Loving All of God

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God is love.


God is justice.


God is tender and merciful and He is sharp and condemning.
To love God is to love everything about Him. Even the parts we don’t understand. Even the pieces we wish were different.


To wish that God were only comfort and healing is to wish away judgement for those who abuse children, rape women, sell humans. It is to wish away the cross, and this diminishes Christ’s sacrifice.


When we wish for God only to be mercy and grace, we wish away His sharpness, and it is His sharpness that prunes and perfects us.
Christ’s love is not the soft love of human emotion, but a burning fire that cleanses and sears. It is a love that demands self-sacrifice. ~ J. Heinrich Arnold in The Center
And sacrifice is the only way to conquer death, defeat Satan, rescue the world.


So we come full circle.
To love the saving, forgiving piece of God is to love the judging, condemning part of God.
These pieces which come together in the Christ who hangs on the cross.


On this Good Friday, look up at His bloody form and love Him.
All of Him.

The Day God is Dead

Holy Saturday.
The day God is dead.
The day we lose God Himself.
Don’t miss this.  Don’t rush through it.  On the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter Sunday, God is dead.
One part of the Trinity, yes, but God nonetheless.
The Word of God is gone.  We can no longer hear Him.
Linger in this day.  Does the earth feel different?  Somehow vacant?
There is, for this day, no possible way to reach God.
And the curtain of the temple was torn in two.
No Most Holy Place where the high priest could meet with God.
It is finished.
He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.
No Word of God in whom we can see the Father.
No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.
Garden Tomb Side
Remain in this day as long as you can.  I don’t understand how, but somehow this day exists on which we are completely isolated from God.
Breathe in the horror of this day.  God is dead.  He is, for this day, unattainable.  Can you catch even a glimpse?
The disciples did.  They lived it for what must have felt like an eternity.
We’d rather skip past this day, this Saturday that contains Christ’s body in the tomb.  Yet we must linger if we are to grasp the power of Easter Sunday.  We must dwell here awhile if we are to be allowed to hold the joy of Easter Sunday.
When the Son, the Word of the Father is dead, then no one can see God, hear of Him or attain Him.  And this day exists, when the Son is dead, and the Father, accordingly, inaccessible. ~ Hans Urs Von Balthasar (theologian and author)
Can you feel the terror of it?  Do you sense the incomprehensible void that stretches before us on this day?  What does it even mean?
Do not rush too quickly past this Holy Saturday on your way to the miracle.  You may miss the deepest part of the gratitude and joy that are to come.
Garden Tomb
The deepest gratitude and joy that come only when you understand what was absent, and understand that it was only for a day.


Art credits: Preparation of Christ’s Tomb by Vittore Carpaccio; Tomb of knight Philip Keerman in Flanders, Belgium; 1912 photograph of Jerusalem Garden Tomb by Dwight Lathrop Elmendorf; Side view of Garden Tomb by Deror Avi; Jerusalem Garden Tomb by Berthold Werner


Today, our world seems darker.
Today, my heart is heavy and grieving.
Today, I acknowledge my guilt and wrap myself around my shame.
Today, I try to fully take in the magnitude of this beautiful, amazing Love.


 On this day, creation mourned and the sun hid itself in grief.
On this day, Jesus chose to stay nailed down, for His heart was full of love.
On this day, Jesus took my guilt into His own body and gave up, for a time, His perfect closeness with God the Father.
On this day, God once for all proved His love for us.
On this day, He proved His Word, that He truly meant it when He said
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the LORD, who has compassion on you.
As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.
My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
He loves me. He came to rescue me and to make me perfect and holy. He came to conquer death and to make me alive.
On this day, God proved through Jesus that He means to accomplish all of these things.
And yet.
Is He able?
Today, I do not yet know.
I suppose I’ll have to wait until Sunday to find out.


art credit: Sketch by Rembrandt, The Three Crosses

The Last Temptation

This, the Friday before Easter, is a hard day.

I’d much rather jump straight into Easter, to the joy of the earth singing as it once again feels the touch of Jesus’ feet.

Yet you cannot get to the empty tomb without going through the suffering of the cross.

I’ve written a lot about suffering and pain in these pages. I am often tempted to do almost anything to avoid feeling pain.

It recently struck me that perhaps that is what temptation really is: Satan doing everything he can to help you avoid suffering here on earth.

We don’t know about very many of Jesus’ temptations, but God gives us enough glimpse to know that He, like me, desired to avoid pain.

That is what Jesus’ wilderness temptings were: Satan trying to convince Jesus to believe in him and take the easy, pain-free way of becoming king rather than believing God and obeying His pain-filled, cross way of becoming king.

The way that would also rescue His people.

Too often, I believe Satan instead of God.

Yet Satan did not end his tempting of Jesus in the wilderness.

When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left Him until an opportune time. ~ Luke 4

That opportune time?

The Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus’ last temptation.

The temptation to once again take the comfortable way instead of the suffering way. The temptation to believe in Satan’s hazy seductions rather than in God’s rock-solid promises.

Father, if You are willing, take this cup from Me; yet not My will but Yours be done. ~ Luke 22

I bow my head in shame, knowing how often I choose to believe Satan.

Yes, He was God, yet He still struggled as much as we do with this same temptation.

And being in anguish, He prayed more earnestly, and His sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. ~ Luke 22

And so we come full circle.

That which began in a garden now ends in a garden because this time the man obeyed.

Jesus obeyed. He chose to believe in God’s promise while knowing the immediate consequences of pain.

My heart wants to weep because I know why He did this.

But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. ~ Romans 5

Since the children have flesh and blood, He too shared in their humanity so that by His death He might destroy him who holds the power of death — that is, the devil. ~ Hebrews 2

Because He loves us and He wants to rescue us, to rescue you, from the power of pain and death.

This. This is why we linger long on this hard day instead of leaping ahead to Sunday. To remind us to believe in God’s promises of the end of death and pain even while knowing of the fleeting death and pain we might face in obedience.

May I end with something I wrote and a video I made with a friend? (if you are viewing this via email/in a reader, click here to view this video)

Pause for a moment and dwell on the hard things so that on Sunday your heart can resonate even more fully with Easter’s joy.

It swirls around me like a hurricane
sending my intentions spinning into the blackened sky.
I hear the voice of God
I hear Him tell me what is good
Why can I not obey?
My consistency is that I fail to listen
My constant is that I continue to fall.
The ugly truth?
I don’t believe God.
I don’t believe Him when He tells me what is best.
If I believed, I would obey.
If I trusted in God’s goodness, His love, I would always do what He asks.
I would choose love instead of anger.
I would choose compassion rather than bitterness.
I would forgive instead of clinging to my grudge.
I would assume the best rather than enjoying my irritation.
I would think of others and forget about myself.
How can I obey,
how can I root out this ugliness that is deep inside my heart?
I cannot listen when I will not trust.
And yet I remember.
God is mercy and God is grace.
He changes hearts and He captures our gaze.
He is faithful if we ask;
His wisdom He delights to give.
Christ stayed in the wilderness
He faced down our sin
He trusted in God
Trusted God’s love and goodness
Christ conquered to make me a conqueror.
It captures my heart and teaches me to trust
changing my nature so that I am now able to believe what God says
And obey.


(special thanks to Kati Pessin for putting together the video and to our Pastor for his thoughts on Christ’s temptations)

art credit for the video: music is “Window” by Album Leaf