What to Do When God is Not Fair

Discovering the hidden blessing of not getting what we've earned.

Unfair. That’s how it feels. Remember that Christmas when your sister opened the gift you wanted? Or when your brother got a T-bird and you got stuck with the family Nova? Not fair.

What to Do When God is Not Fair

(Photo courtesy of Unsplash)

Fast forward to today and ask yourself how it hits you when:

  • A coworker gets a raise but you do more work—or perhaps, his work?
  • A neighbor decorates her home from an unrestricted budget and you’re gluing the peeling wallpaper back on the wall?
  • Your job reduces your salary because of the economy, but another business gives raises and bonuses?

There’s a reason Scripture has to command us not to covet. It’s in our nature. It’s systemic. If we can’t have more than others, at least we want it equal. But less than others? Uh, no.

Because that’s not fair.

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Your Shame and Its Surprising Solution

What to do when you feel dirtied by the world.

Shame hits us for one of two reasons. We feel shame because of something wrong someone did to us. Or we feel it because of something we did ourselves. Either way, it can feel smothering.

Your Shame and Its Surprising Solution

(Photo courtesy of Unsplash.com)

The Prophet Zephaniah writes: “The unjust knows no shame” (Zeph. 3:5). He means they have no awareness or regret over their sin—even though God makes known to them His righteousness every day.

But it’s what God goes on to say in the next couple verses how He did things to draw His people back to Him.

If your shame has smothered your life, you need to hear God’s words of grace.

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There’s Only One Gate Jesus Won’t Enter

The keys are in your pocket.

Dotted along Jerusalem’s slopes on either side of the Kidron Valley lie thousands of graves. Some Jewish. Some Muslim. Ironically, both cemeteries lie there, in part, because of the Messiah.

Golden Gate

(Photo: Golden Gate at Jerusalem’s eastern side. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

The largest Jewish cemetery in the world dots the side of the Mount of Olives as it slopes down into the valley that separates it from Jerusalem.

Why be buried here?

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When Finding Favor with God Makes Life Tough

What was true of Mary is also true for you—why that's good news.

Sometimes finding favor with God makes life much harder. When Gabriel informed Mary she would give birth to the Son of God, many thoughts ran through her mind, not the least of which was how she, a virgin, could conceive.

When Finding Favor with God Makes Life Tough

(Photo: by Jolanta Dyr. Own work. CC-BY-SA-3.0-pl, via Wikimedia Commons)

What’s more, Mary knew the social and biblical fallout that occurs for a pregnant woman without a husband. How could she possibly explain that her pregnancy was an of God and not an act of passion? Finding favor with God meant she faced disfavor from people. Maybe finding favor with God isn’t all it’s cracked up to be?

Christmas usually causes us to marvel at the virgin conception—and at the love of our God who would become Man so that He could die for our sins.

But there’s another part of the Christmas story that amazes me just as much. It comes from this amazing young woman.

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How the Jordan River Reflects Your Spiritual Life

Have you noticed how often hymn writers use the Jordan River as a metaphor for transitions in the spiritual life? That may be because the Bible does the same.

How the Jordan River Reflects Your Spiritual Life

(Photo: Jordan River north of Sea of Galilee. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

The Jordan River usually flowed a hundred feet wide at the place across from Jericho where Israel crossed over into Canaan after the Exodus (Joshua 3:14–4:23). But because the Israelites crossed at flood stage, the river surged much wider and deeper.

  • When the priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant stepped into the Jordan, the water ceased its flow 16 miles upstream.
  • This left a stretch of dry land some 20 miles wide for the nation to cross en masse, perhaps several thousand abreast.

Joshua compared the miracle of the parting of the Jordan River with the miraculous parting of the Red Sea (Joshua 4:23). He linked the power of God that allowed them to enter Canaan with the power that freed them from Egypt.

This was a critical comparison. Why? The same grace that redeemed them from bondage led them home.

This also reflects our own spiritual lives.

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Why We Should Default to Grace Rather than to Criticism

I heard them board the airplane before I saw them. A mother was pushing one toddler in front of her and dragging another behind. The only available seats were the three right in front of me.

Why We Should Default to Grace Rather than to Criticism

(Picture: Meet Theo.)

I had never considered childproof locks on airline seatbelts. Now, I’m certain there’s a market for them. I would have bought one.

For more than two straight hours I watched the younger son—who reminded me of Bugs Bunny’s Tasmanian devil—jump, flail, thrash, flap, flop, hop, laugh—but mostly, scream. I don’t remember the name of the older son.

But I’ll never forget the Tasmanian devil’s name: “Theo.” I know because I heard it 863 times.

Absolutely undaunted, the mother used her large voice without embarrassment to correct Theo. She also informed the rest of us what was about to happen.

Once after Theo took his crayon and marked on the wall of the airplane (see the mark on the wall at left?), she jerked him from the window seat and announced to the rest of us, “Sorry about the screaming for the next 10 minutes, folks!” She was right. Little Theo let us have it.

My First, Second, and Third Reactions

  1. My first reaction was to wonder why the mother hadn’t brought along a gallon of Tylenol PM. (If not for Theo, then for the rest of us.)
  2. My second reaction to this irritation was—I confess—frustration and resentment. After all, I paid just as much for my loud seat as the lucky people in the quiet part of the plane.
  3. But my third reaction took my attitude in a completely different direction.

God boarded the plane at that moment and somehow found room in my narrow heart.

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Is Jesus the Only Way to God?

Of all the questions leveled against Christianity, few others cause such heated controversy: “Is Jesus the Only Way to God?” For many people, Jesus’ words equate exclusivity with arrogance:

I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me. —John 14:6

Is Jesus the Only Way to God?

(Photo: Dome inside Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

The exclusivity of those words is unmistakable. Millions question: “How can Jesus be the only way to God? That’s not fair. It leaves out too many people.”

But if you think about it, the real question isn’t, “Is Jesus the Only Way to God?” but rather we should ask, “Is God holy”?

Here’s why that’s the real issue.

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Is Hell Really Necessary?

Summer in Texas always makes me think of hell. That’s probably because each summer when I was a boy my stepdad would squint at the sky, wipe the sweat from his brow, and offer his summer benediction:

Spring has sprung, fall has fell, summer is here, and it’s hotter than . . . usual.

Funny, but we always try to leave that last part out, don’t we?

Is Hell Really Necessary?

(Photo: Hinnom Valley tomb, Jesus used the gorge as a metaphor for hell. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

Hell brightens a conversation about as much as a root canal. Nobody wants to talk about it. But the dentist does you no favors by keeping the truth from you. You need to know the facts about the malady and the options for dealing with it.

You know who spoke about hell more than anyone else in the Bible?

Jesus.

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Choosing God’s Mercy Instead of Justice

I have a friend named Brad who made the front page of the paper, because he almost drowned. His rescue was extraordinary. He set out with a small raft and his bike, intending to make his way to a nearby lake. As he walked through the woods toward the lake, there was nowhere to walk except through sludge. He eventually abandoned his bike and boat.

And when it got dark, Brad got lost.

Choosing God’s Mercy Instead of Justice

(Photo by Photodune)

He slogged through the darkness only to find himself eventually floating in the middle of Lake Lewisville. Being as skinny as a rail with zero body fat (what’s that like?), he was soon on the brink of hypothermia.

Brad told me he had always been one never to ask for help. And yet, in this crisis, he screamed at the top of his lungs: “Oh my God! Please help me!”

You know how he was he rescued?

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Your Motivation for Living for God

Before I had a family, I had a different car—a black Firebird with T-tops. Sitting behind those eight cylinders, I could go from zero to too-fast in about five seconds (oh, but, of course, I never did).

Your Motivation for Living for God

(Photo by Photodune)

After Cathy and I had our first daughter, I decided I needed a family vehicle. Car seats don’t fit in Firebirds.

So I sold the car.

A few months later, I found a spare set of keys to the Firebird, and I thought: I need to get these to the new owner. Even though I could have kept the keys (as insignificant as it seemed), they really weren’t mine to keep. I had sold them, in a sense, when I sold the car.

Living for God is like finding a spare set of keys to a car you no longer own.

In fact, you have a whole lot of keys that aren’t yours.

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