A Letter to Jehovah’s Witnesses

As I am sure many of you have, we had Jehovah’s Witnesses knock on our door recently. We had several discussions with them over a few weeks, developing a friendship but reaching an impasse in our conversation. I felt a burden to write them a letter, and also to share it here. I’ve removed any specific or personal information to protect their privacy.

If you are Christian, please pray for these people. If you are one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, please read and carefully consider this, I beg you. All others, I also ask you to read and consider.

The letter:

Dear [Neighbors],

We want you to know that we greatly appreciate that you took the time to know us, to spend time with us, and care enough to share with us what you feel is of highest importance in this life. I hope you know that we love Yahweh and we love His Word. We have deep and profound respect for the Word of God and are bound by what God has told us in the Bible. We seek to study and know the Bible – not just to say we can quote it or throw pieces of it out during an argument, but because it is the very mind and heart of the God we serve revealed to us. We search and learn the scriptures so that we can know Him more intimately and worship Him “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24).

Having said that, we take very seriously challenges to our beliefs. When we are confronted with teaching from the Scriptures that differ from what we hold to be true, we are careful not to simply dismiss it out of hand, but to carefully and prayerfully measure it up against God’s Word, to “test everything; hold fast what is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21). We are loyal first and foremost to God and His truth. We believe what we believe because we believe it is biblical, but we are not loyal to our beliefs simply because it is what our parents have taught us, or our church, or our denominational creeds. We are loyal to these things only insofar as they are true to the Scriptures. Moreover, we are bound so closely to the Word of God that if we can be shown from the Bible error in our personal belief, we will change our belief and submit to the true teaching of the Scriptures. We have both experienced this humbling correction in our lives before. God’s Word truly is useful for “correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16).

As we examine the Scriptures and measure teachings and doctrines against it, we are also careful to consider the whole counsel of God, and not to pick and choose verses and phrases out of context simply to make a point. How and where and when and why and by whom something is said is just as important as what is said. The classic out-of-context example of reading Scripture is “Judas… hanged himself” (Matthew 27:5), “Go, and do likewise” (Luke 10:37). We absolutely do not want to be guilty of this kind of mishandling of the Word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15).

So when you came to our door, though we had heard rumors of the teachings of Jehovah’s Witnesses before, we sought to give a fair investigation to the claims of your church. We hope you felt respected by us as you shared your hearts. The questions we asked and the challenges we raised were truly to seek better understanding, to ensure that we heard what you were actually saying rather than jumping to a conclusion or making an assumption. Rightly so, we approach any new teaching presented to us with a wise amount of biblically concerned caution, but it was a caution that aimed to give grace and the benefit of the doubt.

We have read through the tracts you left for us, as well as investigated your church’s website. We sought to consider what you said from your point of view, not just from the point of view of disgruntled ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses online. We reasoned that if the claims your church makes are true, then they will be able to stand up to all criticism. All truth is God’s truth, and the truth sets us free (John 8:32).

As we studied and researched, we grew uneasy. And that unease grew into full-blown concern and fear for you. It became increasingly evident to us that your church’s organization is characterized by half-truths and deliberate deceptions, manipulations of the Word of truth that lead to false hopes and empty promises.

We have utmost respect for you as sincere people and do not want to belabor the point. But with such a bold claim, we feel we must offer at least a couple of examples. Please, we beg of you, investigate these things for yourself. Please, we implore you, return the favor and do not dismiss us out of hand but give this a fair investigation. Your very eternal lives are at stake.

We did read and consider the tract you left, “Should You Believe in the Trinity?” This tract – more than anything else we have studied, read, or heard – made us incredibly fearful for you. We learned something incredibly important about the Watch Tower Society while reading this pamphlet: that the Watch Tower is accustomed to blatant misrepresentation of sources and intentionally deceptive misquotations. If we had read nothing else, knew nothing else, and had heard nothing else about Jehovah’s Witnesses, this tract alone would engender in us a deep and profound distrust toward your church.

We could write pages and pages in response to this single tract, but instead we will offer just one example and strongly encourage you to follow up by looking up the various resources and “scholars” quoted within the tract. “Should You Believe in the Trinity?” uses as one of its main evidences a book by Arthur Weigall entitled The Paganism in Our Christianity to support the Watch Tower claim that the concept of the trinity is fundamentally a pagan concept that has corrupted true biblical teaching on the nature and essence of Yahweh.

Please do a google search of Mr. Weigall. If you can, get your hands on a copy of his book and peruse his argument for yourself.

In a matter of just a few minutes you will discover two things:

First, Arthur Weigall was not a biblical scholar, a theologian, learned in Biblical languages, or even Christian in his own personal philosophy. He was an Egyptologist by training and trade. He did not believe in any of the Bible as the Word of God and did not claim any sort of Christian faith for himself.

Second, his book claims that many other doctrines were also of pagan origin. He outright rejects the writings of Paul as canonical Scripture and claims foundational biblical teachings like the existence of angelic beings, the concept of the devil/Satan, the virgin birth, and many aspects of the life of Jesus are pagan in origin.

In the matter of the first point, Weigall cannot be quoted as an “authority” on the subject either academically or theologically. He cannot be quoted as accurate “representative” of either the Christian perspective or the Watch Tower perspective. His opinions on the subject are just that, subjective opinions that hold no credibility in the discussion of the origins of the concept of the trinity.

In the matter of the second point, it is irresponsible and inconsistent to use Weigall’s work to defend one single pet point and reject the rest of his work. If the Watch Tower agrees with Weigall’s assessment that the trinity is pagan, that is great. However, to be consistent and credible, they also must agree with his assessment that other beliefs of theirs are pagan as well. From what I know of the teachings of Jehovah’s Witnesses, they do not. We cannot take seriously an argument made which loyally quotes part of a source and disagrees wholesale with the rest of it.

This is either irresponsible and misguided scholarship at best or direct and deliberate deception at worst. In the first case, we can give the benefit of the doubt to the Watch Tower Society as an organization that means well but we still refuse to trust it because it misses the mark. In the second case, we absolutely cannot trust the Watch Tower Society and must speak out actively against its lies. If the Watch Tower handles extra-biblical sources this way, can we remotely trust how it handles the Scriptures?

Unfortunately, as we’ve read more about the teaching and claims of Jehovah’s Witnesses, we have seen this tendency and pattern. Over and over we have seen deliberate or irresponsible misquotations and out-of-context references that have been manipulated to give support for what the original author never meant to support. While investigating the scholarly “support” for the New World Translation given on jw.org, it became clear that every single scholar given was grossly misquoted and misrepresented. We would strongly encourage you to begin researching the sources your Watch Tower uses and evaluate whether they are trustworthy. Please do not just take the quotations at face value. To do so insults not only the men and women who are misquoted, but insults Yahweh himself by refusing to evaluate the claims made about Him.

“By their fruit you will know them” (Matthew 7:16), as you emphasized repeatedly to us. You are correct. “Fruit” is not simply door-to-door evangelism. If that were the case, your church is not the only one bearing this fruit. The Mormons are well-known for their door-to-door mission work. We, as protestant Christians, have also been involved with door-to-door evangelism. The fruit we have seen of the Watch Tower Society and Jehovah’s Witnesses has been the fruit of deliberate deception and disregard for accurate and responsible handling of the Word of truth. This is especially alarming considering the context of the passage above, “Beware of false prophets,” Jesus says, explaining these false prophets will on the final day “say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness’” (Matthew 7:15-23).

What fruit should we look for then? The fruit of the Spirit – “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:13). We wish we could say we have seen Jehovah’s Witnesses bearing this fruit. We have not.

This is of utmost importance for you. Scripture has some very strong warnings for false teachers and those who bring a false gospel. “If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:9).

What is the gospel we received?

Yahweh created by His Word a beautiful, perfect, good world (Genesis 1:10, 18, 25, 31; John 1:1-2). In this world, He placed His image-bearers, Adam and Eve, and breathed His very own Spirit into them to give them life (Genesis 1:27; 2:7).

They rebelled. They directly disobeyed God’s instruction and offended Him deeply, bringing upon themselves the curse of death (Genesis 3:16-19) and subjecting all of creation to the curse brought by their sin (Romans 8:20-21). In the sin of Adam, we all sinned (Romans 2:12; 3:23; especially 5:12-14), and because of Adam’s sin, we all – as sinners – are objects of God’s holy and good and righteous and just wrath (John 3:36; Romans 1:18; 5:9; 9:22; Ephesians 2:3; Revelation 14:19). Yes, wrath. The Scriptures speak not only of the “grave” (Sheol and Hades), but also of “hell” (Gehenna/The Valley of Hinnom and the “lake of fire” – cf. Revelation 20:14-15; Jeremiah 19:2-6; Luke 12:5). Those who refuse to repent not only die but also experience the “second death” (Revelation 20:14-15; 21:8) in which God rightly and justly punishes them for the depth and profundity of their crimes against Him. This is not cruel or unjust of God and in no way compromises His grace and love and mercy. This displays His holiness and righteousness and justice (Romans 3:5; 9:22-24) as well as demonstrating the seriousness of our sin against Him (Genesis 3:3; Numbers 18:22; 32:23; Ezekiel 3:19). We all deserve this (Isaiah 53:6; Romans 3:12, 23; 6:23; Revelation 21:8), and God would be completely justified if He saved none of us from this.

This is the bad news of the gospel. God has displayed this truth through His creation, leaving all men “without excuse” (Romans 1:18-20).

The good news is that this is not the end of the gospel. God in His grace and love chose to deal with our sin. He could not just turn a blind eye and pardon it without compromising His holiness and purity and righteousness. In His love and grace, He decided to dole out the full measure of His wrath for our sin on Jesus, the “Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). So who is this Jesus? He is the exact representation of the Father (Hebrews 1:3); He is the Word of God, through whom all was created (John 1:1); He is the Son of God, exalted by the Father and given the Name that is above all Names (Matthew 14:33; 27:54; John 1:34; 10:36; 19:7); He is worthy to receive our worship (Matthew 14:33; 28:9-10; Luke 24:50-53; John 9:38; Hebrews 1:6; Revelation 5:13-14); He is Yahweh God (John 1:1; 5:18; 8:58; 20:28; Philippians 2:6; Colossians 2:9; Hebrews 1:8; Revelation 1:17-18; cf. Isaiah 44:6). Being fully and equally God, He emptied Himself of His claim to heavenly rights and became fully human like us (Philippians 2:5-11), our perfect representative and the second Adam (Romans 5:15). He never once sinned but lived a life in perfect submission to the entire law of God – an accomplishment that we sinful humans could never hope to attain (Hebrews 4:14-15). And despite His blemish-free perfection, He submitted to death and the pouring out of God’s wrath against our sin, satisfying the demands of divine justice on our behalf and bearing the curse of the Fall (Deuteronomy 21:23; John 19:30; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Galatians 3:13).

And then Jesus was physically raised from the dead (Matthew 28:5-10; Mark 16:6; especially Luke 24:39-43; John 20:27-29; 21:13-14; Acts 1:3). His death was bodily (Matthew 27:50, 59; Mark 15:37, 45; Luke 23:46; John 19:32-37). If He did not rise in body, then He did not rise. If Christ was not raised, our faith is futile (1 Corinthians 15:17) and we are most to be pitied (1 Corinthians 15:17-19). In His physical resurrection, Jesus conquered death for us, removing its power and sting (1 Corinthians 15:54-57) and promised our own bodily resurrection when He returns (1 Corinthians 15:49; 1 Thessalonians 4:16).

He removed our sins from us, as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12; Colossians 2:14), so there is no more wrath or judgment left for those who are in Christ (Romans 5:6-9; 8:1). But even more than this. We are not simply declared “sin free,” we are declared “justified” and “righteous.” The perfect righteousness of Christ was given to us (Romans 3:26; 1 Corinthians 1:30-31; Philippians 3:9). Christ’s blood covers us (Romans 3:25; Hebrews 9:11-14). This means God sees that our sin has been paid for in His blood and that we wear the perfect righteousness of Jesus (Hebrews 10:14). This is so much more than mere “unmerited kindness.” This is grace. We have been saved by the grace of God (Ephesians 2:8-9) – the completely and profoundly undeserved gift of love and favor from the God we deeply offended who chose to pour out His just punishment on His own perfectly innocent Son instead of on us. We cannot add anything at all to this, and if we try to add our own merit to the finished work of Christ (John 19:30), we nullify His sacrifice and bring ourselves back under the curse of the broken law (Galatians 2:20-21; 3:10; 5:2-4).

It is God who calls us to repentance (Revelation 2:5, 16). It is God who justifies us in Christ (Romans 3:26, 30; Galatians 3:8). It is the righteousness of Jesus that we place our hope in (Titus 3:4-7; 1 Peter 1:13). It is God who makes us alive (Ezekiel 36:26; Ephesians 2:5). Our good works add nothing to this, they are merely evidence of this (John 14:15; Ephesians 2:10; Titus 2:14; James 2:26).

This is the reason for the hope we have (1 Peter 3:15). We look forward with confident hope for the return of Christ, at which every knee will bow and tongue proclaim Him as Lord to the glory of the Father (Isaiah 45:23; Romans 14:11; Philippians 2:10). We look forward to the day when all the saints in the New Heavens and the New Earth will worship the Lamb and proclaim His glory (Revelation 5:12-14; 7:10).

Dear friends, we long for the day you bow before Jesus with us. We pray for the salvation of your souls. With Jesus and John we urge you to repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand (Matthew 3:2; 4:17), a Kingdom that does not consist in talk but in power (1 Corinthians 4:20)!

If you accept this, it is life to you. If you refuse this, it is death to you (2 Corinthians 2:16-17). By the grace of God, we implore you, be reconciled to God (2 Corinthians 5:20).

Love,
The Brummers

As always, I welcome comments, responses, considerations, challenges, and questions. One again, however, I remind you that I reserve the right to delete and moderate distasteful remarks. Please season your responses with grace, truth, and love. If you believe I am in error, I welcome biblical correction with open arms.

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Casablanca

Several people have asked if I had a blog from my time in West Africa. I don’t. But I thought it might be fun to occasionally post about some of my experiences here for anyone who is interested.

It has been almost six years since I found myself on a plane over the Atlantic. Time really flies. So much happens so quickly! And so much from that year, now becoming more and more distant past, is still so clear in my mind.

I thought I’d start with my experience traveling to West Africa. I lived and worked in a small country that is 99% Muslim, including a rapidly growing fundamentalist sect of Islam associated with the Taliban. Because of the nature of that part of the world, I will not explicitly name the country itself, any of the towns I worked in, or the names of any Africans or expats who live and work there for security reasons. Anything that can be more generally applied to the area of West Africa I will more freely name.

We had a fairly simple, although long, flight itinerary. Dallas to New York to Casablanca to our final destination in West Africa.

I remember when our flight from New York took off. It was already late at night, and as the plane lifted up off the end of the runway over the bay, I looked down and realized that my “safety net” of familiar culture and family and friends was falling away behind me and I was suddenly on my own with only God to trust as the One who could hold me up. I had travelled overseas before and done short-term mission work, but it had always been with a team and a leader. This time, even though I had a team for the first couple of months, I was essentially going on my own, and I remember feeling a strange mixture of fearful anticipation and peaceful trust.

I was traveling with one other girl, and she and I had not gotten along well during training. There was nothing particularly “wrong” with either her or me, but we had vastly different personality types and ways of approaching problem solving, so traveling internationally together proved to be… interesting. The rest of our team was flying through Belgium instead, so it was just her and me.

We had a 12-hour layover in Casablanca, Morocco. Our airline, Royal Air Maroc, provided us with hotel and food vouchers for the layover so that we could take a good nap and a shower and eat a good meal instead of just hanging out in the terminal for that long stretch of time. Our final flight was scheduled to leave at midnight.

Beautiful fountain in the hotel lobby.

Beautiful fountain in the hotel lobby.

So we took the airport shuttle to the airport hotel, about 5 minutes away and just outside the city of Casablanca, and took a very refreshing shower and nap and and enjoyed some amazing Moroccan food. The people were so friendly and just beautiful. Seriously, Moroccans as a people group are some of the most attractive people I’ve ever seen. (Aside from my own husband of course!)

Around 10:30, we boarded the shuttle back to the airport to check in for our flight.

It had been cancelled. Indefinitely.

Supposedly, there were riots happening in the city we were supposed to fly into, and the airline didn’t want to risk landing there during the violence. My traveling companion and I, however, had contact with the rest of our team already in country and they assured us there were no issues. Later we figured out that there was an issue with the airline itself – probably a bribe had not been paid by the destination airport to the airline or vice versa.

So we were stuck in Casablanca. Cue Bogart and Bergman. At least we’ll always have Paris.

The view from our room window.

The view from our room window.

But props to Royal Air Maroc, who agreed to extend our hotel and food vouchers for as long as we needed them. So, we boarded the airport shuttle around 1:00 in the morning to head back to the hotel to get a few more hours of sleep, hoping for a 6:00 am flight. On the shuttle were me, my traveling companion – also a young, white, American, Christian woman – and a whole lot of Arab men.

We started driving. 5 minutes. 10 minutes. 15 minutes. Still no hotel in sight. In fact, not a whole lot of anything in sight…. And I started to get nervous. Finally, around 1:30 in the morning, the bus stopped in the middle of nowhere and all of the Arab men on the bus stood up and started talking and yelling and causing all kinds of commotion. I looked out the window and realized through the darkness that we were in an unlit parking lot of sorts filled with cars from which many more Arab men were hurriedly coming toward our bus. My traveling companion thought this was a great time to practice our French. I explained to her that it was a great time to sit down, shut up, and try to be as invisible as possible!

Headlines were flashing through my brain: “Two Missionaries Kidnapped by Extremists in Morocco.” Oh man… my parents are gonna be so upset. Dear God, get us out of this!

This went on for several minutes.

Finally, everyone sat down, quieted down, and the bus started driving again. A few minutes later, we pulled up to the hotel and everyone got off and went to their rooms.

Most frightening hour of my life. I found out later that it was just the shift change for the hotel staff. That’s it. The day shift going home and the night shift coming in.

At the hotel, I requested a wake up call from the front desk. But since I didn’t speak French or Arabic, and the lady at the front desk spoke both of those but not English, I wasn’t really sure she understood. So I didn’t sleep much that night. I didn’t want to sleep late and miss our flight in the morning! So that night was spent reading Psalms and watching Al Jazeera – the only English TV channel I could find.

Well, the next morning… no flight. That afternoon: no flight. The next day: no flight. We spent four days stuck in Casablanca.

During that time several things happened.

One, we weren’t able to leave the hotel and go explore the city, partly because we had to be able to shuttle back to the airport for a flight at a moment’s notice and partly because our only opportunity to go into town was with two very nice Lebanese men who offered to share a taxi – and I had seen “Taken.” No way was I going anywhere with two men I didn’t know. No. Way.

Someday I’d love to go back and actually enjoy Casablanca without the stressful circumstances.

I didn’t cope well at all. In fact, it is not an exaggeration at all to say I was a complete basket case for about 2 days.

But the girl I was with had an amazing personality trait I just don’t have: the ability to pull back and see the forest for the trees. (I am detailed to a fault, and the details can easily overwhelm when they have no context.) She came up with a plan.

“Megan,” she sat me down one afternoon. “We could realistically be stuck here for weeks. Even up to 3 months before we need a visa. We need a plan. God isn’t wasting our time by keeping us here – what can we do with it?” She laid out goals: meet 4 new people every day and get to know something about them, learn 5 new French words every day and practice them by using them in conversation with someone, study a chapter of the Bible every day, take a walk around the hotel every day to get out of the room and be around people. Things like that.

Lesson one in humility: we need the body of Christ. I had written off this girl because she was so different. God showed me I needed her and that He is the one who had put us together.

The next morning, we took the shuttle to the airport again (lots of back and forth every day). This particular morning, many citizens of the West African country we were headed to were just fed up. They wanted to get home. They were forming a group to go to the airline in protest and wanted us to come with them. We headed the opposite direction! We didn’t want to get caught in the middle of a riot in an airport in Africa!!! Instead, we went to see if we could get access to our checked luggage (which had been just sitting in the airport for days). It took several hours, but the airport did release our bags to us, and we took the shuttle back to the hotel.

And the hotel refused our vouchers.

What now?

The two lebanese men spoke quite a bit of English, and they were able to explain to us that the hotel wouldn’t honor the vouchers any more because a flight was scheduled that afternoon.

Could we really believe there was a flight? Was it really going to happen?

We sat in the hotel lobby, our luggage all around us, waiting for hours to hear for certain.

Then suddenly the airport shuttle showed up, loaded us up, drove 5 minutes to the airport. Within 30 minutes, we were through security and sitting on the plane! Apparently that group of angry Africans had gotten something done!

We took off.

And then I experienced the strangest flight I have ever been on.

As soon as we took off, the Africans around us started shouting and singing and clapping in celebration. And never quieted down. As soon as the “buckle seatbelt” light was turned off, everyone – and I mean everyone on the plane got up and started walking around. In true African fashion, they were visiting their friends and relatives in other parts of the plane. The few Africans who had met us white girls made a big deal out of coming and talking to us and showing off to everyone that they knew the Americans. Everyone was in everyone else’s business for the whole flight. The poor flight attendants had a difficult time getting our meals and beverages to us because there were always several people up in the aisles.

But we finally landed in our destination country.

We fought our way through all the “helpful” people who wanted to show us how to fill out our customs forms and carry our luggage for a fee or a large tip and finally met the rest of our team.

We were never for a moment beyond God’s hand. There was not a minute of those days that surprised Him or caught Him off guard. In fact, it was all part of His perfect and gracious plan for this time in our lives, part of His goal of shaping and molding us to be more like Christ – to learn to trust Him instead of trusting our own strength. To trust Him for our basic needs instead of trusting our own cleverness. To learn to declare “You are my God” and with trembling to say with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, “Even if….”

Welcome to West Africa! With one adventure under my belt, I had months more to look forward to!

Finally in beautiful Sub-Saharan West Africa!

Finally in beautiful Sub-Saharan West Africa!

Enjoying the back of the Land Cruiser... and apparently missing a shoe.

Enjoying the back of the Land Cruiser… and apparently missing a shoe.

Grace for Hard Seasons

Dear Rescued One,

When I read this week’s prompt, my mind immediately jumped to my most recent hard season: the week before Joey’s birth. As I pondered, however, I realized that there were so many other difficult seasons about which I could write. It is so easy to be so near-sighted – to forget the grace of yesterday in light of the grace of today. While I definitely want to revel in today’s grace, I think it is so important to remember the legacy of God’s goodness as well.

It is so easy in our culture to smile and pretend everything’s good. And we tell ourselves this lie so often we actually believe it. The truth is, I’ve had a wonderful life so far. I’m well fed, stylishly clothed, sheltered and warm, blessed with opportunity upon opportunity, well-traveled, educated, and surrounded by the life-giving love of godly family and friends. My husband reminded me once as we sat discussing the theology of suffering, though, that you can’t just assume from outward appearances that a person who “has it all together” doesn’t “know what true suffering is” just because they haven’t spent time starving in a third world country.

Suffering is a reality for every individual person in this fallen, cursed world. Until Jesus returns at the end of the age and consummates his rulership with the New Heavens and New Earth, it will continue to be a reality. What is so amazing about our God, though, is He doesn’t wait until the end of the age to redeem and rescue. Our world’s history of suffering and sin is the perfect canvas on which God displays His grace and love and goodness and beauty.

“Preach the gospel to yourself daily,” is a practice we encourage in our home. Often this is simply reminding ourselves of the “facts” of the gospel – creation, fall, redemption. On a more personal level, though, it is reminding ourselves of the legacy of grace God has weaved into our lives. I’d like to write that down today, to pick a few hard seasons of my life and proclaim the grace of God in their midst.

I had an acute “season of suffering” that started when my childhood was touching the fringe of adolescence. I must have been 12 or 13 years old at the oldest when I found my only baby sister unconscious in the water. I thought she had drowned. I didn’t know she was alive. And I had 10 minutes before I had to catch the school bus.

I had been banging on the bathroom door and yelling at her all morning. It was my turn to shower. Little did I know she didn’t respond because she couldn’t respond. Finally, I barged in to the most difficult thing I had ever seen in my short life. I pulled her out of the tub, screamed for my parents. They came running up the stairs. She was breathing. “Go to school, Meg.” Go to school? How can I go to school after something like that? I went. I don’t think I heard a single thing any of my teachers said that day.

I bottled this up for years. Kept it in. Didn’t think about it. Didn’t talk about it. Years later, God cut open the infected wound and began cleaning it out, showing me His gracious hand.

You see, God created humans with a nose. Quite a beautiful, wonderful, awkward little thing. ½ to 1 inch long, sticking out of the front of your face. Just long enough to stay above the surface of the water. Just tall enough to bring life-giving, life-sustaining air to a body otherwise fully submerged. God’s grace gave my sister her beautiful little nose, and it saved her life.

He timed my barging into that bathroom perfectly. Minutes later might have been too late. But I wasn’t minutes later.

And now, more than 15 years later, my beautiful and talented and quirky and friendly little sister is alive and thriving. I am so thankful for every minute of her life since that day. Every. Minute.

 

Sister Love.

Sister Love.

About this same time, and over the next few years, I was stalked. I won’t go into the details. Suffice it to say that a young man from the church we were a part of took more interest in me than he should have. And on top of that, the only people who believed me were my parents. Everyone else called me a liar and put the blame on me – accusing me of seeking attention or trying to ruin this “godly” man’s reputation for selfish reasons. Again, without going into to many details, I was never actually physically threatened, but I did have very justified reason to fear for my physical safety.

How does a young woman handle this? How do you partake of the Lord’s Supper when this man is taking the same communion two rows over?

Once again, I bottled this up. Until years later I began to see that God drew a line. He never let the situation get out of control, never once allowed this young man to harm me, and used this to drive me to greater dependence on His protection and rescue. He also taught me forgiveness – how to forgive deep offenses and move on and let go instead of hold a grudge and let the hatred and bitterness fester. He taught me to actually mean it when I say, “Come quickly, Lord Jesus.” He built in my heart a longing for the perfect relationships with our Christian brothers and sisters after Jesus’ return, when all sin will be eradicated.

But even in these circumstances, it was easy to view myself simply as a “victim” – not in any way responsible for the things happening. Fast-forward a few years to a season in my life when I had to be confronted with the fact that I was not “basically good” but “basically sinful.” When I was not just some “good little Christian girl” but a young woman riddled with pride and self-idolatry and the propensity to justify away my “little personality quirks” instead of calling them what they actually were – God-defying self-worshiping sins.

God was gracious in two ways: first, sending a godly professor who pointed out to me Mark 2:17 – “And when Jesus heard it [Pharisees questioning why he ate with tax collectors and sinners], he said to them, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.’”

“Are you sick, Megan? Are you a sinner? Because if you are well and righteous, you don’t need Jesus.”

Whoa. I was confronted with the personal application of the gospel.

Then God called me to Africa, and there He opened my eyes to the poison in my soul and began drawing it out and healing me. Painful grace.

IMG_6425

Then a few years ago I stood at my kitchen window and watched the massive flames of the Waldo Canyon Fire spill down the hill toward my home. We escaped and went through a week of the hell of flames and smoke and destruction, to find at the end that our house and things had survived.

“According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw – each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.” – 1 Corinthians 3:10-15

God graciously realigned my priorities and brutally showed me where I was placing trust, what I was using the foundation of Christ to build up. His grace began loosening the grip I had tightened around things and drawing my heart toward compassion for people who needed His gospel.

 

The view from our kitchen window.

The view from our kitchen window.

And then there is the grace He showed me in the events leading up to and immediately following Josephine’s birth. I could write pages. I won’t, because I know this letter is already getting long.

The grace of God is mind-blowing, soul-saving, life-rescuing, sin-destroying, relationship-healing, priority-realigning. The question is not “Why would a good God allow bad things to happen to good people?” The question is “What is God doing for sinful people as He rescues them through the circumstances of bad things?”

I come again and again to the question: Do I need Jesus? Am I sick and sinful? Or have I deluded myself into thinking I’m well and righteous without him? By His grace, God continues to show me my desperate need for His rescue, and assures me that He has rescued me through the incredible sacrifice of His Son.

Remember Paul’s prayer for us in Ephesians, a book full of grace proclamation:

“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith – that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” – Ephesians 3:14-21

To our great and gracious God be glory forever!

Love,

The Graciously Redeemed

 

 

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[Tuesday] Grace for Today

Dear Present Self,

Let the preaching to the choir commence!

You have so many plates spinning right now, you are overwhelmed trying to keep them all going. Please, Meg, give yourself grace to let go and trust that God’s not going to let them all crash and shatter!

You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink it. Meg, your heart longs for people in your life to have their eyes opened to the gospel. You long for the day they come alive and see Jesus for who He really is. You beg to God that they find His beauty and His grace irresistible. Don’t let yourself get discouraged when it doesn’t happen “fast enough.” Don’t despair when they don’t immediately embrace the clever illustration or eloquent words you put together. People’s souls are not won by these things; they are transformed by the wonderful work of the Spirit. You are called to proclaim. You have done that. Now please, let go and trust that God will work, that His word will not return void. You have received amazing, life-transforming, world-altering, soul-justifying grace. Now it’s time to give grace. You are the delighted-in object of divine love. Now it’s time to let that love overflow to others.

Including yourself. It is so incredibly easy and tempting at this stage in life to construct some mental image of a “super mom” and be devastated when you can’t live up to it. This is crazy! You’re not even trying to keep up with the Joneses… you’re trying to keep up with some arbitrary, imagined ideal that doesn’t exist and shouldn’t! Let go of the chains of your puny fantasy. God chose to give Joey to you for a reason. He chose for you to be Joey’s mom for a reason. No, you will not be perfect. You are a sinful woman living in a fallen world. When those inevitable daily mistakes and sins and selfishnesses happen, repent and move on. Your motherhood is not about you: not about your happiness or glory or impressing others. Your motherhood is about the glory of God: proclaiming His goodness and grace as you love and train up your daughter.

And remember that Joey needs your grace and love just as much as you have needed grace and love. When she cries from hunger at 2 in the morning, don’t moan and roll your eyes. Give her grace. When she spits up all over your third shirt of the day, don’t huff in exasperation. Give her grace. When she throws a tantrum when you’re trying to get her ready for bed because her wet diaper is irritating her, don’t begrudge her. Give her grace (and change that diaper!). When she smiles and coos at you and your heart swells with pride and melts with affection, give her the grace of your delight! When her big blue eyes quietly watch you with furrowed brow, wonder at the grace God has given her to observe and learn so attentively. Live grace in your home. Proclaim grace in your home. This is enough. More than that, this is everything.

And this is true in your marriage too! Three years of marriage, three years of bliss. It’s easy at this point to “settle in” to the humdrum married life. Remember the grace of the honeymoon period and live in that grace! When your husband is hungry after a long day of work, don’t whine about being tired and wanting to just sit down. Give him grace! When your husband is excited about a plan you don’t care for, don’t give in to the temptation to be passive-aggressive. Give him grace! Love and respect him well; pay attention to the details; delight him and delight in him. And on your bad days – your sickness, your sinfulness, your stumbles – receive his grace. He loves you well. Give glory to God for bringing you such a man!

And finally, as the sanctifying Holy Spirit continues to plumb the depths of your soul, dredge up the muck, and filter it away, turn again and again to the grace of the cross. The blood of the Lamb of God covers it all. Don’t wallow in it. Don’t grasp it. Don’t beat yourself up over it. Let it all go; let the Spirit draw you to repentance; and revel in the freeing, spirit-lifting, breath-taking grace of God.

You know all of this. Remind yourself. Preach the gospel to yourself daily. Delight in the love and grace of your Maker and Savior. And let it bubble up and overflow out of you into everyone around you. And then let go of it and move on, trusting the One who gave it to you in the first place.

Love,
Your Grace-Filled Now

3months

 

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