend time with the Lord, and He fills me with His daily provision. He fills me with His Presence, His power, His strength, His grace for that day. I wake up flimsy, but after some time in His Presence, I am filled, I am changed, and I am ready for the day.

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
    for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
    therefore I will wait for him.”

Lamentations 3:22-24

Every day there are new mercies, new compassions, new manna on which to feed our souls. There is not enough for tomorrow. But there is enough for today. Jesus told his disciples, “…do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own“(Matthew 6:34). So true. And God provides enough grace for today.

Hear my cry, O God;
    listen to my prayer.

From the ends of the earth I call to you,
    I call as my heart grows faint;
    lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
For you have been my refuge,
    a strong tower against the foe.

I long to dwell in your tent forever
    and take refuge in the shelter of your wings.

Psalm 61:1-4

Eyes of Compassion

The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. 

Matthew 6:22

It is said that the eyes are the windows to the soul. I got a taste of this at my brother’s viewing on Friday night.

We were at the funeral home honoring my brother’s life as we mingled together with friends and family from all over. Because of COVID, we all had to wear masks. So as people approached me and my family to offer their condolences, we could only see their eyes.

What I witnessed that night I had never noticed before. The masks allowed a particular focus on the eyes. I could see compassion pouring from certain people’s eyes. Everyone there was compassionate or they wouldn’t have shown up. But there were certain people who just seemed to have compassion pouring out of their eyes.

Many times throughout the Gospels the Bible says that Jesus looked upon individual people and the crowds with compassion. Jesus had eyes that exuded compassion. And certain people at the viewing that night seemed to have the eyes of Jesus, eyes full of empathy.

I shared with one of my uncles that his eyes were ones that were noticeably eyes of compassion. He reminded me that his own family faced hardship and pain when his daughter was in a car accident. And in that moment it dawned on me that many of the people whose eyes beamed with compassion were people whose hearts had been broken, tenderized by tragedy and pain. When their hearts are squeezed by a new tragedy, compassion pours from their eyes.

Jesus, may You make our eyes like Your eyes. Lord, may it be that not only do we see what You see but that when people look into our eyes, they see You.

Hearing God in a Crisis

Do not quench the Spirit. Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good…

1 Thessalonians 5:19-21

My family and I are in the midst of a tragedy. We are walking through grief and loss. My older brother has just died at 47. He was in a car accident. He left behind a wife and three kids. We feel like so much has been stolen from us. So much time and so many memories that were yet to happen were ripped away from us in an instant. My nieces and nephew lost their dad. I lost a brother. My parents lost a son. My sister-in-law lost her husband. My kids lost an uncle. The pain is real and intense.

During these kinds of seasons we need the presence of the Lord to be near to us and comfort us. We need Jesus to bring His peace that passes all understanding. And it is extremely helpful to hear from the Lord as He speaks to us about what is happening. Yet, many people report that during difficult times, they don’t hear from the Lord. It often feels like the Lord is silent.

I have some thoughts on this. I believe the Lord wants to speak into these situations in our lives. I don’t believe the Lord wants to be silent. But I believe we often experience a kind of silence for a couple reasons.

Have you ever been on a video conference call and someone started talking while they were still muted? You can see their mouth moving but you can’t hear anything. It’s not that they aren’t talking but the mute button is keeping you from hearing them. I believe we sometimes interact with God this way. God is speaking but we don’t hear him. We have a mute button on in our spirit.

The thing that opens communication with the Lord is trust. If we can trust him implicitly in good times or bad, no matter what happens, then the communication lines stay open. Lack of trust shuts down our ability to hear from the Lord. So if personal crisis causes us not to trust the Lord, then we are shutting down the very thing we need in that moment–the voice of the Lord.

Not only does mistrust shut down our ability to hear, but it will sometimes cause God to stop speaking. He stops speaking because He loves us. That may sound strange but just think about it for a second. Imagine you are grieving an incredible loss in your life. Now imagine someone you don’t trust starts talking to you. In that moment, do you want them to keep talking? No. It doesn’t matter what they are saying. It doesn’t matter if they are saying all the right things. If we don’t trust them, we don’t want them speaking to us while we are in the midst of deep grief. It would be better if they were just silent.

God knows this. If we don’t trust God, it doesn’t matter what He says to us in that moment of grief and pain. If we don’t trust Him, we will misconstrue whatever it is He wants to tell us. We will doubt it, question it, and misinterpret it. Our lack of trust toward God often means it is more loving for Him just to be present with us and not speak to us in that moment.

Yet, in the midst of grief and pain, we are willing to hear from people we trust. So if we trust the Lord no matter what, we are willing to hear from Him in the midst of our pain. God speaks and we listen. And when we hear the word of the Lord in the midst of our tragedy, it is so helpful, so comforting, and so clarifying.

This may sound strange to some, but here’s the truth: God has not been silent during this tragedy in my life. In fact, the only way to describe my interaction with God right now is that God has been downright talkative. In the midst of my grief, pain and loss, He has had so many things He’s wanted to say to me.

He has spoken to me directly through scripture, through prayer (His still small voice in my heart), through friends, and through prophetic words from others. When I didn’t know what to pray, the Lord gave me different themes and things to focus on that directed my prayers. When I was confused by what seemed to be missing pieces of the puzzle, God dropped a puzzle piece on me that brought understanding.

My wife had a prophetic dream in the middle of our crisis that brought tremendous clarity. My good friend had multiple prophetic visions that he shared with me that were hard to hear at first but brought a level of comfort and understanding. This is why the above verse of scripture says, “Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all.” If we can learn to receive and process prophetic words on our normal days, then they will become lifelines during a crisis.

Trust is what keeps those communication lines open. When God begins to speak, and He says something unexpected, trust is what allows us to receive His word without being confused or offended by it. Jesus is the most trustworthy person I’ve ever met. We owe Him our unconditional, implicit, unyielding trust.

We need to stop believing the lie that God is always silent during hard times. Not true. God loves to talk us through a crisis. He loves to speak. He loves to speak words that bring clarity, understanding, comfort, and peace. If God is quiet, it may be that He knows what we need in that moment is His tangible Presence and not His words. But it also might mean that our inability to trust Him has shut down communication. Let’s make sure our trust in Him keeps those lines of communication open. Even during a crisis, He is worthy of our trust.

Dehumanizing

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.

Romans 12:9

The other day I saw a meme that had the phrase, “Love the sinner; hate the sin.” But it had a line through the all the words except the first one – love. So it looked like this: “Love the sinner; hate the sin.” At first I liked the intention behind the meme. The idea here is not to judge others for their sin and simply love them as God loves them. And I really like that.

But the more I looked at it the more I could see that, though this meme was well intentioned, it was missing an important truth from scripture. The Bible teaches us that in order to love people well, in order for love to be sincere, in order for us to love what God loves and the way God loves, we must also hate what He hates.

Some people think God doesn’t hate anything, but they probably haven’t read much of the Bible. God hates evil. And sin is a form of evil enacted by people. The reason God hates evil and sin is because sin dehumanizes the person sinning and the person being sinned against. Sin reduces the beauty and purpose of God’s good creation and it separates us from intimacy with God. Sin gives the enemy permission and access to wreak havoc in our lives and in the lives of others.

There is a reason the apostle Paul wrote Romans 12:9 to the early Christians in Rome. He knew loving well–in other words loving people the way God loved people–was connected to hating what God hates. God loves people perfectly and, because of that love, He hates the sin that damages their lives. He hates evil in all its forms.

In order to love the human trafficker well, I must hate human trafficking. Otherwise, I simply enable evil in the world. In order to love the drug addict well, I must hate addiction. With people promoting racism, in order to love them well, I must hate racism. With people promoting various perversions of human sexuality, in order to love them well, I must hate sexual perversion. With people promoting the killing of the unborn, in order to love them well, I must hate murder in all its forms.

In Romans 12:9 I believe Paul was expanding on a passage from the prophet Amos:

Seek good, not evil,
    that you may live.
Then the Lord God Almighty will be with you,
    just as you say he is.
Hate evil, love good;
    maintain justice in the courts.

Amos 5:14-15

The problem that most of us have with trying to live out the phrase “Love the sinner; hate the sin” is that we struggle to hold the tension of the dichotomy. If we don’t mind a person’s sin that much, we have an easier time loving them. Or, if we hate the sin someone is participating in, we struggle to see the person as more than their sin and then struggle to love them completely. We struggle to separate the identity of a person from their sin long enough to love them and hate the evil they participate in. We so often lump a person in with their sin as if they are the same thing. They’re not.

Loving the sinner while hating the sin is so difficult that it is impossible to do unless we are supernaturally empowered by the love of God. Human love is not strong enough to hold this tension. Human love will make excuses for the sin or enable the sin as an attempt to love the person. Or, human love will hate was is evil and condemn the person sinning. Human love, thinking it is advocating against injustice, will simply heap guilt and shame on the sinner. Only the love of God can rightly love the sinner and hate the sin. And we cannot even attempt to love what is good and hate was is evil without the love of God flowing through us.

Jesus is our perfect example. He said to the woman caught in adultery, “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin“(John 8:11). No condemnation combined with the call to leave a life of sin. Perfect love and acceptance combined with a challenge to holiness. Love for the sinner while hating the sin that was destroying her life.

“Love the sinner; hate the sin.” If you cross out any words you unintentionally cross them all out.