Sunday, March 31, 2013

Dead or Alive?

Photo credit: 
He's dead, you know.
He died on Friday. On the cross.
And we are supposed to follow Him.
I am crucified with Christ and I no longer live.--Galatians 2:20

We are supposed to die, too.
But, at the same time, we are supposed to live:
The life I live in the body I live in faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave His life for me.--Galatians 2:20

I am not dead. I breathe. I eat.
I am not a spirit, or an angel.
I am not like Christ.
I have to live. I have to. Don't I?
But the Bible tells me to die.   Crucified.   Like Christ.

Because there's more.
Jesus didn't stay dead.
Jesus rose from the dead on Sunday, and I'm supposed to do the same.
If we died with Him, we will also live with Him.--2Timothy 2:11
Arise, shine, for your light has come and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.--Isaiah 60:1

If the death I die is Christ's death, the life to which I rise is Christ's life. 
I can die because Jesus did.
I can live because He does.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Crucifixion Song

The moment of greatest defeat.
The moment of greatest victory.
Good Friday.
We hear Christ, in His agony, crying out, but the words....the words....
To the Jews within hearing, they were so familiar...

My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?--Psalm 22:1 and Matthew 28:46

They knew those words. They had memorized them from David's Psalm 22.
And they knew what came next.
They watched and heard prophecy being fulfilled before their eyes and ears.

I am a worm and no man, scorned by men and despised by the people.
All who see me mock me...He trusts in the Lord; let the Lord rescue Him.
I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint.
A band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and feet.
I can count all my bones; people stare and gloat over me.
They divide my garments among them, and cast lots for my clothing.--Psalm 22:6-8,14,16-18

The Jews at the foot of the cross witnessed their Old Testament psalm enacted in their presence.
It was the Song of the Crucifixion.
But it would not finish in defeat. 
All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the Lord,
and all the families of nations will bow down to Him.
Posterity will serve Him; future generations will be told about the Lord
They will proclaim His righteousness to a people yet unborn--Psalm 22:27,30-31

And they knew the song's triumphant ending, too.
By uttering the first line, Christ also declared its final chorus:
--for He has done it.--Psalm 22:31

Indeed, He has.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Fighting My Way Out

Photo credit:
I can't do it.
I can't.
I can't change my feelings.
Or can I?

 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.--2Corinthians 10:5

Every argument--like when someone hurts me and I simmer in my own pique.
Every pretension--like when I let myself become victim to something..anything.

Offenses hurt.
They niggle their way inside and won't leave.
They interfere with my life in Christ.

But (I say) they are FEELINGS...I can't change my FEELINGS!
Yes, I can.
Yes, I can.

But I have to knock them out.
I have to grab them by the neck, give them a hard left hook, and put them onto the mat.
I have to demolish them.

Oswald Chambers said that only moral choices turn our legal innocence, which Christ bought on the cross, into holy character.*
What does that mean?
It means that we have to give every un-Christlike thought, word, action, or emotion the heave-ho, no matter what it takes. 
And they will not go politely.

Change an action by deliberately doing something different.
Change a word by deliberately saying something different.
Change a thought or emotion by deliberately thinking something different.

If I want to think: "Oh, he (or she) is so mean. How could he do such a thing?",
think instead "God gave me this husband (son, sister, boss, dad...). He may have hurt my feelings today, but made me happy yesterday and consistently does this good thing (fill in the blank). I hurt today, but God has my back. I'm ok." And give him a hug.
Can't do it?
Yes, you can.

I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.--Phillipians 2:13
Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things.--Phillipians 2:8
When you're hurt? Yes.
When you're mad? Yes.
Put on those Everlasts (read--everlasting life) and change the way you feel.

*My Utmost for His Highest, September 8

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

On Becoming Holy

Photo credit:
I have been seeking personal holiness, thinking it a worthy quest, a natural and necessary step in my life with Christ.
But I have been going about it in the wrong way.
I have been leading with myself.

I forgot who is holy.
It is God, friend. Not me.
Only God. 

In fact, God is Holy, Holy, Holy.
Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty!--Revelation 4:8
The Bible does not tell us that he is Righteous, Righteous, Righteous or Merciful, Merciful, Merciful.
No, only that He is Holy, Holy, Holy.
Holy above all other qualities, above all things and all people.

Yes, I know. We are supposed to be holy, too.
Be holy because I am holy.--Leviticus 11:41
God does mandate a kind of  holiness for us, but here's the beartrap:
In the quest for personal holiness, it's so easy to focus on myself--the state of my soul, the condition of my heart.
And that's the problem.
There is no personal holiness, at least none that originates with me. 
There is only God's holiness.

God is holy and I am called to be like Him.
Only as I grow close to Him can I know any  holiness.
Only as I am humble and obedient can I get close enough to be like Him.
I am not the focus in my quest for holiness.
God is.
God is.
God is.
He is Holy, Holy, Holy.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Go Ahead and Look

Photo credit:
Discovering my own sin is tricky business.

Problem is, I can't repent if I don't know what I have done wrong.
And, because I am so wonderful, and loveable, and, well, saved, I don't always see the problem.
So I pray...
God, please show me my sin...

And He does.
But my sin is not always something I've done wrong.
Let me repeat that in another way:
Sin is not only lying or cheating or getting angry or any other violations of God's laws.
Some of the most insidious sin is congratulating myself for something I have done right.

When I am tempted to do that, God has a few succinct words for me:
..all our righteous acts are like filthy rags.--Isaiah 64:6

I can't do anything right enough to be considered righteous before God.
Therefore, I have only one hope--
to man up and remember who I am, then remember who God is.

Who I am:
He knows how we are formed, He remembers that we are but dust--Psalm 103:14
Who God is:
I am the Lord Almighty.--Genesis 17:1
I will never leave you nor forsake you.--Joshua 1:5

I am dust. He is God.
And He loves me anyway.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Frank and Abe, Doing it Their Way

I would not have thought that Frank Sinatra and the biblical patriarch Abraham had much in common, but I would have been wrong:
And Abraham said unto God, 'Oh that Ishmael might live before thee!'--Genesis 17:18

Just when God was promising Abe everything--all he had ever wanted and more, children too many to number and a kingdom by God for God--what does he say?
No, don't do that.
Do it my way.
Don't make everything new. Do it with this stuff, this child I already know, people I already love.
Don't give me a new people, a whole new place.
I'm old, said Abe. I'm tired of new.
Can't you do it my way for once?
And God said no.
And He didn't.

Abe and Frank, who would have thunk it?
But I want my way, too. And I suffer from the same shortsightedness they did.
If he'd gotten his way, Abraham would have missed so much just because he had no imagination for it.
Please, God, let me want your way.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Tepid Offerings

I want to offer my life to God.
For all He has given me, I want to give back, but how?

A song maybe. Or an offering of some kind. A sacrifice, perhaps.
Should I preach? Should I write something grand? Should I join other believers in a parade or extravaganza proclaiming His Name?

No, I don't think so.
The way to make an offering to God is by word and by the leanings of my heart.
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be always acceptable in your sight, my Lord and my Redeemer.--Psalm 19:14
Word and attitude. That is my offering.

God did not give me a life to live from event to event. Life is not made of empty spaces connecting noteworthy occurences.
God gave me a constant life, one where every moment counts. I cannot help but live it word by word and thought by thought, and so must I dedicate it to Him.

I have measured out my life with coffee spoons
.--TS Elliot, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

There is no other way.
Breath by breath, thought by thought.
And so I measure out my offering. Constant. Unremarkable.
The automatic replies, the doing of dishes, the soft pause when I, just this once, manage to hold my tongue.
Spoon by tepid spoon.

But as I do it, my eyes incline themselves toward God, and He meets them.
It makes all the difference.
And, in the end, it's all I have.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

From the Mud Puddle

I'm trying my best, I really am.
I want very much to be kind and good, contientious and responsible, a good friend and a loving wife. Isn't that enough? Isn't that living?
God gave us life, didn't He? Isn't it enough for Him that we live it well?

Well, it might be if we could actually do it.
But we can't.
I am not good. I am lazy and selfish. Love is an effort. Charity is a discipline. Goodness is an ever-escaping echo of a lesson learned long ago, but constantly forgotten.
I will live not able to measure up, and then I will die.

Though his excellence mount up to the heavens and his head reach the clouds, yet he shall perish forever, like his own dung; those who have seen him will say, 'Where is he?'--Job 20:6-7

No wonder Job sat in the mud puddle, depressed.
Talk about epic fail.
I'm so there, too.
I can't win.  I can't do the one thing I want so much to do, the only thing that makes my life worth living.

And that's why I believe God.
It just doesn't make sense any other way.
I know there was beauty in man once. The remnant of it still shows itself at the edges of the ruin, but I can't put my arms fully around it.
I can't be a good person, so I either stay here in the mud or let God lift me out. 

Life is not the taking of successive breaths. It is not preservation of flesh.
Life is finding and holding a ever-fresh beauty that lasts.
Only God offers this, and only He brings what I lack.
Only a life with God makes sense, and if I love life, I must love God.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

About Face! But Where?

'Tis the season.
And most of us know that it means more than being sorry.
It means turning around and walking in the opposite direction.
Stop lying and start telling the truth.
Stop losing your temper and start responding calmly and with kindness.
Stop wanting what someone else has and develop satisfaction for what is already yours.

Sounds good.
I can do that.
Well maybe, but even if I can, it's not enough.
It's not enough.

Something else is going on here that requires our strict attention, and it has to do with the nature of sin in the first place.
Remember David:
Against You, You only, have I sinned.--Psalm 51:4

The same goes for us.
Turning around and going in the opposite direction does not mean only changing how I act. It means changing my attitude toward the primary victim of my sin--God.
If God is the true victim, then it is this relationship I need to most urgently repair.

I have sinned against God.
Now, having turned around, I must actively seek God.
That is repentance.

And when we do it, look what God says He will do:
If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and heal their land.--2 Chronicles 7:14

Sounds good to me.