Sunday, March 29, 2015

I Am a Friend of God

"You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly...But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."
Romans 5: 6-11

     It had to be this way. When Jesus died, none of his closest friends hung around. If they had, perhaps they could have claimed, "Well, he sacrificed his life for me because I was always there for him." No, we've all sinned and fallen short of the grace he demonstrated. At just the right time, when we were powerless, without a leg to stand on, all the glory, credit, praise, thanks and attention is focused on Jesus' love for the Father and for us.

     Paul goes on to say, "For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!" I looked up the word "reconcile" in the dictionary and smiled when I read, "to make friendly again." Jesus' death, while I was blackened by sin, made me friends with God. So, Paul is right to be excited about the abundance of joy that follows.

     The gift-giving didn't stop on Good Friday. No, God was only getting started. On Easter, our friendship really begins to blossom as I serve a risen Savior.

     Dear God,

     I've been told that we are friends. Friendship is usually a two-way street, but you desired a relationship with me while I was still your enemy. Dead in my sin and stinking like the devil, you were still fond of me. I'll never understand why, but may I reciprocate with all the love I have. Thanks to Jesus' death on the cross, we are able to be allies, on the same side of the struggle - a struggle I could never hope to win alone, but by your power, I am saved. Hellfire may have singed my coattails, but the pierced hands of Jesus grabbed me just in time. Thank you! I love you!

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Whitewashed Christian

"Because the Jews did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down."
John 19: 28-37

     Why am I not surprised at this foolishness of the human heart? More concerned with how it will look, these self-righteous, whitewashed tombs did not want the ugliness of what they had done to an innocent man to mar their special Sabbath. They think by sweeping it under the rug they can then proceed with their Passover celebration. They just killed God!

     My own sinfulness convicts me, however. Unless I live each day with my heart wide open before God, led by the Spirit, I easily become a whitewashed Christian who only looks good on the outside. I can attend church, sing hymns and bow my head in prayer, but unless I sincerely repent of my sins and cry in humility for forgiveness at the foot of the cross, then I am only going through foolish motions.

     Oh, Jesus, I don't want to be that way - ever! Cleanse me, discipline and sanctify me, lead me as a Shepherd so that I may sparkle with your radiance.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

The Beautiful Cat

"And God saw that it was good. Then God said, 'Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over the creatures that move along the ground."
Genesis 1: 25, 26

Dear Father,

     What were you thinking of when you created the cat? In your wisdom, you provided it with all the right stuff:
  • whiskers, to guide it in the dark
  • smooth pads, so it would walk gracefully and quietly
  • a sandpaper tongue, so it could clean efficiently
  • sharp claws, for defense and survival
  • a selection of teeth, to tear and to grind
  • a sleek tail, for balance and poise
  • ability to purr, to convey contentment
  • strong legs, to jump high
     Or were you thinking of the people who would love them for their:
  • curiosity, to make us laugh
  • smooth heads, to kiss and to pet
  • fluffy tummies in which to bury our nose
  • soft fur, to spark with static beneath our hand
  • glass-marble eyes, to watch our every move
  • inate love, to greet us at the door and curl on our lap
     I believe you were thinking of all these things when you created this fine animal. I praise you for allowing some animals to remain in relationship with people after The Fall, because the love I share with my cat reminds me of how much you love me. What a lovely gift!

Closer Than My Close Friend

"The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything."
Philippians 4: 5 & 6

     "The Lord is near." How close is He? Like a next door neighbor that I could run to in time of need? Like the pastor down the street who could answer all my questions? Like a phone call away, or like my best friend who knows my intimate secrets and my idiosyncrasies?

     The Lord is nearer than even those: he dwells within my heart, nearer than my own breath. I don't have to worry that he is not home, that he won't answer the phone or come to my need. Jesus promised in Revelation 3:20: "If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in..." It is me who must open the door! He calls for me! My phone is the one ringing!

     Lord, each day I must make sure my door is ajar for you. If Satan and sin seep in, darkness and selfishness thus prevail, making my life miserable. I have lived like that and know by experience how empty, cold and lonely life is without you. Whatever I worry about today, sweep it under the rug with this dear reminder that you are so very near. Thank you!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Humpty Dumpty

"It is the Lord who goes before you; he will march with you; he will not fail you or forsake you; fear not, neither become broken."
Deuteronomy 31:8

     Ever feel broken? Like Humpty Dumpty, you feel like everyone in the vicinity is trying to reassemble you, but no one can piece you back together?

     When a man and a woman vow to become one at the altar of the Lord, I'd like to think they have the best of intentions. Why get married if failure is on the menu? Yet, this fabric is often woven in sadness, silence and solitude as the two wonder if they are really one.

     Casting Crowns recorded a song entitled, "Broken Together." Here is a stanza from the lyrics:

"How I wish we could go back to simpler times,
Before all our scars and all our secrets were in the light.
Now, on this hallowed ground,
We've drawn the battle lines.
Will we make it through the night?"
     We have a Valiant One who carries the Sword of the Spirit and girds himself with the Belt of Truth. Envision the Lord, going before you, strident in a confident march, never failing, never forsaking, empowering us by chiding, "Fear Not!"
     When you feel as though you can't make it through the night, realize that it's human to be broken and that only God can piece you back together again.
     I close with the chorus of "Broken Together:"
"Maybe you and I were never meant to be complete.
Could we just be broken together?
If you can bring your shattered dreams and I'll bring mine,
Could healing be spoken and save us?
The only way we'll last forever is broken together."

Jesus, the Great Reformer

"The Lord said to Moses, 'Say to Aaron, "For the generations to come none of your descendants who has a defect may come near...No man who is blind or lame, disfigured or deformed, no man with a crippled foot or hand, or who is hunchbacked or dwarfed or who has any eye defect or festering sores or damaged testicles. No descendant of Aaron the priest who has any defect is to come near to present the offerings made to the Lord by fire...because of his defect he must not go near the curtain or approach the altar and so desecrate my sanctuary."
Leviticus 21: 16-23

     Having decided to read through the Bible in a year's time, I find myself sullenly slogging through Leviticus. I find it so full of rules, demands and stiff expectations. To be honest, God seems so aloof and unloving that it depresses me to read this.

     However, I know that all scripture has purpose so I strive to see the larger picture. I see this setting the stage for the beauty of our Messiah. The sinfulness of mankind so separates us from the holiness of God, we wonder how we can ever approach the Holy of Holies?

     When Jesus walked this earth, he had compassion on the lame man who had no one to help him into the pool of Bethesda. He touched the leper whom everyone shunned. He broke barriers of social stigma by speaking to the Samaritan woman by the well. He mixed mud with saliva and applied the strange salve on the eyes of a blind man. He touched the dead and they came to life.

     The God I see in Leviticus is demonstrating his pure holiness, but the God of the Gospels bridges far more than just the way to heaven. He restores relationships.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

A Pierced Soul

"Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother...When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, 'Dear woman, here is your son' and to the disciple, 'Here is your mother.' From that time on, this disciple took her into his home."
John 19: 25-27

     My heart wrings when I think of Jesus, hanging on a tree - his clothes removed and gambled away, his mother watching. I wonder if Mary was exhuming all of those memories she pondered in her heart: the angel who announced her pregnancy, the shepherds who were heralded by the heavenly host, the old man, Simeon, who blessed them in the temple, the twelve-year-old son who must be about his Father's business. Her life, as the mother of the Messiah, flashed before her eyes as she incredulously watched the grisly scene unfold on Calvary.

     This was the sword that would pierce her own soul which Simeon spoke of all those years ago. What could all this mean? Why did God bring this Son of hers into this demise? How hard it must have been, watching this mysterious plan unfolding before her teary eyes. A criminal's execution on a cursed tree? But the angel Gabriel told her, "He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end." (Luke 1: 32, 33) Yet, here he was being mocked, spat upon and humiliated.

     I picture God, leaning down close to Mary, whispering to her bruised and bewildered spirit: "Have faith, Mary. I know what I'm doing."

     Lord, remind me of these gentle and obedient saints like Mary, world-weary people who clung to your promises like a lifeline. As I view life through the lens of faith, may I strive to be a part of the plan, like the lovely Mary.

    "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see."
Hebrews 11:1