Eternal Atonement: Hallelu Yah!

The Fall Feasts of Israel are a beautiful reminder of Who God is and what Christ has done for us.

Beginning this evening and continuing until sunset tomorrow, Jews around the world are observing Yom Kippur  or The Day of Atonement.

According to Scripture (Leviticus 16),  The Day of Atonement was commanded by God for Israel to remember the terrible debt of sin and the only acceptable payment–blood.

The high priest would enter the Holy of Holies and apply blood to the horns of the mercy seat, thus covering over for another year the individual and corporate sin of Israel.

holyholies

According to Jewish tradition, God inscribes each person’s fate for the coming year into a book, the Book of Life, on Rosh Hashanah, and waits until Yom Kippur to “seal” the verdict. During the Days of Awe, a Jew tries to amend his or her behavior and seek forgiveness for wrongs done against God and against other human beings. The evening and day of Yom Kippur are set aside for public and private petitions and confessions of guilt.  At the end of Yom Kippur, one hopes that they have been forgiven by God.

Yet year after year, this sacrifice was not enough. 

The blood of animals is insufficient to pay the debt owed by men to a perfect and holy God.

But the blood of the Perfect Lamb, Jesus Christ, has completely paid the debt I owe-I no longer cower in the shadow of my sin.

When I chose to apply that blood to my heart by faith, I was made right with the LORD.

As a believer in Jesus the Christ, I have a High Priest that has offered His own blood as the Perfect Sacrifice once for all (Hebrews 9).

I can rest assured that I’m  not sealed only for a day, or even a year, but for all eternity!

Because Jesus is the eternal and sufficient propitiation for my sins, I need not fear death.

It is sin which gives death its power, and it is the Law which gives sin its strength. All thanks to God, then, who gives us the victory over these things through our Lord Jesus Christ!

I Corinthians 15:55-57 PHILLIPS

We do not have to bring a sacrifice to the altar and hope that our sins are forgiven.  The Law holds no power over us who believe-Jesus fulfilled its every obligation.

But it is a good thing to take a day to reflect on the cost and the gift

Too often we grasp the gift and forget its cost. 

Today, remember what the LORD has done for you.  Remember the burden He lifted by His sacrifice.  Remember His claim on your life–the life He purchased with His blood.

revelation-5_9

Remember.

If you are withholding grace and forgivenessremember, and repentgive to others what God has graciously given to you.

If you are walking outside the will of God for your liferemember and repent-fall back in step behind the Lord Jesus and let Him guide you.

If you are dabbling in sinremember and repent-turn from your wickedness and back to holiness.

Remember and be thankful.  

“Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.”  

~Psalm 32:1

 

 

 

Appropriate Response

Tears of great grief have clarified my vision.

I don’t think clever arguments are the best way to effect change and I’m unconvinced that gathering the right group of people can guarantee an outcome.

But I know that God’s people, repentant and responsive to His will can do battle in the heavenlies.

donald-trump-vs-hillary-clinton

I am writing this BEFORE tonight’s scheduled presidential debate-I won’t be watching itnothing the candidates have to say and no media spin can undo the knot in my stomach.  

I am not surprised to find us here. But I am surprised that so many of my fellow believers are surprised.

Like captive Israel, we seem astonished that God does exactly what He says He will do.

Daniel understood his times.  Daniel knew that the blame lay not on those “out there” but on us “in here”.  

Pagans will be pagans.

They have no reason nor the power to act in accordance with biblical teaching.

But those of us called by grace and covered by Jesus’ blood-that’s an entirely different story.

So instead of lobbing political arguments across the aisle or pounding one another with snarky social media posts, I think we should follow Daniel’s example and storm the gates of heaven.

daniel-praying

An appropriate response to our current political predicament starts with prayer.

And that prayer starts with repentance.  

Not a general, “We’ve been so bad, God.  Sorry.”

But genuine, gut-wrenching, heart breaking acknowledgement of the degree to which the people of God-me, you, ushave turned from truth and pursued our own pleasure.

For generations, we have put our faith in a political party instead of a Holy God.  We have been happy to accept leaders of questionable integrity as long as our pocketbooks didn’t suffer.

We have sinned.  And we are reaping the fruit of the seed we sowed.

Our only hope is the mercy of God.  

I am going to be fasting and praying and begging for that mercy, like Daniel.

So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes.

I prayed to the Lord my God and confessed:

“Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments, we have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws. We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes and our ancestors, and to all the people of the land.

“Lord, you are righteous, but this day we are covered with shame…The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him;…The Lord did not hesitate to bring the disaster on us, for the Lord our God is righteous in everything he does; yet we have not obeyed him.

“Now, Lord our God, who brought your people out of Egypt with a mighty hand and who made for yourself a name that endures to this day, we have sinned, we have done wrong. Lord, in keeping with all your righteous acts, turn away your anger and your wrath…We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy. Lord, listen! Lord, forgive! Lord, hear and act! For your sake, my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name.

Daniel 9:1-19 selected NIV

Choosing the Eternal Path

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It’s easy to develop the habit of hurrying.

An inner voice screams, “I’ve got to do it NOW, I’m running out of time!”

When I talk to people, or overhear others’ conversations, they say, “I just don’t have time” or “I’m so busy, I don’t know what to do”.

I have said it myself more than once.

For most of us in America it seems that we rush from place to place, from event to event, from meal to meal, from crisis to crisis.

But when I read the Gospels I don’t feel a sense of rush at all. 

Jesus expressed urgency when proclaiming that the kingdom of God was near, but He was never in a hurry.

He walked everywhere He went even though His was the most important ministry ever executed on the earth and it would have been much more efficient to choose a faster mode of transportation.

The message I receive from His life in this regard is that the journey is as important as the destination.

We justify our lifestyle by claiming we have no control. 

We just can’t help the fact that our cell phones ring, that we have to go here or there and that we can’t seem to get a handle on our schedules.

I think that as Christ followers, God would say:  “Choose!”

We do have control over how we spend our time. 

It is true that we have to fulfill our God-given responsibilities and that may include work-hours we can’t choose.  But even those who work full-time have many hours that they direct.

How many conversations do we neglect with the very people God has put in our path because our minds are focused on the next thing? 

How many times are we multi-tasking with our phones or Ipads and missing a divine appointment to show the love of Jesus to someone right in front of us?

God has not called us to be a people out of breath, with no energy or heart for the ministry He has given us. 

He is the Lord of the Sabbath-the King of Peace and the Giver of Rest.  He invites us to join Him and to take His yoke upon us-a yoke neither heavy nor cumbersome.

In Jeremiah, God called Israel back to Himself with these words:

Thus says the Lord; Stand by the roads and look; and ask for the eternal paths, where the good, old way is; then walk in it; and you will find rest for your souls

Jeremiah 6: 16

Our techno-toys should be used as tools not as taskmasters. 

The activities that fill our calendars should be evaluated in light of the greater call God has on our lives, not chosen just because our friends are doing them.

We need to do “first things first” and make room for people before things and conversation before commerce.

We are free in Christ to choose. 

Abundant life is a gift of God to be experienced right now, right where we are.  

When we refuse to get sucked into the “busy-ness” of our culture, we open up a world of possibility to be the people God has called us to be.

Relentlessly Forward

The sharp shard stabs deep when I’m unprepared.

Drifting off to sleep

Driving down the road

Doing the laundry.

He’s not here.

He’s not coming back.

His living presence is taken from me.

His smile,

Unseen.

His voice,

Unheard.

His arms,

Out of reach.

Untouchable.

And the gap widens every day

Between the last time and this moment.

No way to slow it down.

No path to go back.

pencil-drawing-bereaved-mother

 

 

Dig the Well BEFORE You are Thirsty

I am not a fan of church signs.

Most of the time they try to be cute and reduce eternal truth to a few words that often leave room for [mis]interpretaion.

But I saw one today that I DID like:  “Dig the well before you are thirsty”.

It takes time to dig a well.  

And it’s hard work.  

You can’t wake up one morning, decide to dig and expect results in a couple of hours. If you want a reliable source of water to quench your thirst you have to plan ahead.

thirsty-for-god

It’s been my habit for about 25 years to wake early in the morning, read my Bible and journal.  I started this practice when my children were young and boisterous and our active household meant once they were awake I’d have no time for quiet meditation.

But after reading Scripture for so long, I’d noticed the stories had become too familiar.  I would read through some of them with a “yeah, yeah-heard that before” attitude.

So I committed to SLOW DOWN and force my heart to look carefully and listen closely to what the Spirit was speaking from the page.

I decided I would read just a single chapter each day and copy out a verse or two that stood out into my journal along with notes and comments.  I found as I went along that it was harder and harder to choose only a couple of verses, so I began to copy whole chapters. 

Of course I missed a day or two here and there so it took about three and a half years. 

Just a few months before Dominic left us, I finished my slow journey through the Bible.  I had copied out most of it by hand in six journals.  I had underlined and circled and annotated the pages, making it my own.

I was digging my well.  

I had no clue that I would be desperately thirsty in such a short time.

The morning I received the awful news-my heart shattered, my world spinning, my life undone-words of Truth bubbled to the surface unbidden.  

Living Water sprang forth from the deep well of promise that was dug before I knew I needed it.

When I began my slow walk through Scripture, I didn’t know what the future held.

But my Shepherd-Who knows the end from the beginning-was leading me.

When my hands trembled too much to open the pages of my Bible and my eyes were too full of tears to see the print, the words stored up in the well of my heart spilled out to soothe my soul.  

I continue to draw from this deep well and drink the Living Water.  

well-living-water

It is a source of life and hope and sustaining strength until that day when a well will no longer be needed-when faith will be sight and I possess what has been promised.   

Then he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb, in the middle of its street. On either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. There will no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His bond-servants will serve Him; they will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads. And there will no longer be any night; and they will not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God will illumine them; and they will reign forever and ever.

And he said to me, “These words are faithful and true”; and the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent His angel to show to His bond-servants the things which must soon take place.

“And behold, I am coming quickly. Blessed is he who [e]heeds the words of the prophecy of this book.”

Revelation 22:1-7 NASB

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Broken, But Not Beyond Repair

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall

Humpty Dumpty had a great fall

All the king’s horses and all the king’s men

Couldn’t put Humpty Dumpty together again.

~children’s rhyme

Shattered beyond repair-that certainly describes my broken heart in the first days, weeks and months after Dominic’s leaving.

I felt like Humpty Dumpty.

bag-of-fragments

The pieces were too small to find, much less glue back together in anything resembling wholeness.

And the essence of the “old me”-the person that existed before loss-was spilled onto the ground, leaking strength and life and joy into the dry earth.

Humpty Dumpty had no hope-the king’s men and horses were powerless to breathe life into the lifeless bits and pieces that were left.

But I don’t have to depend on the king’s men or the king’s horses.  

I have access to the King Himself.

I am not separated by a veil from the Mercy Seat.

I can come boldly before the Throne of Grace and pile my broken life on the Altar of Hope.

Now that we know what we have—Jesus, this great High Priest with ready access to God—let’s not let it slip through our fingers. We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He’s been through weakness and testing, experienced it all—all but the sin. So let’s walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help.

Hebrews 4:16 MSG

The One Who made me can remake me.

He IS remaking me.

I have no illusions that the cracks won’t show.

But I am trusting that my new fragility will make me both more grace-filled and more grace dependent.   

grace-sufficient

 

 

 

 

 

Falling Leaves

We think leaves fall when we turn the calendar page to Autumn months.

Piles of red, gold and orange land beneath trees that grow increasingly barren until one day they are truly naked.

But leaves begin to fall as early as July-hardly noticed because they drift down lonely, one by one.  

single-leaf

No one is looking for them then.  

And green grass grows tall to hide them.

We think people live to the fullness of years.  They begin in spring and pass through all the seasons before the cold winter claims them.

old-lady

But some survive only one season, or twonever enjoying the fruitful harvest of the latter years the younger years of hard work are meant to produce.

Unlike early falling leaves, early deaths are perceived and acknowledged.

Shocking and unexpected, people gather round to discuss the tragedy, the sorrow and the lost future of one who dies young.

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But then they go away-caught up in the seasons of their own lives.  

And the green grass grows tall to hide the ones who left too soon.

No one is looking for them anymore.  

old homeplace