• QUOTE FOR TODAY

    "God is pursuing with omnipotent passion a worldwide purpose of gathering joyful worshipers for Himself from every tribe and tongue and people and nation…Therefore let us bring our affections into line with His, and, for the sake of His name, let us renounce the quest for worldly comforts and join His global purpose."
    -- John Piper

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  • James 2:14-17

    What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?

    In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

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The Cross – Where I Was Restored

Five days ago, palm branches and tunics lined the road passes the Mount of Olives.  Shouts of “Hosanna in the Highest” filled the air as my Savior enteredJerusalemto begin the process that would make my restoration possible.

Tonight the Passover Supper will end in a bitter (yet expected) betrayal, and the moss covered floor in Garden of Gethsemane will soak up the first drops of The Redeemer’s blood as he prayed for me.

And tomorrow….tomorrow brings the mocking and the crown of thorns, tomorrow brings the flogging and the suffering, tomorrow brings the cross….The blood stained timbers that will ultimately take His life but give me life…eternal LIFE.  Jesus paid it all and washed me white as snow.

Thank you Jesus.

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Focus on Worship — Are we amazed?

I came across a song titled Amazed by Jared Anderson.  The lyrics really got me to thinking again on how we enter the presence of our HOLY God.  Take a look:
 
You dance over me,
While I am unaware.
You sing all around,
But I never hear the sound.
 
Lord I’m amazed by You.
Lord I’m amazed by You.
Lord I’m amazed by You.
How You love me.
 
How wide
How deep
How great
Is your love for me
 
My perspective these days is this:  One single sin separates us from God.  The simple fact of the matter is that when God sees the sin in our lives, he sees that his law has been broken.  The payment for breaking God’s law is death….eternal death.  Yet, when we trust in the blood of Christ poured out over our hearts and God sees our sin, instead of pouring out death on us, he is SATISFIED with the SACRIFICE of his perfect, sinless Son.  The payment for sin is poured out on him instead of us.  Read that again:  The payment for sin is poured out on JESUS INSTEAD OF US!!!!!  Somehow, this doesn’t overwhelm us like it should.  It doesn’t amaze us anymore.  Why it is that knowing that ALL OF GOD’S WRATH was poured out on JESUS CHRIST AND NOT YOU AND ME doesn’t knock our legs out from under us to where we have no choice but to fall on our face before him in worship?  Why doesn’t God’s love AMAZE us anymore?  Why Doesn’t Jesus’ sacrifice AMAZE us anymore?
 
Seriously, folks, do you think that Jesus sweat drops of blood in the Garden of Gethsemane in anticipation of the cross, or the flogging, or the nails?   Not a chance.  That torment was the direct result of anticipating ALL OF GOD’S WRATH being poured out on HIM!    This was the final sacrifice.  No ‘do overs’ with another lamb next month…no priests interceding again and again.  This was the final sacrifice.  Remember Jesus’  last words?  IT IS FINISHED.  (For some background go read Leviticus 16 and then read Hebrews 9)
 
GRACE, LOVE, and MERCY cannot just be something we pay lip-service to.  Very simply, we have been called (in part) to worship him.   For us, it is imperative that God’s grace, love, and mercy are hidden in our hearts and evident on our faces as we stand amazed before him. 

Chaos to thoughts to words….sort of

I’m not sure exactly why I decided to write this post.  I guess that somehow I needed to get it out of my head.  All the swirling around of random thoughts this morning needed out if I had any hope of productivity today. 

God continues to poke and push and prod (sometimes even dragging me along in the plan I am avoiding). Yet I resist.

We are all so good at avoiding it.  We look at the life WE have built for ourselves–at the tremendous comfort it brings–and we know that total surrender, while appealing in the heart of that moment, is so scary it sends us running for cover.  And there we live comfortably discontent amongst our ‘stuff’, occasionally peeking over the edge of the pile to see if it’s ok to jump in — like somehow this time will be less frigntening.  The list of fears is HUGE. The potential for pain or rejection is monumental, yet lingering in the back of our minds is the allure of the Holy Spirit (whom I have been doing a good job of ignoring–have you?). Wondering how others will ‘see’ us. Wondering if God will really come through. Discomfort, fatigue, hunger, poverty, lost souls, misguided mindsets, discontent, avoidance, the list goes on and on and on.  It’s about me and then ‘them’ and then about me again—yet, in fact, it isn’t about me at all….maybe that’s the problem.  Why isn’t the cross enough?  I mean, I know it’s enough…. I know God is bigger than all of it, but my heart forgets and it betrays me and it betrays Him and I retreat to the false safety of my stuff once again.

Well, this post is a mess, but I think I’ll leave it this way.  Good luck reading it.

The Reality of the Cross

We’ve all seen the images of the cross.  You know the ones I’m talking about: If you think about it for a minute you can picture the silhouette of the cross against a blazing sunset.  Maybe you’ve seen the three crosses atop a distant mountain with an inspirational verse adorning the clouds.  We’ve all seen the miniature cross hanging from a rear view mirror or on a bumper sticker.  I for one am rather tired of it. I suppose these images can serve as a reminder for someone somehow, but am finding those images wholly ineffective as I consider what Christ did.

The cross is an instrument of torture.  Those two beams combined in that exact shape become a tool of punishment and ultimately an apparatus which is used to bring about death.  Crucifixion is an ugly, horrible, humiliating way to die, and I don’t believe it serves much purpose to keep showing these rosy pictures of an empty cross casting a shadow over a grassy plain somewhere.

C. Truman Davis wrote an essay describing the crucifixion in some detail.  You can read an adaptation here , but let me quote a small portion for you:

As the arms fatigue, great waves of cramps sweep over the muscles, knotting them in deep, relentless, throbbing pain. With these cramps comes the inability to push Himself upward. Hanging by His arms, the pectoral muscles are unable to act. Air can be drawn into the lungs, but cannot be exhaled. Jesus fights to raise Himself in order to get even one short breath. Finally, carbon dioxide builds up in the lungs and in the blood stream and the cramps partially subside. Spasmodically, He is able to push Himself upward to exhale and bring in the life-giving oxygen. Hours of this limitless pain, cycles of twisting, joint-rending cramps, intermittent partial asphyxiation, searing pain as tissue is torn from His lacerated back as He moves up and down against the rough timber. Then another agony begins. A deep crushing pain deep in the chest as the pericardium slowly fills with serum and begins to compress the heart. The compressed heart is struggling to pump heavy, thick, sluggish blood into the tissues – the tortured lungs are making a frantic effort to gasp in small gulps of air. The markedly dehydrated tissues send their flood of stimuli to the brain. Jesus gasps, “I thirst.”

This follows the mocking, the flogging, and the painful walk to Golgotha.  When He arrives at the place of the crucifixion, Jesus has to deal with the nails and then the eventual raising of the cross.

I’m just not sure how we justify some of the images that we see on a daily basis when we have any understanding of what the cross really represents.  Don’t get me wrong…we need to see the cross, but we need to see it for what it represents.  It’s really quite ugly.  It has my sin all over it. It has the sin of the world all over it. It has Christ’s blood all over it.  If you can’t look at it and see that, I’m not sure what good it is doing you.

Part of my discontentment with this whole thing comes from two passages.  In Matthew 14 and again in Luke 16, Jesus tells us that we have to take up our cross and follow him.  May I openly say that I have no desire to go through what Davis quoted above?  But Jesus said it so it must have some application for me.  Only recently have I gained some perspective.  This perspective comes from one verse in Matthew. Read verse 32 of chapter 27:

As they were going out, they met a man from Cyrene, named Simon, and they forced him to carry the cross.

My take here (and maybe I am wrong) is that Jesus didn’t have the strength to carry his own cross.  He started out with it over is shoulder, but was unable to go on.  His earlier references telling his followers that they had to carry their cross seemed to conflict with the fact that Simon carried Jesus’ cross for him.  Did Jesus contradict himself? I don’t think so.  I think he was pointing out that in our own strength we cannot carry our cross. 

The imagery amazes me. Well before his death on the cross, Jesus is telling his followers that they need to take up their cross and follow him. They didn’t know that he would be hanging from a cross in just a few weeks. Everyone knew about the cross. I am certain that they all witnessed a crucifixion, and knew of its horror. Yet with that knowledge and understanding Jesus points out that if they want to follow him, they have to carry their cross. And I have to carry mine….knowing full well that I can’t go more than a few steps without him taking it from me. I still have to bear it, but I need to do that in His strength and not my own. This surrender can only come when I have been drained of all my strength and self reliance and I give it up to him. Oh, there’s another reality. That’s the reality of the empty tomb. For my money if you want to remember what Jesus did for you, go find a small rock in your garden somewhere. Tie a string around it and hang it from your rear view mirror right next to the cross. Yes, He died for you, but three days later that stone was rolled away and the tomb was empty.

How Deep the Father’s Love for Us

How deep the Father’s love for us, how vast beyond all measure.
That He should give His only Son to make a wretch His treasure.
How great the pain of searing loss, the Father turns His face away.
As wounds which mar the chosen One, bring many sons to glory.Behold the Man upon a cross, my sin upon His shoulders.
Ashamed I hear my mocking voice, call out among the scoffers.
It was my sin that held Him there until it was accomplished.
His dying breath has brought me life; I know that it is finished.

I will not boast in anything—no gifts, no power, no wisdom.
But I will boast in Jesus Christ, His death and resurrection.
Why should I gain from His reward?  I cannot give an answer.
But this I know with all my heart:  His wounds have paid my ransom.

 

 

 

On Sunday, I will have the privilege of singing this song during our worship service. 

 

After reading the lyrics and singing through it a few times, I was amazed at its simplicity and tremendous depth.  This hymn was written in 1995 by Stuart Townend.  I wanted to know more about the author so I went first to iTunes and then to the web.  I found his blog and these comments from him regarding this song:

 

            ….I’d been meditating on the cross, and in particular what it cost the Father to give up his beloved Son to a torturous death on a cross. And what was my part in it? Not only was it my sin that put him there, but if I’d lived at that time, it would probably have been me in that crowd, shouting with everyone else ‘crucify him’. It just makes his sacrifice all the more personal, all the more amazing, and all the more humbling.

 

Have you spent time meditating on the cross?  Have you really pondered the torturous death—the price paid by Jesus to make you his treasure?    His treasure!   Somehow we have to get past the emotion of it all and really get it into our heads.  Your walk with Jesus can not be purely emotional.  Your faith cannot be rooted in the sentiment of the His love, nor the ‘feeling’ of it all.  It has to be rooted IN HIS LOVE.  The emotion can be part of it, but you have to get it into you heart, and into your head.  Somehow we all have to get to a point where it is an all-consuming relationship. 

 

If you found my blog by accident, I hope you will take time to read the lyrics and really get them into your heart.  For it was “his dying breath that brought us life,” and “his wounds that paid our ransom.”  This is one of the ways that God will get a hold of you.  This is one of the ways he will keep you.  If you stop by regularly, please feel free to link to this post, or get the lyrics out there somehow. 

 

If you want to hear the song, I found several artists who have recorded How Deep the Father’s Love for Us. I would recommend the version done by Phillips, Craig, & Dean or the one by Nicole Nordeman. 

 

God Bless. 

Forgiveness

Do you hear the shouts?  Listen closely to the shouts of rage and hatred by a crowd whose unified voice mirrors your own!  Are you leading the chorus or merely following?  Do you feel the adrenaline coursing through you?  

Do you hear His cries?  Do you hear your name as He prays for you while He walks this road by himself?  Can you deny that you heard Him say your name?  Is it the crowd that drowns out his anguish?  Is it the roar of the crowd that covers His sorrow?  Or, is it your own sin?  Why are you here?  Are you excited now, or terrified? 

Why are you here?  Do you know why you here?  LOOK AT ME AND ANSWER THE QUESTION!  Do you know WHY YOU ARE HERE?  Do you know why He is here?  SHOULD IT BE YOU?  Why do you keep following Him along this dusty road?   Look at your feet.  Go ahead, look at them!  LOOK!  Your dusty feet are walking in His very footsteps.  Your sandals are covered in His blood.  Can you hear your heart beating?  Can you feel your heart beginning to pound deep in your chest?  You don’t know why, do you? 

Do you hear the clang as the hammer first hits the spike?  Do you hear the crunch as it pierces His skin and shatters bone?  Do you hear Him scream as the nail is driven deep into the wood? Watch as they stretch him before the second spike is driven through his arm.  Do you hear it when His shoulder separates?  Did you notice that He no longer cries out in pain?  Do you wonder why?  Look at your tunic.  Touch your face.  His blood is on you….splatter from the spike driven firmly into the timber.  Are you nauseous, yet? 

Do you see the timber?  Can you even look at the course, uneven, violent timber that tears at the wounds on his back?  Do you see the splinters and shards like small spears running the full length of the rough sawn wood?  Wood soaked with blood and sweat and spit.  Is that your spit?  Do you see the broken pieces of wood embedded in His flesh?  Can you watch as drop after drop of blood trickles down each splinter and falls to the ground?   How can you still be here?  Why don’t you look away?   Are you ready to vomit?   As your own sweat mixes with His blood what are you thinking?

As the cross drops violently into the hole where it now stands, do you hear bone break and flesh rip as the weight of his broken body pulls against his arms and feet?  As He struggles for life, pushing up with His legs for each ragged breath, do you see the timber open each wound on his back?  Can you see each splinter dig further into his flesh? 

Do you see the hole in the ground?  Can you even look at the hole in the ground where the timber stands?  Take a look!  You’ve come this far, so take a long look.  Study it!  As the blood trickles down the wood, do you see how begins to pool in the hole.  Look how it mixes with the dust, and forms a paste that ties the cross to the Earth.   Don’t hang your head now!  This is about you, not Him.

Don’t look at me like that!  You knew!  You knew back when you heard him pray for you BY NAME!  This is about you.  This is about your sin.

 “I Thirst” 

Take the sponge!  I said take it!   Now bring it to him.  Look at yourself.  Your own sweat mixed with His blood; covered in your own vomit.  How can you even approach him?    He’s thirsty.  Send it up to Him.  What are you waiting for? 

Did you see him look at you?  What did you see in His eyes?  Did you see condemnation or do you see……..

 “Father, into your hands I commit my Spirit” 

Will you ever know what you saw in His eyes?  Or, is it too late?  Will you ever understand exactly what He did for you here?  Can you ever comprehend the price that was paid for you on that cross? 

 

How long are you going to sit here in the dark?  It’s been days!    It’s over!  What are you waiting for?

My friend, pick up your head.  Your sin is gone!  The blood that covers you – His blood—took your sin and washed it away.  Trust me.  Trust me.   Forget me……Trust HIM!  You are forgiven.

Come on!  We need to get somewhere else!  Hurry!    Hurry, you’ve got to run!

There!  See the tomb?  Watch.  Watch carefully!

There! There it is!  Look at the light coming from around the stone.  Do you see it?  Now watch.

Look, did you see the stone move?  Can you see him in the tomb?  Look closer!  Go on up there if you have to.  Look!

What? What did you see?    

 

Oh, I know He’s not there!  But you had to see it for yourself. 

So, what exactly did you see in His eyes back on the cross? 

That’s right.  I think you understand now.