Have You Seen His Glory?

If I had been around in the intertestamental years of Israel’s history,  I think I’d have been tired of waiting for that promised Messiah the prophets kept crowing about.

I mean, really-how long was it going to take?

What was God waiting on?

What was the plan anyway?

And then, when this young woman shows up claiming to have been overcome by the power of the Holy Ghost-well, that’s a nice fairy tale but hardly how I think God would work this whole thing out.

Except that was EXACTLY how He worked it out-God Himself sent His Son to be born of a virgin and to live as a perfect man and to offer Himself as the perfect and sufficient sacrifice for sin.

Jesus the Messiah, the Christ, revealed Himself to His disciples.  He gave them a glimpse of His glory-the glory of the one and only Son of the Living God.

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

John 1;14 NIV

We no longer have to wonder what God is like or what He is up to.

He is full of grace and truth and He is up to reconciling the world to Himself through the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus.

THAT is glorious.

word became flesh

God Doesn’t Grade on a Curve

When I was in school it was popular to ask a teacher after a test:  “Will you grade on a curve?” The hope was always that since it was unlikely anyone would get a perfect score, the brackets would be moved downward.

cartoon grade on a curve

Very few of us like absolutes.  We prefer to be judged one against another instead of against an unbendable standard.

It’s no different with morality.

If you asked me to judge myself on a scale from Hitler to Mother Teresa, I would definitely put myself closer to her rather to him.

As long I measure myself against other humans, I am comfortable saying I fall in the top 50 percent.

Trouble is, that’s not the standard.

The standard against which my actions and heart attitudes are measured is unchangeable and inflexible.

It is perfection itself-the holiness of a holy God.

And when I place myself next to that measuring rod, I am woefully short.

Jesus shocked His followers by telling them that unless their righteousness exceeded that of the Pharisees (considered the most upstanding and holy in that day) they would never enter the kingdom of God.  He expounded on every aspect of the Ten Commandments by addressing not only outward conformity (which, in truth, was impossible) but also motive and intention.

By that standard, even my “good deeds” are inadequate because they are often done with a wrong heart attitude.

I give because I want someone to think I’m generous.

I volunteer because I am a people pleaser.

I work hard because I want a raise.

Paul wrote in Romans “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;” (Romans 3:23)

I can never “measure up” to the perfect standard of a perfect God.  And while my flesh may be happy with “good enough” the holiness of God demands absolute perfection.

Truth is, I am a sinner-I miss the mark, I step outside the boundaries, I do what I shouldn’t do and don’t do what I should do.

Just like our first parents, I listen to my flesh and the evil one and question God’s goodness and His wisdom.  I want to plot my own course, captain my own ship.

And also like our first parents, I find that I cannot do it.  

I fall woefully short.

I am naked and ashamed, exposed in my sin and without hope for redemption by my own efforts .

In any other story, this would be the end-no hope, no second chances.

But God….

Two of the most beautiful words in the world!  

God has not left me without hope.

He has not left me in my sin.

He has not abandoned me in my desperate state of alienation from my Creator.

He Himself has provided the Sacrifice,

the Perfect Lamb,

the propitiation for my sin.  

lamb of god with crosses

 

 

Repost: Remember: Why Good Friday Matters as Much as Resurrection Sunday

“On the one hand Death is the triumph of Satan, the punishment of the Fall, and the last enemy. Christ shed tears at the grave of Lazarus and sweated blood in Gethsemane: the Life of Lives that was in Him detested this penal obscenity not less than we do, but more.
On the other hand, only he who loses his life will save it. We are baptized into the death of Christ, and it is the remedy for the Fall. Death is, in fact, what some modern people call “ambivalent.” It is Satan’s great weapon and also God’s great weapon: it is holy and unholy; our supreme disgrace and our only hope; the thing Christ came to conquer and the means by which He conquered.”  C.S. Lewis,  Miracles

Bury a child and suddenly the death of Christ becomes oh, so personal. The image of Mary at the foot of the cross is too hard to bear.

Read the rest here:  Remember: Why Good Friday Matters as Much as Resurrection Sunday

Repost: Maundy Thursday

Today is the day on the church calendar when we pause and reflect on the Last Supper, and the last words of Jesus to His disciples.

A year’s worth of sermons is contained in John 13-17 but this week I have been drawn to just one verse:

[Jesus said] “Now I am giving you a new command—love one another. Just as I have loved you, so you must love one another. This is how all men will know that you are my disciples, because you have such love for one another.”  John 13:34 PHILLIPS
Read the rest here:  Maundy Thursday

Mardi Gras and Ash Wednesday: A Study in Contrasts

Twenty-four hours separate one of the most outlandish global parties and one of the most somber religious observances on the Christian calendar.

Many of the same folks show up for both.

Mardi Gras, “Fat Tuesday”, is the last hurrah for those who observe Lent-a time of reflection, self-denial and preparation before Resurrection Sunday.

It’s a giant party-food, fellowship and fun-a wonderful way to celebrate the blessings of this life.

Ash Wednesday, by contrast,  is an invitation to remember that “from dust you came and to dust you will return”.  None of us get out of here alive.

ashwednesday

Even where the Gospel is preached every Sunday there are those who forget this life is hard and often full of pain and suffering.

If your experience so far has looked more like Mardi Gras and less like ashes, well, then-be thankful.

But don’t be deceived.

“From dust you came and to dust you will return.”

For some of us it was a similar twenty-four hour turnaround that upset our world, tossed us headfirst into the waves of sorrow and burned that truth into our hearts, not just dabbed it on our foreheads.

Sometimes I feel excluded from fellowship with the saints because I can’t join in the celebratory spirit of a worship service.

When the hymns only focus on our “victory in Jesus”  my heart cries, “Yes-but perhaps I won’t see the victory this side of heaven.”

When the congregation claps and dances to feel-good songs that celebrate the sunshine but ignore the rain, my eyes swim with tears because I know the reality of a downpour of sorrow.

Because sometimes praise is a sacrifice.

offerings

Church needs to be a place where we can share the pain as well as the promise that Christ will redeem it.

Jesus Himself said,“in this world you will have trouble”.

So I can’t claim allegience to the Church of the Perpetually Cheerful.

I want to create space for the hurting and broken and limping and scared.

How about a new demonination that acknowledges the truth that life is hard.  Instead of the Overcoming Apostolic Praise-filled Ministers of Eternal Optimism I would name it the Trudging But Not Fainting Faithful.

By all means enjoy the “Fat Tuesdays” in life.

Drink them in, dance, celebrate!  But remember that it can change in a heartbeat.  And that it HAS changed for many of us.

There is hope.

All is not lost.

But in the meantime, it’s hard.

will-have-trouble-but-i-have-overcome

 

 

Grief is Not Sin

Grief is not sin.  

It wasn’t until another grieving mom asked the question that I realized there are some (many?) in the community of believers that think grief is sin.

Not at first, mind you-everyone is “allowed” a certain amount of time to get over the loss of a dream, the loss of a job, the loss of health or the loss of a loved one.

But carry that sadness and wounded heart too publicly for too long and you better be ready for someone to question your faith.

And (heaven forbid!) you drag your limping soul to church on Sunday and sit silent during worship, tears streaming, as the rest of the congregation heartily affirms all the things you now wrestle with every day.

Is God good?  ALL the time?  Does God protect the ones He loves?  ALL the time?

“We bring the sacrifice of praise….” What sacrifice have you made lately?  Have you buried a child?

I think anything has the potential to be sin.  If I allow my heart, mind and soul to focus exclusively on what I’ve lost instead of what I’m promised through Jesus Christ, that is sin.  

But grief itself is not sin.

Paul said, “We do not grieve as those who have no hope”  NOT  “we do not grieve”. (I Thessalonians 4:13)

Sadness is not sin.  Sorrow and missing my son is not sin.

For a time, especially at the beginning, grief occupied most of my field of vision.  It’s that huge.  

We are made of dust and it cannot be otherwise.

Death is awful and the redemption of what was lost in the Fall cost God His only son. “The whole creation groans” (mourns, grieves) “to be set free from bondage to decay”. (Romans 8:21-22)

death matters lewis

Jesus cried out, “My God, My God, Why have You forsaken Me?” as He bore the full weight of sin and sorrow of the world.

I believe that grief becomes sin when I choose to turn my face away from God and only toward my sorrow.

If I am holding it and dragging it with me toward the foot of the cross, that’s not sin.

If I turn my heart and face toward the One Who made me and trust that even in this painful place He is carrying me and will care for me, that’s not sin.

The writer of Hebrews speaks of bringing the “sacrifice of praise” (Hebrews 13:15).  It is no sacrifice to praise God for the beautiful blessings.

It is quite the sacrifice to praise God for what Joni Eareckson Tada calls a “bruising of a blessing”.

If I continue to wrestle, like Jacob-clinging and begging for the blessing-I am not sinning when I walk away with the limp the wound leaves behind.

Jesus has opened the way to the throne of grace by His own blood.

I don’t have to hide and I don’t have to be afraid. 

He knows my pain.  He knows my name.

I keep bringing my broken heart to the altar and lift it up in broken praise.

That’s not sin.

It’s the widow’s mite-it’s everything I’ve got.  

 

worship-that-means-something-costs-something

 

Repost: Costly Worship

worship-that-means-something-costs-something

Years ago this verse made me cry-God’s Word pierced my heart and His Spirit spoke, “Genuine offerings COST something.”

David: No, I will buy these things from you. Name your price. I will not make an offering to the Eternal One, my True God, that has cost me nothing.

2 Samuel 24:24 VOICE

I. Had. No. Idea.

But now I do.  

Worship is no longer just singing along to a hymn or praise song, getting in the groove or swaying to the beat.

Worship is a sacrifice.

It. Is. A. Sacrifice.  

It costs me more than I ever thought it would…

And it cost the wise men something too:  Costly Worship