Saturday, April 28, 2012

Why the Apple was Delicious

Eve picked the apple because it was beautiful and juicy.  I suspect it tasted sweet and made a satisfying crunch when she bit into it.  God could have made it ugly or poisonous, but He didn't.

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good and pleasing to the eye and desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some, and ate it.--Genesis 3:6

It made sense to her.  The tree, after all, held the knowledge of good and evil.  Knowledge is good, right?  The fruit was supposed to bring wisdom.  God wants us to be wise, doesn't He?

It made sense.  Simple, common sense.  So what was the problem?

The problem wasn't with the apple.  The apple itself was fine, exactly what it was made to be.  The problem was Eve.  And what she thought of God.

Eve thought of the apple first, not God.  According to Eve's reasoning and common sense, the apple should have brought wisdom, but it brought death for only one reason: God said it would.  

God's command supersedes appearances and simple deduction and common sense. If common sense ruled, knowledge of good and evil would have brought Eve the advantages of wisdom and we would all have profited by it.  But it didn't because God knew that, in the end, it would destroy us, and it did.

It is not the worth of a thing itself that matters most.  It is whether God, in His infinite wisdom, affirms or denies our access to it. Temptation ties itself not to the thing, but to our willingness to trust and obey. 

Jesus saw this immediately when Satan came to visit Him:
Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.--Matthew 4:4

Plain obedience satisfied Christ.  Should it not satisfy us as well?

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Walking up the Hill

I can't help it.  I want health, and love, and good fortune.  Whenever life alternatives present themselves, I prefer one outcome over another--the easier, pleasanter one.

God already knows what I want, of course, but I tell Him anyway.  When life gets tough, I pray...
"Please, God, let my son grow into a man, a man after your own heart."
"Please, God, let my husband not have cancer."
"Please.  Please."

And God can say "No."
He can say, "I will do with your son as I see fit." or "It's time for your husband to come home to me."
"No, please....No, God."

That's when the problem expands from the situation itself to the condition of my own heart. Is this my crisis of faith?  Am I lukewarm because I want one alternative over the other?

Then I remember Jesus:
My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me.--Matthew 26:39

Jesus had a preference for outcome, too. His body did not want to suffer either, and we share the same kind of bloody, heartbeating flesh.  My humanity, like His, longs for ease and communion.

Wanting these is not the crisis of faith. The crisis comes not in the wanting, but in the response--the ability to say, like Jesus did,
Yet not as I will, but as You will.--Matthew 26:39

Ease and good fortune have their eyes focused on earth.  My sweet God wants me to look higher and when I do, I find, like Him, the joy set before me. Then, with Christ beside and my eyes fixed resolutely on my own Calvary, I can walk up the hill.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Reaching In

God's most frequent admonition for us is to believe.  "Come to me," He says.  "Know me."  "Trust me."  And we do for a little while, but then the days come when we do not.  Heavy, dark days.  Lonely days.  Days when we know He has died and been buried and we don't know what to do next.  We heard that He had risen from the grave, but we haven't seen Him.

He has instructions for these times:
Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.--John 14:27
Do not worry about your life--Matthew 6:25
Cast your cares on the Lord.--Psalm 55:22

We try, but the sadness persists.

That is when our sweet Lord offers us His side.
Put your finger here.  Reach out your hand and put it into my side.  Stop doubting and believe.--John 20:27

He is real.  He had died and risen.  He has rescued us from death.  No matter how we feel, we must know that His wound  has bled real blood so that we can know peace, so that we can be free.  And when, on some days, the knowledge of these is not enough, we can reach our hand into His side, feel His pulse, and know, really know.

 He does not shrink back from our touch.  We cannot shrink from His.
I am with you always, to the very end of the age.--Matthew 28:20

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Feeling My Way

Some days, I know that God is near.  And some days, I reach out for Him and can't grab on.  I feel nothing, encounter no reassuring presence, no supporting pressure from the everlasting arms.  These are the times, the times when senses fail, that I must remember.

It was not their sword that won the land, nor did their arm bring them victory; it was Your right hand, Your face, for You loved them.--Psalm 44:3

God is there when I do not see His face.  He is there when I cannot sense Him near.  Just like trying to maneuver around familiar surroundings in the dark--I put one foot in front of the other in the direction He last showed me, confident that He has not changed.  I know where I last saw his footprints, last beheld His face.  That is where He still waits for me.  

Many are asking, who can show us any good?  Let the light of Your face shine on us, O Lord.--Psalm 4:6

You shine on us when we cannot see.  You love us when we cannot feel.  You guide us when we cannot acknowledge Your nudge.  

If those who believe but do not see are blessed, equally blessed must be those who know but cannot feel and whose steps remain resolute in darkness, sadness, loneliness, pain, and doubt. His right hand still holds us.  His face still shines on us, for He loves us.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Watching Our Steps

Look out! You're going to trip!  If you're not careful, you'll fall! 

Stumbling hurts. It can give you a scraped knee or get a fat lip.  Falling, however...well, falling means big trouble.  Falling can mean destruction.

But stumbling, common to us all, does not, because God catches those who delight Him.
If the Lord delights in a man's way, He makes his steps firm.  Though he stumble, he will not fall for the Lord upholds him with His hand.--Psalm 37:23-24
A righteous man may have many troubles, but the Lords delivers him from them all.--Psalm 34:19
The Lord watches over the way of the righteous.--Psalm 1:6

We can't behave well enough, we can't walk carefully enough, to stay completely out of trouble.  We will slip, and often.  But our God, because we delight Him, because He has made us righteous, will keep us safe.

Our job, then, is to delight in Him, to acknowledge His saving grace, to know that His cross made us righteous. 

When we delight God in righteousness, we become eligible for God's mercy.  Then He can bring all of His mighty power to make sure that, although we slip, we will not fall.  He watches our steps.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Offering My Back

Lord.  Savior.  Son of God.  Son of Man.  Who was Jesus, really?  What was He like?  Maybe not like we think.

He was a man of sorrows, familiar with suffering.--Isaiah 53:3

Jesus didn't suffer only under the whips or on the cross; He was familiar with suffering.  He knew it well, and I am supposed to be like Him.  But I expect to be happy, to find goodness in daily living, to smile often and laugh with abandon, to know amusement and warmth and love.  I do not want familiarity with suffering.

Jesus tells me to be like Him, to follow Him, to die to myself and to be holy, that is, dedicated, to Him.  In theory, I agree.  Then He gives me a chance to do it.

I offered my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who pulled my beard.--Isaiah 50:6

Whenever the only discomfort at stake was His own, Jesus did not defend Himself.  Ever.  He defended the defenseless, He defended His Father, but He did not defend Himself.  And I am supposed to imitate Him.

Jesus was born sinless and died the same way.  I do not. I was born in sin and live there.  Opportunities to be falsely accused come rarely.  I am much more likely to be guilty than innocent.  But there are those times...those rare times....when I reap harsh treatment I didn't earn, when the only one hurt is myself.  In these come my opportunities to be like Him.  

Rather than leap to my own defense, I must bare my back and accept the stripes, not acting the martyr, but behaving like a child of the King. 

I know all too well that I am not like Jesus.  Please let me recognize the few chances I get to truly follow Him.  I will not see much goodness of men in this land of the living, but I will see His goodness.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

How He Finishes It

The cross.  The lamb.  The blood.  There are levels of knowing. How can this horrible act remove my sin?  And where, then, does that forgiven sin go?

Every year I watch Jesus struggle His weary way up the hill, listen to the hammers, wait for the words, 'My God, My God..."  I know the reason for all this.  This horror, this terrifying travesty happened because I sinned, because we all sinned, and because God could not tolerate that.  He could not leave it alone.

God made the Jews kill sweet young lambs to repair this sin.  He made them cast out goats into the wilderness to die because of it.  He told His people that these innocent animals bore the sins of  men.  He made those same men sentence to death what would otherwise nourish them.

Then He sent Jesus.

Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.  He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit.--1Peter 3:18.

So, by God's act and decree, what He did to Himself He also does in me.  Jesus Christ died, and so must I.  My corrupt body, my sin, what I am in this world must be put to death so that, like Christ, my Spirit can be raised up.

I must die to the world.  I must die to finish in me what Christ did for all.  As I recognize, confess, and repent of each sin, Christ takes them from me with hands both tender and bleeding, and absorbs them into His own wounds, carries them in His own flesh and blood, and they die there.

On the cross, my sins are carried as far as the east is from the west because Christ moves them from earth to Himself.  By this single act, He gathers sins daily from all confessing believers and transports them to the instant of His own death, a cataclysm shaking heaven and earth, and pronounces, "It is finished."