School Shooting in Newtown: Where was God?

On December 14, 2012 a heavily armed, 20-year old entered Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut and gunned down 20 children and 6 adults. The media firestorm that followed this horrific act was gigantic, and so has been the response through social media. People are trying to make sense of it all. The main question I wish to tackle is, “Where was God?” I don’t know what it’s like for anyone else, but my own Facebook news feed has been littered with attempts to answer this question. Opinions vary widely, but it is a legitimate question to ask. Where is God in all this? Why would he let this happen? Can’t he do something to stop it? Is he disinterested? Does he care? Is he too weak and feeble to do anything? This post is an attempt to answer some of these questions.

Let me first say that I don’t want to treat this event like it is some case study for theological minds to examine. I don’t want to be disrespectful or without compassion. What happened was real. Real families in a real community suffered unspeakable loss. Like many parents, my wife and I have appreciated the presence of our own children all the more over the past few days, and our conversation and prayers have turned to this matter a number of times. I feel deeply for every parent who is about to go through this Christmas season without a loved little one. I have lost a child myself, by a different means, but I think I can begin to understand the stabbing pain that those affected are feeling. I want to be clear that this is not just theory for some uninvolved bystander like myself to wrestle with. I am grateful for every church in Newtown that is attempting to respond to a broken town with the love and grace of God. Prayers are with those brothers and sisters.

But while this is hardly an event to be examined impersonally, we still must take time to think biblically and come to some conclusions. As Christians, it is our responsibility to address this issue with a theologically informed mind – that is to say, we need a suitable and truthful answer to the question, Where was God? Our beliefs about God and the Bible need to intersect with real life. After all, if the Bible has nothing to say about something like this, it is a book with major flaws. Our world is so full of evil and suffering that the Bible ought to address it. Thankfully, it does.

Right now there is a picture floating around on the internet with the following quote on it:

Dear God,

Why do you allow so much violence in our schools?

– Signed, a concerned student

Dear concerned student,

I’m not allowed in schools.

– God

There’s been some debate whether this is true or not. As I see it, it is true in one sense and false in another. It is false in the sense that God is everywhere. No one dictates where God is or isn’t. Because schools have removed prayer, the Bible, and the Ten Commandments does not mean that God is removed as well. He is not subject to our silly laws. We do not govern him. When God says he is everywhere (Psalm 139:7-12), it means he is everywhere.

Yet there is a hint of truth here too. The basic idea behind this quote is that God will honour a person’s own wishes. If a society wishes to ignore God, then he leaves them alone. If a person rejects God, he lets them go on their way. Is this idea Biblical? In Romans 1:18-32, it is shown that for those who reject God and instead become idolators (ie. all of us), God “gave them up” to do whatever they want, a list that includes murder (vs. 29). The real problem then is not that our school system has rejected God but that the entire human race has.

This fundamental truth of Christianity is founded all the way back in Genesis 3, where Adam and Eve chose to rebel against God and brought upon themselves, and every human being, the consequences of their sin. Because of their sin, and our own, we make ourselves enemies of God. So where is God in the midst of our fallen, evil, corrupt world? The answer is that, though he has been rejected by his own creation, God remains present for the purpose of compelling his children to return to him. This is made possible because the penalty of sin has been removed by the death of Jesus, whose life was taken in our own place. The amazing reality is that the God who has been rejected by his own people is the very God who is willing to forgive and remove any obstruction to a renewed relationship with him.

There is still more to be said. It was not just Adam and Eve who rejected God. Recall that they were tempted towards sin by the serpent, the Devil himself. Adam and Eve were not forced to sin, therefore they (and we) remain guilty and accountable for our own sin. No one can blame God for evil; it is our own fault by choosing sin and death. Yet Satan has a part to play in this as well. The devil is a liar and the first murderer, and his appetite for death and carnage is active and unquenchable.  While Satan seeks death, it is God who gives life and who gave his own life that others may live (John 10:10). Therefore Satan, along with the willing compliance of human beings, is the cause for suffering and evil in the world. Our hope is knowing that God is countering this attack with love and forgiveness and life.

One wonderful truth to cling to is that each child that was mercilessly slain had the inexpressible joy of entering into the very presence of Jesus that day. The Bible confirms that God loves children, and that his kingdom belongs to them (Matthew 19:14). They are safe with Jesus forever! No more fear or pain or suffering awaits them; only eternal happiness with the God who created them. What a comfort!

There is also a sense in which the element of faith is necessary. While the Bible can give us some guidance during times like these, we are never fully able to understand exactly why things like this happen. One thing we know about God is that he is always working things out for good. Just like in Genesis 50:20 where God takes the evil actions of others and uses it for the saving of many lives, God is at work as well in this tragedy for the saving of souls. The eye of faith looks beyond the visible suffering and sees the invisible hand of God, moving behind the scenes to extend his love and grace to more and more people. God’s plan is never thwarted, nor is he overcome by the evil of Satan or mankind. God is strong and wise; his ways are higher than ours. We can trust that just as God used the suffering of his own Son to accomplish good, so too he is doing the same here. We simply need to trust him in what we cannot ourselves understand.

While I do not pretend to have all the answers, I do believe that Scripture gives us some understanding to make sense of what is going on in the midst of heartache. We can slowly begin to see God’s love in action as those who are hurting are comforted. Clinging to the promises of God, we can know that in time his peace will fill our hearts. We can celebrate with joy knowing that each precious child is in paradise with Jesus forever. We can know for certain that evil does not have the upper hand. Satan is a defeated foe. His power has limits. King Jesus is in control, and while we may not grasp why certain things may happen, we can know for sure that God is in the business of making all things new, and that eventually, for all those who have faith in Jesus, the world will once again be the way it was always intended to be.

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My Advice for Cussing Preachers

Lately there has been a very small number of preachers making the news for their use of coarse language in the pulpit. This is a relatively rare phenomenon as far as I know, and perhaps not new at all. My hunch is that over the centuries there have always been cussing preachers here and there, but one factor that makes it different these days is that the use of technology can spread their influence farther and faster than ever before. It is important to think through this issue since Bible teachers will be judged more strictly (James 3:1). With that said, here is my advice for cussing preachers:

Stop.

And now that you have that little nugget of wisdom, here’s why.

  • It’s a sin. Ephesians 4:29 says it clearly “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”
  • It sets a poor example. Christian leaders are supposed to set a good example for their people to follow. Cussing in preaching does not fit that category. In fact, it is an especially harmful example since there is no other time that a person should be more prepared for what they are about to say than when they are preaching. What does it show your people that you cuss during a prepared talk? What would your language be like if your temper caught you off guard? Yikes!
  • It exposes a spiritual deficiency. Jesus said in Luke 6:45 that “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” In other words, what you say is simply exposing who you really are. Your bad language is signalling for you that something is wrong with your heart that needs to be corrected.
  • It’s not clever or hip. I think most cussing preachers use poor language to try and seem relevant to young, non church-goers. Perhaps it seems to “work” because it can draw an audience and get a laugh. But don’t fool yourself into thinking you can make Christianity more palatable by making it seem cool. Carl Trueman points out the obvious when he says “You really do kid only yourselves if you think you can be an orthodox Christian and be at the same time cool enough and hip enough to cut it in the wider world. Frankly, in a couple of years it will not matter how much urban ink you sport, how much fair trade coffee you drink, how many craft brews you can name, how much urban gibberish you spout [emphasis mine], how many art house movies you can find that redeemer figure in, and how much money you divert from gospel preaching to social justice…”
  • It undermines your ministry. If the goal of foul-mouthed preaching is to exert more influence on people for Christ, realize that by cussing you are sapping power from the very goal you wish to achieve. Don’t confuse the size of your following with the strength of your influence. A crowd like that is more interested in shock-value than the penetrating truth of God’s Word.
  • It’s childish. Little kids on the playground use filthy language. Grown adults should not. Yes, I realize that it is normal even among adults, but should we embrace that? Especially as Christians? I’ve always found it annoying when people use foul language; to me it’s immature. You’re an adult – learn how to use the English language in a more effective way. Get a bigger vocabulary.
  • You are going beyond what Scripture says. In defense, some will point out that the Bible itself sometimes uses provocative language. This is true. However, these instances – Paul calling his phony religion “dung” or “feces” in Philippians 3:8, the repetitive use of “whore” to describe idolatry in Ezekiel, the veiled yet powerful sexual imagery in Song of Solomon – are rare in the grand scope of the Bible and are shocking but not crass. Use powerful language where the Bible uses powerful language, but use the words the Bible uses and stay within that range.
  • You’re displaying a false humility. Sometimes a preacher won’t swear but say that they almost did. Recently, in reference to the Philippians 3:8 passage above, I heard one preacher say “Paul calls his religious accomplishments dung. He calls it feces. And I’m not allowed to say the other word I’m thinking.” You don’t have to let us know you almost cursed. You might as well have, because us knowing you were thinking it is not much different from hearing you say it. Instead, try not to think like that and if you do, keep it to yourself.

For more on use of language, see Psalm 19:14, Proverbs 4:24, Colossians 3:8, Matthew 15:11, Ephesians 5:4.

My Take on Live Tweeting at Conferences

It has become very popular in recent years to “live tweet” while attending special events or conferences. It is now quite normal, in fact, for events to be “covered” through live tweeting. Can’t make it to the event? No problem! Keep up with what’s happening with instant twitter updates right to your phone!

Now I realize that there can be certain instances where this would be really helpful, but I don’t think this is always the case. I have in mind especially conferences that feature keynote speakers where those in attendance feel the need to live tweet. I have significant issues with this. Granted, it really isn’t a big deal, but it’s grown to be a rather annoying pet peeve for me. Here’s why:

1. You should be listening, not tweeting. As a preacher, I can attest that I would not appreciate knowing that people are busy texting my quotes 6 or 7 times during a talk rather than carefully listening to the whole thing. If you are tweeting, it means you’re not listening, which means you’re missing out on other stuff I’m saying.

2. A talk is more than good quotes. Tweeting while listening is a bad habit because it causes us to listen wrongly. Rather than tracking a point and thinking deeply, we are only listening for the next dynamite sentence we can share with others. This is not a healthy way to listen. Again, as a preacher, my job is not to provide a bunch of quotable quotes. That’s not the measure of a good sermon, and if that’s how you are listening, you’re probably missing the bigger picture.

3. Your motive is probably pride. Why the need to share it as it’s happening? Why not listen to the whole thing, jot down some notes, and tweet it later? Can it really not wait 30 minutes? Or even a day or two? My hunch is that a lot of live tweeting is fuelled by pride… “You heard it here first! Aren’t you glad I’m taking notes for you?” Suddenly we get the sense that others are dependent upon us more than they actually are. I’m sure the motive for some is that it could help others, but I think more than likely it’s just pride.

4. You’re not taking time to internalize. One of the rules of good sermon listening is that we should apply what is being said to ourselves first. Only after we have considered the implications for our own lives should we feel like that truth should be shared with others. Live tweeting doesn’t give us time to think and reflect on our own failures. It makes us seem spiritual, but in reality it exposes how superficial we are. You didn’t tweet that because you were deeply convicted and moved to repentance…you tweeted it because for a split second you felt a flash of conviction and felt like it would do the same for others. I would be surprised if this brought about the kind of life change that God seeks in you or your readers.

5. Frankly, I don’t think anyone cares. Perhaps I’m speaking only for myself here, but I assume not. I really don’t care about your live tweeting because there is no way I would rely on it for any real, provocative experience. Think about it: who sits and ponders on a tweet for any length of time, even if it is a really good one? People probably think “wow, that’s a good point” and then never think about it again. Also, if I was unable to be at a conference that I would have liked to be at, I would not rely on live tweeting as my experience with it. Most conferences post the talks online the very next day! I’ll just listen to it for myself. Again, your need to be the first to provide the material, at least in my eyes, screams of self-importance.

I would suggest that if you genuinely think that your live tweeting can filter through these five points and still seem necessary or helpful, then go for it. Otherwise, I don’t think it’s a very healthy activity for you to engage in.

“Soo Memes” Takes Aim at Christians, And Why It Matters

When I logged on to Facebook this morning, one of the first things I saw was the latest meme created by Soo Memes. (If you don’t know what a meme is, basically it is a picture with a clever or funny caption on it. In the case of Soo Memes, they do this with things related to Sault Ste. Marie culture.) You can view this meme by clicking here. It is a picture of one of the local church road signs with the words “Searching for truth? Read the Bible.” written on it. The meme caption states “Daylight was created before the sun. Seems legit.” It’s a reference to the creation story in Genesis chapter 1 which states that God created daylight on day 1 of creation, yet created the sun on day 4.

This seeming contradiction is the target of Soo Memes humour here, attempting to point out the discrepancy and thus debunk the statement that the Bible is the source of truth. Certainly any number of other Bible “discrepancies” could have been used here; the specific one is not really the point. Rather, the point is to display the silliness of believing that the Bible is God’s Word and full of truth, and perhaps even that religion and Christianity in particular is stupid.

The actual pot-shot taken here doesn’t really bother me. As a Christian and pastor, I’ve heard plenty of very anti-Christian comments and arguments that were far more severe, blunt, or even downright vicious. The specific discrepancy itself is laughably weak, considering that God doesn’t need the sun to shine light. Since when is He subject to the limits of His own creation? Not only this, but in Revelation we are told that at the end of history God replaces the sun with His own glory. He is light, the gospel of John declares, and so He is not dependent upon the sun for anything. In fact, the sun, as with the entire universe, is dependant upon Him. It is God who holds all things together in the universe (Colossians 1:17).

That being said, there is something very important for the believer to pay attention to here. It is the general hostility and distaste for the Christian faith that exists in our world and, more importantly for me, in my own city.  This should form our way of thinking in at least three ways:

1. We are a post-Christian culture. Not that this should be news for most people. Unless you pay virtually no attention to the world around you, this should be obvious. Yet somehow we may have failed to grapple with what this really means. Simply complaining about how far from God the world is moving is not an appropriate response to this situation. Our hearts should break for those who are wandering from life in Jesus, and we should desperately be pleading with the Father to reveal His Son to them. We’ve got to stop thinking that doing things the same as before and looking back on the religious success of yesteryear will be enough to reach this generation with Christ. It will not. This brings me to point two…

2. We must re-evaluate how we do evangelism. There are a lot of valid ways to do evangelism. The Bible gives a lot of freedom in this area, and we should make full use of any creative or uncreative idea as we can. At the same time, however, a responsible approach will consider the view of the culture and then respond in relevant ways. For example, tracts were very popular in my parents and grandparents generation and definitely had some success. And while tracts are still a valid evangelistic method, they likely won’t be as effective as they used to be. The reason is that a generation ago the world was not as hostile to faith as it is now. People used to think that religion was valuable even if they weren’t religious themselves. Now, people think of religion as damaging to society. A tract will simply not have the same effect as it used to, at least generally speaking.

This is why I feel very committed to the “missional” model of evangelism. This method, which is really nothing new but is being somewhat rediscovered, essentially takes the position that evangelism is done best when real relationships in everyday life are involved. I share my faith within a friendship, where other things can be talked about and life can be shared. It means that rather than impersonally handing an outline of the gospel to someone I don’t know, I share my own testimony with someone who already values what I say because I have earned their trust by being a helpful friend over a period of time. Within this framework, we can still disagree about faith issues but have a chance to discuss them, ask questions, respond, share doubts, give real-lif examples, and demonstrate true personal care for the other person. While I would never say that God can’t move powerfully in a person’s life based on other methods of evangelism, I am still convinced that back-and-forth discussions within personal relationships is the best avenue for the Holy Spirit to move in a person’s life.

3. We have a lot of work to do. Are you committed to the cause of Christ? I mean really committed? Not just in the “I’m a Christian and I go to church” kind of way, but the “Jesus is my everything and I will live every day for Him” kind of way? It’s a good question to ponder, because in order to see people come to faith in an anti-Christian culture, we’re going to need Christians who are deeply committed for the long haul. We need Christians who will, over weeks and months and years, reach out to other people and show them the love of Christ in practical ways in order share with them the love of Christ found in the cross. This is no small task. It is swimming upstream against the pull of the cultural sway, and it will take courage and faith to make the journey. It will cost you deeply as you turn away from other pursuits you’d rather engage in, and break your heart when those you pray for continue to reject Jesus for years and years. Yet it is the only true response to this crisis.

I ask you, fellow believer, are you willing take a stand? To enlist in the army of God and fight for the souls of men? To thwart the plans of the enemy by not sitting on the sidelines any longer, but overcoming the world by the blood of the Lamb and the word of your own testimony? Don’t waste your life. Don’t play games with people’s eternal fate, including your own. Strive like Paul to be able to say “I have fought the good fight, I have kept the faith, I have finished the race.” You are needed, and the time is now.

The Story of My Son’s Birth

My son James Alexander Leaf Edgar was born into the world on October 15th, 2012. If his wild birth is any indication of what’s to come, he’s going to have a very exciting life!

Sarah had been getting some intense contractions and cramping over the past few weeks, and her belly looked like she was shoplifting a watermelon, all signs leading us to believe that James’ birth was coming soon. We were sure he’d come before his due date, even to the point of guessing he’d come two weeks early. So when day after day of contractions went by with no baby, I didn’t pay particular attention to Sarah’s early-labour-like contractions on Monday. After an afternoon nap, her contractions began coming back to back more steadily and we started timing them. Though they were intense, they were spaced too far apart and not lasting long enough to be worried about…or so I thought!

Sarah believed it was early labour, while I skeptically expected it to be false labour. Either way, we decided to go over to Sarah’s parents’ house since they have a nice jacuzzi tub she could relax in. She wasn’t even in the tub 15 minutes before she began to shout “My water broke!” and feeling like she needed to start pushing! A quick phone call to our midwife Fiona instructed us to get to the hospital asap with one key command: do not push!

As quickly as we could (which is not quick at all for someone who is about to birth a baby), we got into our car and left for the hospital. The traffic wasn’t too bad and I didn’t need to do any crazy driving in order to get there in good time. Fiona met us at the pull-up entrance with a wheelchair and whisked Sarah off inside while I went to go park. Thankfully I found a spot right away and sprinted as fast as I could back to the entrance doors.

As soon as I got into the lobby of the hospital, one of those terrifying moments where your mind freezes struck me: where is the labour ward?! I did actually know, and I could picture it in my mind, but in the heat of the moment I couldn’t remember if it was on the first or second floor! A total stranger standing nearby simply said “you need to go downstairs to get to ‘maternity'”. To this moment I have no idea if it was a man or woman who gave me those directions, or if they were a visitor or hospital staff or anything about them. I once again took off running and managed to catch up to Fiona and Sarah just as they were going into the maternity ward.

We went straight into one of the birthing rooms, got Sarah onto the bed, and started pushing. Literally three minutes later, my son was born! A beautiful healthy boy, 8 pounds 8 ounces, with super-light blonde hair just like his mommy and daddy when they were babies. I think I spent the next hour simply trying to regain control of myself; I felt like I was still in shock over everything just had just happened so quickly!

Our family hadn’t even made it to the hospital by the time he was born, and some of them didn’t believe us when we told them he was already here! In all, from the time Sarah started having regular contractions to the time James came into the world, only one hour had passed! Unbelievable! It’s a good thing I was at home that day or I might have missed the whole thing! I remember after Bella was born how I would mock the movies and TV shows that showed labour happening quickly…it never actually happens like that, I would say. Well, apparently it does!

I’ve had a million thoughts go through my head since our little boy has officially entered our lives, but those are for another time. Right now, I simply want to enjoy some time with my family and the tiny man who could hardly wait to get here!

Lyrical Theology: In Christ Alone (Part 4)

In Christ Alone – Newsboys (see full lyrics here)

In Christ alone, who took on flesh / fullness of God in helpless babe / this gift of love and righteousness / scorned by the ones he came to save

What powerful words fill these lyrics! The reality of Christ’s incarnation is one the many facets of the Christian faith that sets it apart from other world religions. Jesus is God in the flesh, a truth that is more than a technicality. In fact, it really shows the nature of God. In the incarnation we see that:

  • God comes to us instead of us going to him
  • God is willing to humble himself and experience life on broken earth
  • God is not distant and removed but intimately acquainted with sinful man
  • God’s love is so intense that he was willing to suffer at the hands of his own creation in order to save them

These are just a few profound truths that display who God is and what he cares about. Jesus, who is fully God, became a man through the virgin birth of his mother Mary. How can the fullness of Almighty God dwell in the helpless form of an infant baby? It is a mystery no one can truly grasp.

Jesus, as God in the flesh, truly is to be called a “gift of love and righteousness”. He is a gift in that the Father has offered the Son and his salvation free of charge. It is a gift of love in that the salvation Jesus brings is not earned or deserved, but rather an act of love and mercy and grace. This gift too is righteous in that Jesus is the sinless Son of God, perfect in righteousness…a righteousness that was to be offered for any sinner who calls on the name of Christ.

We must be painfully aware that the amazing love demonstrated by God is met by sickening sinfulness on the part of mankind. Those who killed Jesus – and we, as sinners, by extension – have mocked and scorned Jesus through our words and deeds. Each time we reject God and turn our own way, we “scorn” the One who made us and saves us. What is truly amazing is that Jesus, as God, knew this is how his love would be received…and yet he still chose to come and suffer and die! Truly there is no one like Christ, none who look into the eyes of those who hate him with forgiveness and love.

Thank you God for sending your Son to be a holy sacrifice for our sins!

Read the Comments

I’m the type of person who appreciates a well-reasoned argument. I can respect an opinion that may differ from mine so long as it is thought out. What drives me crazy, not surprisingly, is when people spout off opinions like they know what they are talking about or they have given the issue serious consideration from different angles. That is one thing that irks me greatly.

This is why it sometimes surprises me that I read the “comments” sections on blogs and news articles. It always drives me crazy! All these people ranting their wild views with lousy grammar and almost zero respect for anyone else…ugh! Not that everyone who comments is like that – obviously – but there is certainly no shortage either. I regularly ask myself, just after I have annoyed myself by reading a bunch of comments, why do I do this? Why can’t I just leave well enough alone?

To be honest, I don’t know the answer. More than likely it probably makes me feel smarter than other people and I secretly like the pride-boost I get (yup, this sinner has a long way to go!). But as I have thought about it, I think it is a good and healthy thing to read the comments. As frustrating as it can sometimes be, the benefit is that it gives me a glimpse into the real world. It allows me to hear what people actually think in an unfiltered way. It keeps me from believing that all people think the way I do or even conduct debates the way I do. I shows me what is really going on in the minds of those around me.

This matters primarily because those are the people that I am called to reach. As a believer in Christ, I have been sent by my Lord as an ambassador into the world around me. How much more effective I can potentially be when I have a better understanding of people! It would be a terrible hinderance to be naive to the people I am to serve and proclaim Christ to. I am convinced it is much better to dive deep into the frustrations of working with real people in the real world no matter how uncomfortable it may make us, because in the end it can help us in our witness for the King who has commissioned us.

Read the comments.

Gimme Five…

Gimme Five is one of my favourite youth ministry games because it is so simple and the kids really get into it. First, you divide the students into teams of 3 or 4 and give each team a pen and pad of sticky paper. Then, you yell out various categories (such as “Gimme five kinds of fruit!”) and the teams must write down five things that fit that category as fast as they can. Then they have to run and put their answer sheet in a basket. Whichever team gets their answers in first (provided they are all valid responses) gets a point. Keep track and give the team with the most points a prize.

Here’s a list we’ve gathered to help you get started. Enjoy!

Gimme five…

  • Colors
  • Actor’s names
  • Clothing brands
  • Shapes
  • Characters from “Peanuts”
  • Kinds of fruit
  • Potato chip flavors
  • NHL team names
  • Words that start with Q
  • Kinds of trees
  • Breakfast cereals
  • Metric measurements
  • Ocean names
  • Kinds of birds
  • Names of singers
  • Months of the year
  • Street names
  • Kinds of hats
  • Words that rhyme
  • Names of bones
  • Kitchen utensils
  • Names of stores in the mall
  • Kinds of clocks
  • Words that all mean the same thing
  • People from the board game CLUE
  • Holidays
  • Pizza joints
  • Kinds of flowers
  • Movie titles
  • Kinds of chocolate bars
  • Shoe brands
  • Kinds of subs at Subway
  • Car companies
  • Churches in town
  • Farm animals
  • Names of high schools
  • Sesame St. characters
  • Kinds of pop
  • Kind of reptiles
  • Kinds of jewels

Lyrical Theology: In Christ Alone (Part 3)

In Christ Alone – Newsboys (see full lyrics here)

What heights of love, what depths of peace, when fears are stilled, when strivings cease. My Comforter, my All in All, here in the love of Christ I stand.

DC Talk popularized the phrase “love is a verb”, and the statement is true. Love is not a feeling that ebbs and flows based on the circumstances surrounding life – at least, that is not true love. Love is founded in actions. Love can be demonstrated. It is more than words or theory.  Jesus taught that there is no greater love than for one to lay down his life for another, and Jesus would go on to prove that with his own death. So when Christ-followers look upon the rugged cross and see the Saviour who gave his life for them, they have evidence of God’s love. It is real and tangible. No wonder we can declare “what heights of love!”, for in his death, Jesus substituted his innocent life to pay for our guilt. The righteous was punished and the innocent set free. It is a free gift, and no greater gift has ever been given.

In addition to this unsurpassable love, there are depths of peace to be found in knowing Christ. Turmoil defines our earthly existence, and struggle pervades our flimsy lives. We have much reason to feel unrest…who knows what the future might hold? And not only are we gripped by temporary troubles but by eternal ones…what becomes of a sinner in the presence of the holy God? Yet because of Jesus dying to pay for our sin, our faith in Jesus gives us the assurance to know that we are acceptable in God’s sight, deemed pure and spotless. This brings peace! And not only did Christ give us assurance eternally, but has promised to his followers that he would never leave them or forsake them, that he is a provider and protector of the greatest kind. These truths bring depths of peace no other can match, and explains why “fears are stilled” and “strivings cease”.

Because of his love and the peace he provides, Jesus can be called a comforter. Additionally, because he provides for our every need and gives us eternal life, Jesus can also be called our all-in-all. In the life of the Christian, he is everything! Therefore it is right for us to declare “here in the love of Christ I stand”. No other ground is like the solid rock of Christ. Only in the love of Christ do we truly find peace, comfort, purpose, forgiveness, acceptance, joy, and abundant life! Indeed, to stand firmly in the love of Christ is the one place anyone can find their every need provided for.

Lyrical Theology: In Christ Alone (Part 2)

In Christ Alone – Newsboys (see full lyrics here)

This cornerstone, this solid ground, firm through the fiercest drought and storm.

Referring to Jesus as a “cornerstone” is something Jesus did himself (Luke 20:17) and is echoed as well by other New Testament authors (Luke in Acts 4:11, Peter in 1 Peter 2:6-7). It is a peculiar title but full of significance. When building a structure in ancient times, the first stone laid was called the cornerstone (sometimes chief-stone or capstone). It was important to pick the right stone as the cornerstone since it would function as the foundation of the structure and the area from which the rest of the building would be built out from. To use the wrong stone as the cornerstone usually meant that over time the structure would weaken and possibly collapse. Therefore, when Jesus is called the cornerstone, it is being said that he is the most important building block of life; that he is meant to be first and everything else rest on his firm foundation. It means also that to replace Jesus with someone or something else as the cornerstone of one’s life will eventually lead to collapse. Unfortunately, as Jesus implied in Luke 20:17, many reject him as the cornerstone.

Similarly, Jesus is called “solid ground”. This is likely a reference to Jesus’ teaching during the sermon on the mount in Matthew 7:24-27. Here, Jesus says that those who obey his words are like a wise man who built his house on a rock, which was able to stand the storms of life. Those who do not obey Jesus’ words are like a foolish man who built his house on sand, which was destroyed when the storms came. A relationship with Christ and obeying his commands is like having your life on solid ground – the storms of life will come, but you will not be destroyed when they do, because Jesus is your foundation.

Jesus as both a cornerstone and solid ground speaks of his strength and stability in the believers life. What a treasure to enjoy! While others are shaken and tossed to and fro by the trials and temptations of life, the one who has faith in Christ can live with rock solid assurance. This is not to say life is easy, but that Jesus will keep us through whatever we may face. These hardships are called “droughts and storms” in this song. A drought probably meaning the seasons of life that are dry, when we feel we do not have all that we need, and when hope and zeal has faded away. In these moments, Jesus is there to give the nourishment we need to go on. The storms here speak of the seasons of life when seemingly everything is going wrong. We are hit and bombarded on all sides, shaken and attacked. Yet Jesus remains faithful, keeping us steady like an anchor steadying a ship at sea.

Jesus truly is a great rock, a stabilizer, a fortress. He is steady when others collapse. He is faithful when others disperse. He is strong when others are weak. Nothing and no one gives us the firm foundation that Jesus does.