Category Archives: love of God

Race, Caste and Class

A story is told of a prince who wants to marry a real princess, but is having difficulty because there are many pretenders who are in fact not princesses at all. One stormy night a young woman drenched with rain seeks shelter in the prince’s castle, claiming to be a princess. So the prince’s mother offers her a bed covered by 20 mattresses and 20 feather-beds, with a single pea at the very bottom. In the morning, the guest tells her hosts that she endured a sleepless night, kept awake by something hard in the bed that has bruised her badly. The prince and his family rejoices. Only a real princess would have the sensitivity to feel a pea through so much bedding! So the two get married.

Here is a children’s fairy tale with the subtle message that no one is worthy of the prince’s hand except those with the “blue blood” of princesses! Unfortunately it reflects a tragic reality that exists even today. An article about Princess Kate talks about the class divide that still plagues Britain: “She may be beautiful, graceful and fabulously rich, but Middleton is still a ‘commoner’.”

Coming even closer to home, I hail from a country where the caste system is ingrained in our culture. India’s caste system is among the world’s oldest forms of surviving social stratification. At the top of the hierarchy were the Brahmins who were mainly teachers and intellectuals and are believed to have come from god Brahma’s head. Then came the Kshatriyas, or the warriors and rulers, supposedly from his arms. The third slot went to the Vaishyas, or the traders, who were created from his thighs. At the bottom of the heap were the Sudras, who came from Brahma’s feet and did all the menial jobs. Outside of this Hindu caste system are the Dalits or the untouchables. Christians in India are also often associated with castes that depend on the region and the language spoken.

Yet another way we humans distinguish ourselves from each other are by our race and ethnicity. This is sometimes referred to by the color of people’s skin – red, yellow, brown, black and white. The extreme abuse of this was found in Nazi Germany during the second world war. Nazi foreign policy was guided by the racist belief that an enlarged, racially superior German population should establish permanent rule in eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, and this led to the horrors of the holocaust.

In addition to caste and race, there is also an underlying thinking about class and pedigree. We just looked at the story of “The Princess and the Pea”. However, even in everyday life,. We talk about the “poor”, the “middle-class” and the “rich”. We also talk about “blue-collar” workers and “white-collar workers”, as well as about the “educated” and the “uneducated”. An extreme abuse of this was found in slavery, that used to be practiced until relatively recently. Today the exploitation of human beings still exists in a twisted, evil form now known as “sex slavery”, where typically younger children and girls are forced into prostitution. Even leaving aside these extreme forms of exploitation, considerations about class and pedigree have seeped right into our own homes! For example, often the dignity of labor that is taken for granted in America does not exist in third world countries such as India. Most homes employ maids who are not allowed to eat at the table of the home in which they serve, but sit on the floor with a different plates and glasses that only they should use, and are often treated as working machines rather than people. All of us (the exploited and the exploiters) have been conditioned to believe that they do not have a right  to be treated the same way as we are, in society.

The Christian gospel does not give room to us, for using these kinds of differences for social stratification. There are two premises that our fundamental to our Christian faith.

  1. Every single human being is in the same plight – at odds with our Creator, and on the path of His wrath against our sin. None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one (Rom 3:11-12).
  2. God does not accept a person by any considerations based on race, caste or class. He opens his arms to welcome all of us – all who put their trust in Jesus, who died on the cross on our behalf, and bore the punishment for our sins: God loved the world so much that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16). One of the apostle Peter’s early discoveries as a Christian caused him to say: I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality (Acts 10:34, KJV).

Thus the playing field is flat. No one has any intrinsic advantage or disadvantage over anyone else. In fact, often the things that we consider to be advantages may actually work against us the other way! But I digress – more on that in a later post. Flushing this out in detail in his letter to the Ephesians, Paul concludes: He Himself is our peace, who has made us one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall  … that He might create in Himself one new man …, so making peace, and might reconcile us all to God in one body through the cross (Ephesians 2:14-16). And Paul triumphantly states: There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Gal 3:28). This truth should so grip our hearts and minds, that it should spill into all our interactions with others: Show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? … If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. (James 2:1-4,8-9)

This radical way of thinking has caused fundamental changes in society that have reverberated across the annals of history. The US Constitution states: …We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. And after this there has been a civil war and a civil rights movement to uphold this now “self-evident” equality in the dignity and value of all human beings. Unfortunately, even truths such as this are not sufficient to erase centuries-old habits and biasses.

More unfortunate however, is the sad fact that although we Christians should be leading the way, we still have not fully embraced these profound truths in our personal lives and families. For example, these differences are deeply ingrained in the Indian Christian Community, and are evident in the choice of spouses we make for our children. One of the ripple effects of this is that most families do not even consider the option of adoption except when they have a need, such as in cases of infertility. Stay tuned for other posts, where I unpack the underlying reasons why I make these statements. May God grant us grace to transform our thinking from the inside, so that behavior becomes consistent with the faith that we profess!

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Mom’s Address to Her Adopted Son on His Wedding Day

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Babies are eagerly awaited and treasured and parental love grows from the very beginning. But what do you do when God chooses to start your family by giving you a broken, hurting, traumatized 6 year old to love and care for as your own son? Well, Dad and I thought that love and fresh air would do the trick and that we would all live happily ever after just like any “normal” family! And so, we naively decided to step into parenthood bringing you, our son,  into our home in July 1998. We had prayed much and felt led by God when we heard your tragic story but we had absolutely no clue of the roller coaster ride we were in for.

You came into our home knowing very little English – you were from an entirely different background, religion and family than us. You would just sit for hours staring outside your window in our home in NJ. You were angry, frustrated and lied incessantly. When I tried to hug you, you would stiffen and push me away. Our hearts broke as we heard your tragic story of losing your birth-mother, watching her as she had been pushed to die by setting herself on fire, being asked to step into the fire with her, as well as feeling the horror as you could do nothing to help her be okay at the tender age of 5! You were heartbroken and devastated and nobody had understood your pain. You hated me as I was replacing your birth-mother. You would stubbornly refuse to obey anything that I asked you to do. You were failing in school and unable to logically think or function. Our family was held hostage to your anger and failure. We looked like fools to our family and friends and we felt like we must be horrible parents to have a child as broken as you. We put very strict boundaries around you but it didn’t seem to make a difference . You just kept getting worse with each passing year.

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I knew that Jesus was our only hope and often reminded you of verses like Romans 8:28 that “All things work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purposes” – yet, even to me it felt empty and hopeless. You hated God because in your mind, how could a loving God that we talked to you about, allow your mother to die so tragically without her knowing Him? We were hitting many walls and Dad and I often felt weary, angry and hopeless – even ready to give up.

I remember checking on you several times each night. I would kneel by your bedside and sob asking God why? Why would He allow a little child to be hurt like this? Why was He not stepping in and helping us? Why? Why? Why? God was our only hope and He needed to act soon.

I would cling to the cross and sob singing this song by Mark Schultz.

I’m down on my knees again tonight,
I’m hoping this prayer will turn out right.
See, there is a boy that needs Your help.
I’ve done all that I can do myself
His mother is tired,
I’m sure You can understand.
Each night as he sleeps
She goes in to hold his hand,
And she tries
Not to cry
As the tears fill her eyes.

Often late at night I watch him sleep,
I dream of the boy he’d like to be.
I try to be strong and see him through,
But Jesus, whom he needs right now is You.
Let him grow old,
Live life without this fear.
What would I be
Living without him here?
He’s so tired,
And he’s scared
Let him know that You’re there.

Can You hear me?
Am I getting through tonight?
Can You see him?
Can You make him feel all right?
If You can hear me
Let me take his place some how.
See, he’s not just anyone, he’s my son.

But, God appeared to be silent. No answers, no explanations, no comfort. The only answer I got was a promise from Him on May 12th, 2002 from Isaiah 54O afflicted one, storm-tossed and not comforted, behold……All your children shall be taught by the Lord, and great shall be the peace of your children. In righteousness you shall be established; you shall be far from oppression, for you shall not fear! I needed faith to believe! Eleven long years went by before we saw God fulfilling this promise to me. In August 2009, God in a miraculous act of grace broke through to you my son, and let His light shine through. He even wiped away your anger and healed your broken mind, spirit and soul!

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You are now twice adopted – once into our family and adopted a second time into God’s family. You now have eternal hope, peace and joy with Jesus!

Life has not been easy my son – I grieve deeply for I did not have you physically with me the first six tender years of your life and then I did not have you emotionally and spiritually the next eleven years because of your trauma. You have been learning to love and care for us step by step, in just the last few years. You know that Dad and I love you dearly through the bad times and the good times, and we are extremely grateful to God for you. Your sisters love you so much too. You have loved your family well! Dad and I have loved you deeply but we’ve also failed you much. Our hope has only been Jesus – that in our weakness, He shines strong. We hope that you will forgive us of our mistakes and sins against you but that you will take the good and carry on the godly heritage that you have received.

 

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And now God is calling you to fly and build your own home with this lovely young lady whom He chose and brought into your life. We rejoice at the good gift that your loving Heavenly Father has gifted you with in your wife, our precious daughter-in-love. Our constant prayer for you both is that you will fully surrender your lives to Jesus and live honoring and loving Him with all your heart, mind, soul and strength. Nothing on earth is worth more than Jesus!

Dad and I send you with our family blessingMay the Lord bless you and keep you, may His face shine upon you and may He be gracious to you, may the Lord lift up His countenance and give you peace!

Love,

~ Mom

Baby, Oh Baby! Lost & Found at the Cross

Here is the transcript of my life story.

“It’s a girl!”

So began my life in a hospital located right beside a lake where unwanted baby girls were drowned, near Bangalore, India. Fortunately for me, in a country where over 50 million baby girls are missing through gendercide, my birth mother chose life! I can only imagine the horror of life as an orphan if left abandoned after birth. I was then adopted at 10 months old, just six months after my severely traumatized six year old brother. He had seen his birth-mother take her life by setting herself on fire, and suffered from severe RAD and PTSD. We were given love, family, encouragement and a future in the US with our new “forever family”, and more importantly, the hope of an eternity with Jesus.

My adoptive parents felt God’s call to adopt, as it stands as a testimony reflecting the heart of the gospel, where God adopts each one of us who repents and accepts His free gift of forgiveness through His Beloved Son Jesus’ death on the cross. Just as Christians become a part of God’s forever family, my brother and I would become a part of their “forever family”. However, my family and I faced much rejection from other Indian families and friends because orphans are deemed less valuable than their biological peers with bad “karma”.  Adoption is discouraged in Indian society.

During the teen years, my world started spinning around me as life overwhelmed me. I struggled with the primary trauma of losing my birth-mother, and the secondary trauma of living under my older brother’s severe suffering. Everyone around me seemed to have easy, perfect lives. I had many deep questions but no answers. Why would God allow me to be abandoned? Who was I? Where did I belong? What were my roots? Why couldn’t I meet my birth family?

I was angry at Jesus and at my adoptive parents, and began rebelling. Meanwhile, God in His grace miraculously touched and transformed my older brother’s life. He had suffered for eleven years, and our family had struggled much along with him. God’s touch on His life was awesome and complete. But I didn’t care. I was angry. My brother had been my ally in suffering, yet now he had left me behind. I felt like I was living a nightmare and was lost and alone. During my high school years, I didn’t even feel alive. I was functioning on the outside but was broken, hurting and alone on the inside. I didn’t know what to do and I collapsed. My brother’s engagement was the tipping point when I was done for it seemed like life wasn’t worth it as anyway, everyone I loved were going to abandon me.

My parents persisted day and night, pleading and interceding on my behalf. My Mom and Dad can tell you how many sleepless nights they spent on her knees. They had decided that I was their daughter and so they let me know that they weren’t giving up without a fight.

And as always God truly does work in mysterious ways. As of October of 2016, I rededicated and surrendered my life to Christ, and have been continually learning to love, learn and grow in him. I have learnt that I have a long way to go, but He is a God who specializes in loving us through our messes.

All of us have sinned and rebelled and fallen short of God’s glory – we are ALL spiritual orphans. God took it upon Himself to pay the price to redeem us adopting us sinful and broken as we were into His family, giving us a brand new identity as His daughters, making us co-heirs with Jesus. I hope each one of you here has believed and been adopted into His family today! If not please talk to me. With this incredible gift that we have received, He calls us to give back!

Now, If I were to ask a room of you the question, “Are you pro-life”, I am sure that most of you would raise your hand- but the numbers significantly dropped when discussing adoption or foster care. I have come to realize that being pro-life as defined by God’s standards to support the life that is created from conception to life’s final breath, and adoption plays a huge role in being pro-life.

John Piper, a well-renowned pastor and theologian states that, “Adoption in God’s mind was not Plan B. He predestined us for adoption before the creation of the world. Plan A was not lots of children who never sin and never need to be redeemed. Plan A was creation, fall, redemption, adoption so that the full range of God’s glory and mercy and grace could be known by his adopted children. Adoption was not second best. It was planned from the beginning.”

In fact in the book of Ephesians 1:4-6, it states: He chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.

There is no way around it. Adoption is the heart of the gospel to help love children like me in hard places become a human reflection of God’s love. Throughout scripture, God has called people to care for orphans.

So how did this translate to our own lives today?

I would really encourage each one of you to develop a culture of orphan care and adoption in your own families, but specifically adoption as it gives a child a forever home. It is one of the hardest things that you and your family might be apart of and do, but can also make an eternal difference to a child like me, who would have otherwise had no hope in both this life and in eternity.

For starters, I would encourage you to come and help in a conference  which helps give refreshment and rest to those people who have adopted and fostered children. The parents are usually on the frontlines of the battle fighting for their children with often no rest- this is a time to rejuvenate them and help them feel the love of Christ. Maybe you can sponsor a family to go, pray for them, provide them with childcare or bless them with a gift card, bag, vacation, cash, etc. Over 1500 parents attend from all around country and there is a need for over 600 volunteers to be Christ’s hands and feet to them. Or find an adoptive or foster family in your school,  church, neighborhood, co-op, or at your extracurricular activity center and encourage them with kind words, meals, housekeeping, organizing, gifting them a date night, etc. Lean towards and embrace these families not away from them because you perceive them as different. Let God show you how to care – it’s critical, it’s needed. My family would not be standing but for God using the few who loved us enough to care. And maybe, just maybe, God will then ask you to step into the world of one lost precious child whom you can call your own!

Its still a painfully hard journey and Satan tempts me to slip back into my brokenness and loss. I have a long road of healing ahead and I can come through victorious only with Jesus’ help. So, please pray for me that I will find my identity and hope in Christ alone!

As 1 John 3:1 states: See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!

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He is the Propitiation for Our Sins

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin,we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:1-3).  

These words come from the apostle John’s first letter.  John had started his letter with a lot of excitement, tripping over his phrases with his joy in sharing about Jesus, the “Word of Life” who existed from the beginning, and who enables him to have fellowship with God, and that also provides the basis of fellowship with all others who also believe in Jesus (1 John 1:1-3). He then proceeded to make an assertion: God is light and in Him there is no darkness at all (1 John 1:4). By this he is referring to God’s absolute holiness and purity. In contrast, none of us are without sin. In fact, if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves (1 John 1:8). As such it is impossible for us sinners to have fellowship with God. However, if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).

This forms a background to the verses quoted above, because as John writes this he recognizes that this has posed a serious problem that demands an explanation.

The Problem

John and all the early Christians were not troubled by the question “How can a loving God send people to hell?” at all. In fact he needed to grapple with exactly the opposite issue. When he said that God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, it begs the question: “How can a just God forgive sin and take anyone to heaven at all?

You see, how would God who is light respond to sin? The Bible says: the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men (Rom 1:18). Even Jesus asserted that by default every person is under the wrath of God (see John 3:36). Paul says that we all are children of wrath (Ephesians 2:3), and are as such storing up wrath for [ourselves] on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed (Rom 2:5). The Bible says that when Jesus comes again, He will tread the wine-press of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty (Rev 19:15).

The following is a visual illustration of this truth. The lightning represents God’s wrath, that is directed towards each one of us.

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The problem is, that if God is just, He cannot simply push our sins under the “rug of the universe” so to speak, and pretend they did not happen. So here John begins by addressing this problem, and telling us the solution in two parts.

First part of the answer: We have an Advocate: Jesus Christ the Righteous

Since the question has been raised regarding the justice of God, John creates a word picture of a law court where we are on trial, and God is the Judge. He then goes on to assert that we have an amazing Defense Lawyer who is none other than Jesus Christ Himself! In fact, this Defense Lawyer is Jesus Christ the Righteous. Being righteous, He can stand before the Judge – God who is Light – and defend our case.

However while this is great to have the best Attorney defending our case, it does not really solve our problem because we actually are guilty. On what basis can Jesus – however brilliant a Lawyer He may be – make a defense for us? Let us consider some possible arguments:

1. “They do not know what they is doing”

Jesus prayed for his tormentors when He hung on the cross, and asked His Father to forgive them because they did not know what they were doing. However ignorance on its own is not a valid excuse (there is another reason why Jesus could pray this way, as we will see). Jesus Himself has taught that:  the servant who knew his master’s will but did not get ready or act according to his will, will receive a severe beating. But the one who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, will receive a light beating. (Luke 12:47-48). In fact, the Bible says unequivocally that we are  without excuse (Rom 1:20)

2. “He/she is a good person”

Jesus told someone once: No one is good except God alone (Mark 10:18). So Jesus will not even take this line of argument to court.

3. “His/her heart is in the right place

This argument falls even before it is proposed, because the Bible teaches that: the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick (Jeremiah 17:9).

4. “He has done a lot of good in his life

The problem with such an argument is that it does not look at our heart and our motives when we “do good”. But God who does see all this declares that: all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment (Isa 64:6).

5. “Let us be nice and let him off the hook

This kind of argument in the highest court of the universe poses a horrific assault on justice. If God is a good and just, it is inconceivable that He would do this. Confidence in the justice of God was the basis of Abraham’s appeal for his nephew Lot: Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just? (Gen 18:25).

Our Predicament:

So we see, there is no defense of this type which can stand in the divine courtroom! We are in a really desperate situation, and there is nothing we can do about it. Even if we try to work our way to heaven, all that we can do appears only like a filthy garment to God who is Light.

Every religion needs to face up to this truth. No human being from any religion is exempt from having to face the reality of the wrath of our holy God, and the predicament it puts us all in!

Second part of the answer: He is the Propitiation for our Sins

The amazing truth is that Jesus our Defense Lawyer had died on the cross for exactly this reason. He died in order to bear the wrath of God that we deserved, and to be punished in our stead. When Jesus died on the cross, He bore the unleashed cumulative fury of God against all of our sin. The Bible says that for our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21).

According to Paul, the reason  God did this was to show His righteousness at the present time, so that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus (Rom 3:16). This particular verse shows that that God the Son was not pitted against God the Father in this, but rather, it was all an unfolding of a plan that had been conceived by the Triune God from eternity past.

As one hymn writer puts it:

Because the sinless Savior died
My sinful soul is counted free
For God the Just is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me

The following picture illustrates this visually.

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For those of us who do put our trust in Jesus, we have the best possible Defense Lawyer, who has the best possible defense – that the penalty for the guilt of our crimes has already been paid by Him. What tremendous good news! No illustration can be stretched too far, and this one also breaks down when we think of those who do not believe in Jesus. According to the Bible they will continue to remain under the wrath of God.

There are some thing that we will never fully understand:

How much did Jesus really suffer? Though we will never fully comprehend this, we know that it was enough to satisfy the justice of God regarding the sins of every single person in the world who goes to Him for refuge (see 1 John 2:2). Isaiah described His sufferings with prophetic foresight thus: He was wounded for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace (Isa 53:5).  It was the will of the Lord to crush Him;  He has put Him to grief (Isa 53:10). His repeated use of the word “crush” causes me to suspect that Jesus suffered far more than I can ever imagine. Moreover, this was Satan’s last chance to defeat Jesus, so it is likely that he faced a barrage of temptations with a ferocity that any other man would have crumbled well before Satan had unleashed his entire arsenal (see John 14:30-31). For example, we know from some of the Messianic Psalms that Jesus would have had to face the temptation to succumb to total despair. This is why we are encouraged to boldly approach Jesus for help whenever we are tempted. We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin  (Heb 4:15)

Yet there are many things we do understand!

We can understand why Jesus so desperately did not want to drink this terrible “cup” of God’s wrath if at all it were possible. We can understand why there was darkness for three  hours while Jesus hung on the cross. I am amazed that the wrath of God unleashed against Him did not completely obliterate Him! We can understand why Jesus cried out from the cross: My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? We can understand why Jesus could pray for the forgiveness of His tormentors! In doing so He was offering Himself as a substitute to bear the punishment for their blasphemous rants. For this same reason, Jesus could grant salvation to the criminal who died next to Him. We can also understand why the veil within the temple separating the Most Holy Place was rent. Access into God’s presence has been thrown wide open through the cross.

This is the message John is so excited about. This is the gospel of Jesus Christ that is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.

  • God is Light. He is perfect in His purity and holiness (1:4)
  • We are sinners (1:8,10).
  • Yet we can have fellowship with God because God will forgive our sins if we confess them to Him (1:9).
  • This is only possible because Jesus Christ is our Defense Lawyer (2:1), and in defending us His rock-solid case rests on the stupendous fact that He Himself is the propitiation for our sins (2:2)
  • This motivates us not to sin (2:1), yet Jesus’ blood purifies us when we do (1:7)
  • These truths form the basis of our fellowship with others who believe in Jesus (1:3).

What an amazing God we have. Have you been saved from the wrath of God by taking refuge in Jesus Christ who died and became sin for you, so that you can stand upright and righteous in God’s presence?

Applying these Truths

Here are some things we can think bout, as we ponder the consequences of these tremendous truths.

  • We will be able to understand how much Jesus suffered on the cross, only to the extent we understand how much God hates sin! Do we hate sin? Are we at war against our own sins?
  • The reason people in today’s society seem to struggle with the question: “How can a loving God send people to hell”?, comes from a failure to understand the terrible state we are all in by default – we are all by nature “children of wrath” (Ephesians 2:3). Have we  understood this truth?
  • Are we “narrow-minded” or “arrogant” when we proclaim that Jesus is the only way, or do we realize that this is the only loving thing we can do if we really care for the people around us who do not know Jesus?
  • Would we be really sharing the total gospel if we only talk about the love of God, and neglect to talk about His holiness, wrath against sin, and His justice?
  • Do we have a desire like John, to share this amazing message with others?