The Gospel & Justice

Hello friends ! I do want to make this as concise as I can – I have been thinking a lot about the racial unrest in our country (and especially how this unrest reveals a lot of ugly truth about the church at large – its complicity in segregation & racism…). I’ve been coming to grips with my own preferences, prejudices, and failings but also wrestling with how I have seen the conversation of justice play out in the local church and the church at large.

I stumbled upon a journal entry from a year ago during a time my husband and I were reading through Eric Mason’s “Woke Church,” as we wrestled with the issues which were presented in this book personally. This entry is all the more timely today as the world continues in discussions about justice and we await change in the focus of the church at large.

We had just read a section of the book entitled, “The Gospel & Justice.”

January 6, 2019

In such simple words Mason spelled out the gospel’s power in reconciling both God and man by faith and man to man by faith that we don’t have an option not to reconcile with one another due to the call we have by faith in Christ !

And it became apparent that this must shape us: “there is not an attitude of God without action; the two are one” (Austin Farrer). Get into that truth – Whew chile !

tsedaqa is Hebrew for “righteousness” and mishpat , “justice.” And dikaiosyne is the Hebrew word for “justification.” Each of these words is relational – in relation to and always derived from the character of Almighty God, Yahweh.

God created us to bear his image – to change systems; build cultures; communities; families… He created us to subdue the earth, and in doing so our kingdom activity revealing/pointing others to the need for their souls to be changed.

The gospel’s work is both intrinsic and extrinsic and yet it seems- like the Pharisees and Scribes , we get stuck on the intrinsic or we think we’re at a certain place because of our theology BUT if we stop there we fail to see and have a holistic view and understanding of the gospel.

We’re reduced to, as Mason – quoting Mathew 23:23 calls it, “many minutiae.” For the Pharisees & Scribes this minutiae was tithing herbs. The big picture is that our wrong prioritization/ focus on these minutiae neglects what Jesus tells them are the “weightier matters of the law: justice, mercy, and faithfulness.”

So in our day we have to, before & with, making social justice mission statements, examine our theology – what themes in the Bible are we blatantly ignoring to focus solely on the minutiae . What is the minutiae of our day?

If our focus on these things causes us to miss out on sharing the gospel, we’ve majorly missed our call as image bearers and sorely failed to be who God has made us to be – the salt & light that shines truth and light into a broken and dark world (see Matthew 5:14-16).

We cannot

  • …Serve a holy God and ignore our call to work out our sanctification (in every area)
  • …Taste and see that the Lord is good and not share this with others
  • …Claim trust in a just God and call ourselves His people, but not do justice
  • …Tell the world we serve a God of comfort and peace but ignore the pain and chaos around us
  • … Claim to serve a God who is not partial but be partial to our preferences
  • … Claim to serve a loving God and fail to show love
  • … Claim to serve a God who is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, yet be short tempered and hold grudges
  • … Revel in God’s kindness yet not be kind and tenderhearted

We are called to forgive as God in Christ forgave us (Ephesians 4: ); to love because He first loved us; to do justice, to love kindness and to walk humbly with our God (Micah 6:8)

So what do we do ? We don’t merely hold conversations to agree with what scripture clearly gives as a call to act. The Pharisees & Scribes certainly agreed with justice, mercy, and faithfulness as a concept, but their actions did not show this. That is why Jesus called them hypocrites. We have to act in line with the attitudes we claim to believe in relation to the character of the Lord our God who is personal and relational (not just through His Word but through His deeds – which culminated in the sacrifice of Jesus’ life on the cross for our sins – the ultimate expression of love!

Mask Off : 5 Lessons in the Age of a Global Health Pandemic

Living in the midst of a global health pandemic has been both generally and personally revelatory in nature. “Mask Off” has become a euphemism for telling it as it is. And the times we are living in have been lifting the mask off of many issues that have been concealed.

We see the issue of sin in the heart of man in a way now that is undeniable to most. While people are fighting for and losing their lives, we have seen the under appreciation for front line workers. We have witnessed the nuances of the pandemic and peoples’ responses to it but even more blaring are the health and social disparities amongst minorities and the unjust deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor , and George Floyd.

There is much to lament in the history of our country and also in our own hearts and lives; there should also be a sense of sorrow for the way we (the church at large) have neglected the weightier matters of the law (Matthew 23:23). And how much we neglect these things along with how we spend our time is on trial because we cannot partake of all the activities we wish to. Therefore, the global health pandemic has in a sense turned us all inside out and forced us to examine our hearts, minds, motives, and actions or the lack thereof.

I don’t know about you, but that makes me think about the virus- what have we and should we learn from it? And I find it quite interesting that one of the main enzymes, the COVID-19 protease, is heart shaped.

SARS-CoV-2 (2019-nCoV) coronavirus main protease, with inhibitor in turquoise.

Let me clarify what the heck this protease is. When a virus such as COVID -19 infects and enters a cell, it comes with some instructions called RNA (yes, the protein instructor brother of DNA). So these instructions allow the virus to make its “machinery” – proteins which allow it to do its damage. Well, this heart shaped protein is what is responsible for COVID-19 being able to form those pieces of machinery. It cleaves the protein made from the instructions into functional units.

Within our personal lives & church communities we need to pray the Lord prunes us (John 15) – removing what does not glorify Him from our hearts and disciplining us into fruitful activity!

How I Study the Bible : R.E.C.A.L.L Study Method + My Favorite Tools

Studying the Bible with R.E.C.A.L.L

  • REST – Rest in the Prince of Peace (through Prayer)
  • ENTER- Enter into the biblical metanarrative by gathering context/background information on the book you are about to read.
  • CHEW- Chew on God’s Word, chapter by chapter. Read the book you are going through one Chapter at a time so that you can chew on God’s Word & carefully contemplate what you are reading.
  • ANNOTATE– As you chew on God’s Word, highlight/ underline key & repeated words/phrases; note cross references; outline ! In the guide I created for you, I have included a cut out you can place in your Bible to help keep track of your notes by creating a color code/symbol key for reading
  • LEARN– meditate & memorize. Jot down verses that stand out to you & verses you would like to commit to memory.
  • LEAVE- Ask (pray) what God is calling you to leave your time in the text with ? What attribute of His character is He revealing through this text? How does this text point me to Christ? What prayer am I compelled to pray in light of this text? What action am I compelled to take in light of this text?

My Fav Bibles:

Books / Resources:

His testimonies My heritage (Kristi Anyabwile)

Women of the Word (Jen Wilkin)

How to Read the Bible Book By Book (Gordon D. Fee and Douglas Stuart)

Blue Letter Bible (different translations, word study, cross references)

The Bible Project https://bibleproject.com/

How to outline the bible : https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/bl…

Other favorites(Shown, but not mentioned)

Exams… Finals

I can’t believe that after this semester (of which only about 6 weeks are left) I will have only a few months until I graduate! I have been learning so much with each passing semester. Last semester was a great one academically as well as socially. Well Here it is once again I am approaching the end of a semester and 2/3 of my last semesters here at the University of Maryland. It has been a rocky ride, but it has taught me so much. I have discovered and pursued passions, lost and gained friends; figured out who I don’t want to be and who I do want to be through experience; and overall just learned about the harsh realities outside of my generally sheltered life. What I mean by “sheltered” is relatively easy. I have had to overcome quite a few hurdles and am truly grateful to have made it out alive and sane (so it seems so at this point).

I have changed my study habits- learned to be more consistent; and for this although my grades don’t always reflect my efforts I am grateful for the growth where it has been most needed- the drive to fight and persevere no matter what – looking to the end and not getting discouraged by mistakes or high class exam averages (for those lovely difficult but curved courses). UMD is not the school for everyone- it’s a harsher environment for some- depending on where you come from. For me – it was the school in my backyard, but oh such a culture shock for the “bigness” present in the classroom and on the campus. Once you get over this you can thrive.

Safe in His Arms

I recently came back to this blog and discovered a few posts that have been occupying my draft collection. This past year has bought so many changes – joys, sorrows, ups, downs, growth and setbacks…However as I learn and journal I continue to reflect back and see reasons to be grateful. At the end of 2014 one of the main areas I had learned a multitude of lessons was friendships and relationships. I am ready to dig deeper and grow more in who He has called me to be and not what others say I should be. It seems like an easy enough challenge, but nonetheless it is a challenge for the year 2015:

As a college student, so close to the end of my undergraduate career, the end of a semester is such a joyous time ! So at the beginning of this new year – at the end of which I am expected to graduate- I am filled with joy and excitement at all of the fun new possibilities and the opportunities for growth. In 2014 I saw a lot of changes occur in my life- some good and some bad. I met new people and I got to know old friends better. With growth came necessary changes and I ended a few toxic relationships at the end of 2014, but also began what I hope to be a new season of friendship in my life.

I recently told a dear friend of mine that my two greatest fears are being alone and heartbreak. In regards to being alone I was thinking of ” feeling alone in a room full of people” – being surrounded by people but not pouring into their lives and them being unable to pour into yours in a positive light. The relationships that ended in 2014 , unfortunately had to end because they were just that- eating away at me from the inside out and I had known it for sometime. I know that as long as I trust in God I am never truly alone and that He holds me safe in His arms,but the erosion of the heart and soul that can occur in toxic relationships can be painful.

So I was schooled not only in the ways of biochemistry and physiology in this last year but also in the mental, spiritual and physiological inner workings of relationships! – especially in regards to what types of people yield safe and unsafe relationships.  I remember reading about “unsafe people” in a book my mom had suggested I read, by the same authors of the Boundaries book series,  when I found myself in a pattern of choosing to be in relationships with “unsafe people” and being extremely afraid of becoming unsafe myself.  So as I am reading through my 2014 journal and closing the pages I see where I wrote down 5 characteristics that the authors gave of unsafe people and I find encouragement and peace in the reasons those relationships had to end and just how I have made strides in moving forward from my past of toxic people:

“Unsafe people avoid closeness instead of connecting; unsafe people are only concerned about ‘I’ instead of ‘we’ but safe people are empathetic and act on their empathy ( I Corinthians 13:5 – Love seeks the good of others; it is not self-seeking)”

I was always finding myself in these relationships of words – many “nice” things said but actions so contrary that they almost always consequently lead to mistrust, hurt, and sadness. So now I am trying to “look for people who show genuine concern for [my] welfare, then make that concern known in concrete actions.” I have been blessed in that this prayer has been answered in many ways – first in the ability to identify unsafe people and second – the addition of safer people to my life this past semester.

“Unsafe people resist freedom instead of encouraging it. ‘What does this person do with my no?'”

This was all to common in these relationships- my “no” was not respected, and was often devalued by the unsafe people in my life to the point that I was afraid to say “no.” I would dread the reaction that could possibly come out of resisting the desires of the other person. A lot of this is deeply rooted into my childhood, but nonetheless something that needed to be recognized as unhealthy and put out of practice for good. I was allowing my voice and who I am to be silenced by what others wanted. I didn’t want to cause a fight so I’d often comply. It wasn’t until I began to step out of this that I realized just how much I needed to end my pattern of compliance and unfortunately with that change came the end of those relationships that were rooted in compliance and not real love. When I started saying “no” more, the “unsafe” people began to withdraw more.

“The heart withers and dies without separateness. It’s impossible to connect if you’re not free to disagree. That kind of love is compliance and people-pleasing. It is not real love”

My counselor told me on my last visit that in dating a guy one great test that will tell you whether to run or stay is to tell him “no” and see what his response is. If your “no” is met by any sort of resistance then you need to run the other way because more than likely you will not be presented with the space to disagree in the relationship.  This is true for any kind of relationship- if you are not free to disagree and honestly express yourself then it will be impossible to truly connect and have the level of intimacy you desire in your relationship that can only come from real love. There is such a joy and freedom in participating in a friendship or relationship that is genuinely rooted in real love where you can be honest with each other and as a result help one another to grow as individuals.

“Unsafe people flatter us instead of confronting us. Safe relationships aren’t just about trust, support, and sharing. They are about truth, righteousness, and honesty.”

Especially in this season of my life I am not looking for people to tell me to do what I want. I was extremely honest about things that I was going through and my confusion at times in the midst of these things, but I didn’t receive the same honesty in those toxic relationships. I was often told what I would want to hear because they weren’t genuinely concerned with my welfare but concerned with keeping me compliant. Whenever I sought to be honest in love it was met with anger and bitterness. I did not have a say- it was their way or no way.

“Unsafe people condemn us instead of forgiving us… Forgiveness is the glue of love”  & “Unsafe people stay in parent/child roles instead of relating as equals.”

This was especially evident to me this past year – the more and more I deviated from my usual patterns of fear lead compliance , the more I was met with what these “friends” really thought of me. I was being myself more and voicing the thoughts on my heart more and I realized that I was being “parented” by these peers. They wished to control me to their liking and this became evident in their responses to apologies or conversations to reconcile offenses. You cannot have genuine love when there is no forgiveness. Bitterness and anger only make it impossible for real love to exist. When I saw that I was consistently met by these two I could no longer stand around and be belittled and berated as a “child” by someone who is my equal.

  

Falling Leaves

Relationships, life, circumstances, plans – are all just as transitory as the deciduous leaves on a tree. Leaves change colors and fall in  autumn. Relationships change, our hearts change direction, health is threatened by sickness, and plans for the future change often, making it necessary to adapt and adjust on a moments notice.

I find myself getting extremely overwhelmed and driven to despair sometimes at how increasingly transient so many things are at this point in my life. At twenty-one I have seen so many changes in the last 10 months of my life that I am all the more aware of just how remarkably fleeting the things before our eyes can be. My father suffered a traumatic brain injury and cervical fracture in a head-on collision in April of 2014; there have been frequent doctors and emergency room visits dispersed throughout this time (before and after) not to mention therapy and visits to different specialist to assess how his injury is healing over time. I have seen relationships change in my life as I learn more about who I am and find my voice beyond years of hurt, silence, and passiveness. My educational career has seen many ups and downs as well in these last few months; not to mention changes at work. I am not saying these things for you to say “awww poor thing, wow!” There are things I won’t even mention; but the picture I am painting is just how quickly things can change- one day you are fine and the next day you are in the emergency room; one day you are planning a future with someone and the next you are faced with what seems to be irreconcilable hurt and you’re wondering – “Where did this come from? Why is this happening ?”

What I find most profound about moments like these or periods in our lives marked by change that affects our lives far beyond the results of specific situations themselves- is the truth that the suffering and pain brought about in these moments points you to… Truth- that you sometimes would overlook or become apathetic to in your mostly “comfortable” life. It makes you see beyond this sojourn and past the things that are quickly fading. I get too comfortable with unanswered questions and anxiety that I look away from a situation or run to evanescent pleasures for escape (yes that fleeting- like vapor!). However, I was reminded today that DESPITE how much things are changing in my life, God is not a deciduous leaf on a tree. He is UNCHANGING! His love endures; it is endless, eternal, undying, consistent, perpetual, permanent, and ceaseless! So although I am weak and am being made more aware of this in these moments at home, at school, and in relationships- He is making me aware of just how much I can’t do it alone; and just how much stronger He is to conquer my weaknesses and not allow them to overcome me! I am happy that I am loved by a God who- despite how fickle I can be- knows my heart, and loves my flaws. He thinks they make me beautiful! Having to face this head on – is forcing me to believe it – He still loves me even when I falter under temptation. He knows far before I do when I will choose my own feelings or desires over His will – so it comes as no surprise to Him even though it surprises me.

Although I am like the branches that hold those crunchy, deciduous leaves outside right now on the ground being blown around – He created those branches, those leaves ,and He created me. Although leaves fall, when Spring time rolls around new blooms emerge; and so I see these moments as times of purging – even though I can’t see why it’s necessary at times I see the direction each new challenge pushes me towards- trusting His will and way more than I trust the ephemeral tendencies of my own heart and mind.

So today I find joy in the fact that my God loves me, He saved me, and He will finish what He has started in my heart despite how much the things that I see and even my own heart deceive me to believe this is not true.

“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 and momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weights 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!”

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2 Corinthians 4:16-18