Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Cool of the Day

Imagine being Adam and Eve, juice still dripping from their chins, and hearing this:
The Lord God called to the man, "Where are you?"--Genesis 3:9

As if He didn't already know.
But His question reminded Adam and Eve they'd done something wrong. And they grabbed for fig leaves, looking for a place to hide..
It's easy to see that not much has changed. 
We still sin, we still feel shame, and we still try to hide.

And God still takes the initiative to find us.
He still asks, "Where are you?"
This is the real beauty of Eden--God was already seeking Adam before Adam gave Him a thought.  
Adam languished with his wife, satiated, absorbed, waiting to become as wise as God, when God interrupted Adam's torpor with a reminder that He still walked in the cool of the day and still wanted Adam, now disqualified, as a companion.

He does the same for us.
While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.--Romans 5:8
The Son of Man came to seek what was lost.--Luke 19:10

He calls, He leads; we answer, we follow.
And when we do, we can walk again with Him in the cool of the day.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

What I Want

What do I want more than anything else?
Happiness, safety, comfort, health, wealth?  Yes, I want all of these.
But one thing above all others?

Yes, there is one thing.
I want--we all want--this:
What a man desires is unfailing love.--Proverbs 19:22

Yes, that's it.
I want to be loved without hesitation or interruption, no matter whether I am good, or cranky, or even downright evil.
I want a lover I cannot wear down, ever.
I want a companion who comes back time after blessed time, no matter what I do.

Because I know that no other love is love at all.
Love that even hints at an end is just a brief stroke from a generous hand.  It's negotiation.  It is a dream.

Love has one impossible, defining characteristic.
Love never fails.--1 Corinthians 13:8

In a human world, love always fails.
I want a lover who loves me, not because of who I am, but in spite of it.
I need this kind of love because without unfailing love, I will fall, completely and disastrously.

And I can find this kind of love, but I have only one option.  No man, no child, no friend can give it.
I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ and to know that this love surpasses knowledge..--Ephesians 3:17-19

No person can truly love, but Christ can, surpassing reason and knowledge, rising above flesh and blood, walking out of the grave and taking my hand so He can show me the way home.
That is what I want.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Why Didn't I Take the Blue Pill?

Nuts. Here I thought I had to do something bad to succumb to evil.  I don't.  All I have to do is give up. 

Following Christ has brought so much to my life--a hope and a purpose, a solid foundation, a clear path to walk, a promise of eternity, the touch of God Himself--but sometimes it doesn't seem like enough.

It's not enough when justice does not appear to be served.
It's not enough when Christians don't act like Christ.
It's not enough when I get tired of fighting.
It's not enough when the world behaves so much like, well, the world.

When evil triumphs.  When power and privilege corrupt, then corrupt more. When people who have made wrong decisions make worse ones.  

Living went so much more smoothly when I went with the flow, when I let the world carry me along rather than buck its trend, even though I know its trend leads to destruction.
Anyone who tries to follow Christ is subject to this:
I am afraid that, just as Eve was deceived by the serpent's cunning, your minds might be led astray from devotion to Christ.--2Corinthians 11:3

In the end, an expectation of ease leads to evil.  It happened to Adam and Eve.  It happens to us.

We have got to understand that our lives as Christians will be hard and will not get much easier this side of heaven.  That's why God warns us that He has to be enough.  Always.  Just Him.
Since they did not think knowledge  of God worthwhile, He gave them over to a depraved mind to do what ought not to be done.--Romans 1:28

God gives us peace, but peace does not equal ease.
As odd as it sounds, peace comes from not giving up, from arming ourselves every day, from admitting that the world is Satan's territory and a hostile place, then living in it as God's own.  
Ease and comfort come with living in Satan's world as Satan's own, and this I cannot do.
I know the truth.  I already took the red pill.  There is no going back.

Lord search me; test me and know my anxious thoughts.--Psalm 139:23

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Sorry, Ma'am, You're Not On The List.

We have a lot of nerve thinking we can get into heaven.
When I think about it, I see only two choices in this heaven thing.  Either heaven is open to everybody because God loves us, or nobody because though He loves us, we are sinners and don't belong. I tend toward the second.  After all, if heaven were my party, I probably wouldn't want any gate crashers, so I figure that God doesn't, either.

A good thing I'm not in charge.  God sees it quite differently.  Jesus said so.

Let the world know that You have loved them as You have loved Me.  I want those You have given Me to be where I am, to see My glory, the glory you gave Me before the creation of the world.--John 17:23-24

But getting in is another matter.
I know I don't belong in heaven.  If left on my own, I would stand forever out on the sidewalk, facing whatever angels guard heaven's gates.  I do not, nor will I ever, make God's "A" list for anything I have done. 

I love God, but that won't get me into heaven.
I try to do right, but that won't get me into heaven.
People pray for me, but that won't get me into heaven.
I go to church, but that won't get me into heaven.
I read my Bible, but that won't get me into heaven.

I have only one hope for heaven.
God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son so that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life.--John 3:16

That's it.  My one ticket.  Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice.
You see, I don't have to try to get into heaven by myself.
Jesus walks me up the sidewalk and when we get to the door, tells the guards, "She's with me."

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Shedding the Weight

"How do I get to heaven?" she asked.

I was proud of myself.  I knew the answer.
"Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved."--Acts 16:31

"So, I just have to believe in God, I'm saved?"

Hmmm...I knew that wasn't quite right.  I went back to the drawing board.

I know that, to get to heaven, God must forgive my sins.  That's the business He transacted on Calvary--forgiveness for all men--all.  
I also know that not everyone goes to heaven. 

Jesus arranged forgiveness, but what happens after that?
How DO we get to heaven? 

I thought of the parables Jesus used to explain heaven: the ten virgins, the farmer sowing seed, the prodigal son.  Then I thought of that woman--the one who embarrassed the Pharisees at their own dinner table by crawling on the floor anointing Jesus' feet and crying.  She was going to heaven.  What was special about her?

Her many sins have been forgiven, for she loved much.  But he who has been forgiven little, loves little.--Luke 7:47

This woman knew without doubt that she was a monster sinner, so she clung to her Savior.  She clung, and cried, and touched Him for the sheer relief and wonder of it.  She loved Him with abandon because, of everyone there, she alone understood.

Then I understood, too.
We are all that woman.
We all bear the same dreadful weight of sin.  But some know it, and some don't.  Those who know it go to heaven. 

We are saved when we know we need to be, really, achingly, desperately.  We are saved when we know that no one but Christ can usher us into heaven, that our own good deeds are dirty rags, that we are lost, literally lost, without Him.

Some became fools through their rebellious ways and suffered affliction because of their iniquities.  Then they cried to the Lord and He saved them from their trouble.  Give thanks to the Lord for His unfailing love and His wonderful deeds for men.--Psalm 107: 17, 19, 21

Christ lifted the weight of sin from all men on Calvary, but He does it individually for each man only when our eyes at last meet His and we see.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Look In My Eyes

It happened again.  When will I learn?  Just when I trust, just when I relax into a relationship or circumstance, BANG!  The thing goes bad somehow. Thoughtlessness, carelessness, ill will, or just plain bad luck brings it all down in an instant.  I hate this part.  I really do.

Then God reminds me that this all happens because I let it.
Listen to me.  Who are you that fear mortal men? Awake as in days gone by. Do not fear the reproach of men. Clothe yourselves in strength, O arm of the Lord.--from Isaiah 51: 1-16

I am the arm of the Lord.
Not in the sense of administering His punishment or judgement, but in that He provides the strength with which I face my life in this world, whatever that life brings.
I am He who comforts you.  The cowering prisoners will soon be set free.  The ransomed of the Lord will return.--from Isaiah 51:1-16
Is anything too hard for the Lord?--Genesis 18:14

God is already acting on my behalf and I do not see it.
You come to the help of those who gladly do right, who remember your ways.-Isaiah 64:5
All nations will be blessed because you obeyed me.--Genesis 22:18

When we want our children to listen to us, we gently turn their face to ours and say to them, "Look in my eyes."
What does God say?
Listen to me.--Isaiah 51: 1
Effectively, He says, "Look in my eyes."
Remember what I have already done.
Remember what I have promised.
As I have done, so will I continue to do.

See, I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up.  Do you not perceive it?  I am making a way in the desert.--Isaiah 43:18-19

Life does seem like a desert sometimes, but God has already redeemed it.  Neither man nor circumstance can harm me in any real way if I have believed God.  He has already shown me, and bids me remember.  I must remember how He strengthens my arm.

This strength is what belief looks like.
Hurt, misfortune, intentional harm.
When I look into His eyes, it all fades.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

I think, therefore...

Descartes thought he had it all figured out.
"I think, therefore, I am."
If he can think, he deduced, he must exist, and thereby he established an intimate connection between thinking and existence, a correct one as far as it goes.

However, Descartes didn't deduce the depth of the connection between thought and physical reality.  When one considers God, rather than man, thought and reality become essentially the same thing.

And God said, Let there be light.--Genesis 1:3
And God said, Let there be an expanse between the waters.--Genesis 1:6
And God said, Let the land produce...--Genesis  1:11and so on.

Remember, our Creator doesn't have a mouth.  When God said, He thought.  His saying is done as effortlessly as thinking.  He thought the world into existence--the whole heaven, the whole earth.
There is no separation or hesitation between what God thinks and what happens.
There wasn't then; there isn't now.

 Now, with that in mind, consider this:
He chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love He predestined us to be adopted as His sons through Jesus Christ...--Ephesians 1:4-5

Here as in the very act of creation, no pause exists between God's thought or will and its accomplishment or reality.  If He chooses, it happens at the same moment that the choice is made.

It is different for us, and a good thing, too.
Imagine if everything we thought actually happened--Yikes.
No, to make stuff happen we, as humans, have to DO something.

God has already both purposed and accomplished salvation.  We, however, have to act.  We not only have to know we can be saved, we have to turn the thought into deed:
If you confess with your mouth "Jesus is Lord" and believe in your heart God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved--Romans 10:9
Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.--Romans 10:13

Descartes got it partly right.  He existed, as do we, not because he thinks, but because God thought.
We know salvation for the same reason.
But our humanity does not wrap around that, so we join with God's will the only way we can--by both belief and the action of consent.
We say, "Yes, Lord."

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Seeing Red

I can't get her out of my mind.
I keep thinking about that tender woman in the crowds by the lake at Galilee, bleeding out, slow drop by slow drop.
Weak, pale, outcast.  She crawled through the crowd, propelled by a faith born of desperation.  Desperation.  But it was enough.  She reached out.

Then, unbidden, with the touch of grace and power that He wrapped around Him like a sweet cloak, Jesus stopped her bleeding.
Facing His own passion, His own blood sacrifice, He spared hers.

Daughter, your faith has healed you.  Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.--Mark 5:34

That's the way it works.  Freedom is purchased by the blood of one for the benefit of another.  So it did that day, and so it does for us. Just as for all the blood shed for freedom through long ages of men, as it flowed from one, it stopped for another. 
The woman did contribute something, however.
She contributed faith.

Today, we remember that much blood has flowed for freedom and still does, but as it does, it causes us to yearn for a day when, like for this woman, another exchange for freedom awaits. The Lord of the universe promises an end to the bleeding.  Rather than life's blood, we long to offer faith alone and be freed from suffering.

His blood flowed once for all, but our blood continues to stain the world.
Someday, we will know freedom from that, too.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Be Careful What You Ask For

Poor Solomon.
God asked him what he wanted and Solomon asked for wisdom.  A good thing.  Very good, everyone seemed to think.  And God gave him piles of it, along with piles of everything else--power, wealth, wives.

It started out all right, like the dead baby incident, when wisdom came in pretty handy for figuring stuff out.

With time, however, wisdom brought Solomon a kind of clarity he didn't particularly like, and he wrote about it in Ecclesiastes.
Meaningless! Meaningless!  Everything is meaningless!--Ecclesiastes 1:2
So this is where wisdom leads?  Apparently, it is.

God's gift of wisdom gave Solomon a clear view of man, much clearer than he liked.  And this is what he saw:
Work achieves nothing lasting  (Ecc 2:11)
Men continually mess up  (Ecc 7:20 and 8:14)
Riches and wisdom make little difference in the end (Ecc 10:6)

God showed Solomon that, even though he was a great man, he was still a man.
This only have I found:  God made man upright, but men have gone in search of many schemes.--Ecc 7:29
God showed him that, for all Solomon's wisdom, he was still a sinner.
There is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins.--Ecc 7:20

Solomon thought his wisdom would help make him a better man.  Instead, it only helped him see mankind's failings more clearly.  In the end, wisdom differed very little from any other possession he'd accumulated.  

God graciously put Solomon in his place, and Solomon left a bit deflated, but finally seeing with a wisdom greater than his own.

In the end, Solomon concluded this:
Live your life, remembering that you sin.
Be happy as you can with what you are given, remembering that it will not last.
Love God.  Obey Him, remembering that only He sees righteousness clearly, and only His perfect wisdom lasts forever.  (Ecc 7:13, 12:13)

Not what Solomon expected, but not so bad after all.