Friday, October 19, 2012

Love, Consume Me!

What is it to love You, my God, with pure and holy abandon?  I want to be able to say Your love is better than sex and food and sight, and to say it whole-heartedly, joyfully, so consumed with Your love that I give no mind to weak and twisted perceptions of my flesh which cannot conceive of a love that is pure and reckless, holy and passionately abandoned.  Yet You can both fill me with such love and renew my understanding that I may see as You see and forget utterly my sinful self.  This is why I can say with confidence that Your love, my King, brings greater joy, pleasure, and satisfaction than anything in this world and it is what I long for.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Colossians 2: United in Love

"My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge."
Colossians 2:2-3
Very interesting in light of Church history (which I have been studying) and all the arguments and schisms and heresy.  But we are told to be united in love, indicating that this unity of love confers the full riches of understanding.  That is, to know Christ who is the Mystery of God revealed, in whom are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.  Not some, but all.  How petty then are all arguments over points of knowledge, another instance of addressing symptoms rather than source.  Greatest love given rightly makes all other goods fall into place.  If we wish to know, to have the riches and knowledge, it is found in all its fullness in Christ and also abounds to us as a consequence of love.  Knowledge itself is not our greatest goal, but comes packaged with love.  "I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments" (v.4).  For the unity of the Church -- which we ought to desire, Jesus prayed for it -- our aim is not same knowledge but same love.  If we are united in love, unity in knowledge, in all wisdom will follow.  Make our joy complete by having the same love!  "Knowledge puffs up but love builds up" (1 Corinthians 8:1).

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Proverbs 20:30

"Blows that hurt cleanse away evil, as do stripes the inner depths of the heart."  Proverbs 20:30

One of the verses that stood out to me from this chapter.  Why is that true, I wonder -- I know it is.  I do not think it is saying that everything that hurts is good for you.  I'm sure some ascetics/gnostics have misused that verse and similar ones.  But I think it is pointing out the reality of pain, discomfort, and trial that accompany a real purification when what the natural man clings to is stripped away.  Like when Eustace is transformed from dragon to boy, it is not an easy thing to shed his skin.  Aslan uses sharp lion's claws to rip and tear and cut and scratch off the dragon scales bit by bit until they are all gone.  That must hurt tremendously, to have the natural man torn off.
You've harrowed my soul
And that so sweetly
You rip and tear and strip away all
That keeps me from coming to You
And that so tenderly
How can I not love You?
You break my heart to make me whole.  This is what it is to die to self.  If you value your own life, then it is costly to follow Christ.  If once you have recognized the value of His life, then giving up your own is nothing to having His in you.  But to gain the life He gives -- eternal life -- requires the recognition and realization of the surpassing value of Jesus Christ, that He be your greatest love.  And the only right response for us lowly sinners is total surrender, even unto pain and death.  He humbled himself to the point of death on a cross.  Can we call Him Lord and be willing to go through less for His sake?  Paul said, "Count it all joy" when persecution and trials and stripes are given -- not because these are good, but because these are purifying, completing the work Christ did by His stripes and suffering, if suffered in obedience to Him.  Not that it is any credit to anyone to suffer for doing wrong.  That is merely justice.  But remember the great promises of the Lamb of God to those who overcome in the letters to all seven of the churches in Revelation 2 and 3.  To those who are steadfast, who obey, who cling to what is good and hate what is evil will be given blows that hurt and stripes that cleanse away evil and the inner depths of the heart.  And resultant overwhelming joy in the knowledge that you are the disciple Jesus loves.  For those He loves He chastises.  That is what comes of the realization and response to who He is, isn't it?  And it always seems to come back to this: "Who do you say that I am?" 
I say you are Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, my Beloved, all-surpassing in beauty, all-surpassing in holiness, all-surpassing in love, all-surpassing in glory, for Whose sake I willingly offer my life and my all.  And I say that I am the disciple you love.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Romans 5--6: Much More

I just had a small revelation reading Romans 5 and 6.  I say small because it is one of those things that I have long known but not always grasped.  So I shall try my best to put it in words.
"Much more then, having been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him" (Romans 5:9). 
Much more.  It almost sounds redundant, the claims of this "much more."  But I think it fits well with what comes later, our newness of life in Christ, freedom from sin, and death of the old man with Christ's death.  While we were yet sinners Christ died for us, the ungodly.  That changes the whole paradigm, changes our standing, changes how God sees us.  If while we were sinners, revilers, rebels and enemies of God, God's Son died for us; much more will He desire to save us now that He sees us justified, reconciled to himself, beloved children, even the righteousness of God.  If He was willing good for us while sinners, how much more when we are His children?  Because of this we have a hope that does not disappoint (5:2-5).  Hope can sound like a risky thing.  But this hope of glory of God, for those who are justified, is a sure thing.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Jesus as Man: The Continuing Significance of the Incarnation

Much has been said and written defending the divinity of Jesus Christ according to the Scriptures.  So much that it has become easy to overlook the importance of the duality of Christ’s nature.  His humanity is less controversial, but holds a great deal of weight in understanding who He was, and what the New Testament claims about Him.  Jesus at the Incarnation became fully Man while retaining the fullness of the Godhead.  He continues to be fully Man as well as fully God, which has significant implications for His followers at the time the New Testament was written and now.
The writers of the New Testament clearly looked to the Old Testament writings, as well as the Gospel accounts, to understand the nature of Jesus Christ and prove who He was and what He came to do.  In the Gospels, Jesus Himself quotes from the Law, the Prophets and the Psalms to defend His own divinity (Matthew 22:44, for example).  The Gospels also quote directly from the Law and the Prophets to show who Jesus was; like Matthew 21:5 quoting Zechariah 9:9.  Even after Christ’s ascension into heaven, Acts records the apostles heavily relying on Old Testament Scripture to prove the truth of the Gospel.  The epistles also quote extensively from the Old Testament writings.  The first chapter of Hebrews alone quotes Psalm 2, Psalm 89, Psalm 97, Psalm 104, Psalm 45, Psalm 102, and Psalm 110, all to illustrate Christ’s supremacy over angels.  Jesus was regarded as the fulfillment of the Old Covenant (as He claims for Himself in Matthew 5:17), and also as God (John 8:58; John 10:30, 36; Colossians 1:15-17, Acts 20:28, 1 Timothy 3:16, John 14:9, John 20:28, to name a few references).  The New Testament gives us to understand that God is Trinity (John 15:26, Matthew 28:19); that is, that He eternally exists as three distinct Persons with one Nature or Form.  John 1 suggests this by describing Jesus Christ as the Word, who was with God in the beginning and who is God, and through whom all things were made.  Jesus claims unity with the Father in John 17:11.  The clearest description of God’s Trinitarian nature is described in 1 John 5:7, “For there are three that bear witness in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one.”  God’s Trinitarian nature is also implied in the Old Testament; in Psalm 110, in prophecies by Isaiah (9:6 and 48:11), in the pluralistic language used in the first few chapters of Genesis (in the original text “God created” is plural; “Let Us make man in Our image,” etc.).  There are also several instances in which the “Angel of the Lord” appears, foretelling Isaac’s birth to Abraham and Sarah, wrestling Jacob, giving instructions to Joshua on how to defeat Jericho, which may be manifestations of the pre-incarnate Son of God.  Taken with Jesus’ repeated affirmations of His oneness with God the Father, it would be hard to take these as indication of multiple or separate gods, especially with proclamation to Israel: “Hear, O Israel, the Lord your God; the Lord is One.”  However, given the clear relationship of Jesus to the Father, His obedience and dependence on the Father in prayer, the Persons of the Trinity must also be understood to be distinct in relationship to each other and in their roles, though they are equal – as Jesus has the fullness of the Godhead (Col. 2:9).  Since the fullness of the Godhead dwells in Christ, it follows that every attribute ascribed to God belongs equally to the three Persons of the Trinity, who are also cited as present and active at the beginning of creation (John 1, plural language of Genesis 1, Jesus the Creator and Sustainer of all things as in Colossians 1:16-17, etc.).   The three Persons of the Trinity exist eternally as non-created beings.  Mankind, on the other hand, was wholly tainted by the fall of Adam and so was rendered incapable of attaining holiness (Romans 3:23).  Because humans are created beings, they can never become God (See Isaiah 43:10).  Only God, Who is eternal, can restore mankind into right relationship to Himself and give them righteousness (Acts 4:12).

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Philippians 2: Consider Others Better Than Yourself

"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves."    Philippians 2:3
(Credit also to A.W. Tozer for the passage for March 17th in Renewed Day by Day).
That which is in other human beings because they are God's creatures is worth far more than anything that is in me apart from Him.  I think this is what verses like this mean.  I must esteem Imago Deo in the lowliest person far higher than anything that is purely from myself.  This leaves no room for pride or contempt.  I must also esteem Imago Deo in me as the pure center of my worth.  This leaves no room for conceit, and neither for pride, self-pity, or "low self-esteem."  If I esteem God as the highest Good, all else falls into place, and these things (pride, self-pity, conceit, contempt, etc.) must fall away.  Cool.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Mark 9: Help My Unbelief

"Jesus said to him, 'If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.'
Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, 'Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!'"  Mark 9:23-24
Many times I have prayed this and thought of it as faithful evidence of our dependence on God's grace, that we need it even to believe on Him.  And we need it to believe He can do what we call impossible.  This is a matter of heart attitude.  How do I, then, walk in such faith that I could truthfully say, "Lord, I believe; help my unbelief"?  The words were recorded here for a reason and they have long stuck with me.  How do I do this?  It seems to include a sort of letting go.  Or really a willingness to let go, a heartfelt desire to hold fast to faith with no confidence in the flesh.
All my good is in You.  Apart from You I have nothing of worth; I count it all dung.  But I am still here, so I need Your help to see that.  I need Your Word to light my way.  I need Your hand to guide me.  I need Your voice to lead.  I need Your Spirit working in me, even in the midst of my humanity to unstop my ears and unblind my eyes.  I need the light of Your Truth to walk in your ways.  I need You to help me be faithful to You.  And I believe that this You can certainly do: change my heart, refresh my mind, make me new, and call me wholly Yours.  But You have and can and will do this and more than this.  "You will see greater things than these" (John 1:50).  Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Notes on Tozer (January 23)

"It is altogether doubtful whether any man can be saved who comes to Christ for His help but with no intention of obeying Him, for Christ's saviourhood is forever united to His lordship."  --A.W. Tozer
from Renewed Day by Day, "Our Lord the Object of Faith for Salvation"

This essentially sums up what I got from this entry.  Jesus saves because He is Lord.  it is presumptuous, entitlement-minded ridiculence to ask for His help without intending to obey Him.  Not that our service to Him earns His help; but that faithful and faith-filled expectation of salvation must come from the recognition that He is Lord.  Not, "He will save me because I deserve it."  That seems to be the only attitude that would hinder an absolute unity in our mental concept of His Lordship and Saviorhood.  But, He will save me because He is able.  Why?  Because He is Lord.  My proper response is servitude, surrender; adoring, passionate obedience.  He is Lord, therefore He is able to save.  He is Lord, therefore He is to be obeyed (i.e. worthy of complete obedience and love).  Then, He is my Lord, therefore He will save me.  He is my Lord, therefore I will obey and worship Him.  These are two effects that come from the same cause; two responses both springing from the realization of who He is.  God's very nature is sufficient cause for both, such that if one is true the other is also.  If Jesus is Lord, He saves.  If Jesus saves me, He must be Lord.  He owes me nothing, and I do not deserve any salvation or mercy from Him.  But because He is Lord, the righteous Judge, the Lamb of God, the Almighty, He can choose to have mercy on me and save me -- but that is all His doing, His will, His grace, out of His Sovereignty.  So if I ask for and expect His help, I must do so recognizing who He is -- not, as Tozer pointed out, that we must (or can) know all of who God is.  But the expectation of salvation and the intention to obey ought to come from the same place.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

From My Utmost for His Highest: December 17th

Redemption Creates The Need It Satisfies
"But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him."  1 Cor. 2:14
The Gospel of God creates a sense of need of the Gospel.  Paul says -- "If our gospel be hid, it is hid"-- to those who are blackguards?  No, "to them that are lost: in whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not."  The majority of people have their morality well within their own grasp, they have no sense of need of the Gospel.  It is God Who creates the need of which no human being is conscious until God manifests Himself.  Jesus said --"Ask, and it shall be given you,"  but God cannot give until a man asks.  It is not that He withholds, but that that is the way He has constituted things on the basis of Redemption.  By means of our asking, God gets processes into work whereby He creates the thing that is not in existence until we do ask.  The inner reality of Redemption is that it creates all the time.  As the Redemption creates the life of God in us, so it creates the things belonging to that life.  Nothing can satisfy the need but that which created the need.  This is the meaning of Redemption -- it creates and it satisfies.
"I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me."  We preach our own experiences and people are interested, but no sense of need is awakened by it.  If once Jesus Christ is lifted up, the Spirit of God will create the conscious need of Him.  Behind the preaching of the Gospel is the creative Redemption of God at work in the souls of men.  It is never personal testimony that saves men.  "The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit and they are life."

This reminded me of a sermon I heard at Epicenter a while back, on grace.  It is only by God's grace that we can even feel repentance.  Conviction is something we have to ask for.  That is just staggering to me: that is only by grace that we even see our need.  And how merciful God is in tearing away our blindness enough that we can ask for Him to save us.  I like this picture of "creative" redemption too, creating a need in us that it alone satisfies.  That sounds like growing and depending more on God's work in me -- creating, making all things new.  Utter dependence, which is scary but beautiful and fully worth confidence.
Thanks Oswald.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Matthew 16: Lose Your Mind to Save Your Soul

"Simon Peter answered, 'You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God."   Matthew 16:16
"But Peter took him aside and corrected him.  'Heaven forbid, Lord,' he said.  'This will never happen to you!'"   v. 22
This must have been a confusing time for the disciples.  They had been with Jesus for a while, they saw the miracles, they heard His words.  These were Jesus' closest friends as well as His followers.  He kept them close, explained things to them, and rebuked them when they lacked faith.  Here He gave them a chance to profess, to test what they believed and why they followed Him: "Who do you say that I am?"  Peter declared it, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God."  What an exciting time to live; what a wonder to realize this great promise, foretold by the prophets was coming true.  The Messiah was come.  What Israel had waited for, longed for.  The great Hope of Jacob (of the world, but they didn't know that yet).  This, the culmination of Israel's history; of the holy promise to Jacob; of the always-intended redemption of mankind (they probably didn't know that either); all this fulfilled in this Man, Jesus, the promised Messiah, Son of the living God, finally come to earth.
And He told them not to tell anyone.
"From then on Jesus began to tell His disciples plainly that He would be handed over to die" (v. 21). 
Lord, forgive me.  I think I would have protested too.  How could He lead Israel to victory if He gave Himself up to killed -- by the teachers of the law He came to fulfil and the leaders of the nation He first came to save?  They probably thought His life's work had just begun.  It was humanly natural that their minds would fly to ambition.  This must have been a time of emotional ups and downs, of confusion wrought by human reason drowning out simple trust.  Especially for Peter.  Jesus blesses him and promises him great authority.  Then Peter tries to insist on things going the way he thinks they should, in light of this.  And Jesus calls him Satan.
"If any of you wants to be my follower, you must put aside selfish ambition, shoulder your cross and follow me."  Lose your life to save your soul.  Give up the whole world for Jesus.  He has something better in store than anyone's ambitions or grandiose plans.  Did they begin to understand then? 
The Transfiguration was six days later.  Peter got to see it, reacted kind of stupidly, but he must have needed that.
I have to wonder how slow I would have been.  How misguided would my wandering thoughts be, how far would my expectations drift from the mark if I had been there to hear Jesus' words with these ears, from His own voice?  Our understanding is so limited in comparison with His revelation.  Sometimes He had to rebuke His followers for trying to fill in those spaces with their own explanations.  Now, a couple of millenia later, we have His writtend word, we have the help of the Holy Spirit, we have the records of millions who lived for Christ, and there's still plenty of room to practice putting one foot in front of the other without looking away from Him to see where we're walking.
God reveals things as He wills, in His right time.  He knows when we need it.  But we need that simple trust which accepts what He says.
"Jesus said to his disciples, 'If any of you wants to be my follower, you must put aside your selfish ambitions, shoulder your cross and follow me.  If you try to keep your life for yourself, you will lose it.  But if you give up your life for me, you will find true life.  And how do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul in the process?  Is anything worth more than your soul?  For I, the Son of Man, will come in the glory of my Father with His angels and will judge all people according to their deeds.  And I assure you that some of you standing here right now will not die before you see me, the Son of Man, coming in my Kingdom."
Matthew 16:24-28

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Trust

Some thoughts.  From about a month past.

Listening: "Your Hands," J.J. Heller
Where do I begin?  I don't know what You are doing with me.  I don't know that any of the gifts or desires or relationships or hopes I have are anything I can hold on to.  And that terrifies me.  If I really think about it, about the future and what might become of any of the above, I have a gut reaction similar to reaching for something to grab onto when you feel like you're going to fall.  But in that moment of terror I also remember God's faithfulness.  And that falling becomes a violent turning of my heart inside of my chest.  And I have to close my eyes to the open air and false emptiness.  You are there.
Here is what scares me: when I simultaneously see that my independence is illusory and that what I grab for is prone to collapsing.  I am like a little child that thinks she can pull her boat to the dock by herself, intent on her task, pulling with all her might; while an amused father stands behind, calming tugging the end of the rope behind her, with far stronger arms.  I can easily imagine such a miss, looking back in surprise only when her father begins to laugh, and turning red.  What chagrin.  To think you were doing something on your own, accomplishing, growing, coming to your goal, only to find you have proven nothing.  She would wave him away -- wouldn't you? -- and insist on doing for herself by herself.  Papa would let her too.  He wants her to learn well what she insists on knowing.  But the ebbing tide of the ocean is not something to be conquered even by the vast and glorious pride of a little child.  The unfortunate thing is that pride is resilient and it can take all of a soaking, a fall, and being dragged across a dock for it to die.
Enough of cutesy similes.
Here is what I was thinking about: I truly cannot depend fully on anyone but God.  But I truly must depend on God's method of working, even through fallible people.  So I cannot place my identity or my confidence on anyone, not my family, not my friends, not people who teach me.  But I must be willing to be taught by these people, to trust Christ in them, to care for them, to be open to God using these people -- who remain fallible, grace-needing, redeemed and not yet glorified children of God.  But I cannot lean on my own strength and I cannot lean on their strength.  But I must believe that Christ is in both them and me and learn to see and trust that.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Matthew 15: The Faith of a Gentile Woman

She came pleading.  She came asking for mercy, calling Jesus "Lord, Son of David."  Why did He turn away from her?  Why did He not speak a word?  He came to heal, to seek and save that which is lost.  To this woman He spared not even a word.  Did it make so great a difference that she was a Gentile?  Nowhere else does it say that He turned away Gentiles.  When He refused to do miracles it was because the people had no faith, or the hypocritical leaders demanded a sign to satisfy their own opinions.  Why here?  Why the harsh reply?
Elsewhere it says Jesus knew what was in people's hearts.  It could be there were attitudes in this woman's heart that needed to be defeated.  Maybe she needed that humbling before she could have faith.  Maybe to her former way of thinking it would have been contradictory to say, "Lord," and "Son of David" to the same person, and that pride needed to die.  Maybe it was just to show that the Living God is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and not with the gods of the Gentiles.
But then she worshipped Him; said, "Lord, help me!"  Is that not a humble and contrite spirit?  And Jesus' answer is hard.  "It isn't right to take food from the children and throw it to their dogs."  This isn't for you.
"Yes, Lord," she says, humbly, before answering with pert and pleading wisdom, "Yes, Lord, but even dogs are permitted to eat crumbs that fall beneath their master's table."
What did Jesus' friends and followers think of such an exchange I wonder.  And did Jesus act surprised at finding belief in this corner, like with the centurion?  "You have great faith," He tells her.  But was He pleased at all?  Was He saddened by the comparison to Israel?
If without faith it is impossible to please God, does this faith please God?  I think it does.  And maybe there was more in "You have great faith" than "You believe what is true."  You have great faith, you believe well.  You have great faith, you act on it.  You have great faith, you place your trust outside yourself and walk in humility.  You have great faith, you are bold in pursuing what that faith holds as right.  You have great faith, you can plead, brokenhearted, and be boldly persistent.
I wish these accounts said whether Jesus smiled at her, or looked favourably at her at all when He said, "You request is granted."  I wish I knew His reaction, and the disciples reactions, when she took His metaphor for her own request.  It reminds me of Abraham, pleading for Sodom.  He never asks God not to destroy Sodom.  He simply asks, "Would You spare it, for a few righteous men?"  And attitude of , "Yes, Lord, but is this in Your nature?"  The woman says, "Yes, Lord," but will You be more merciful than our deserving?
I wonder if she knew the history of Israel, of Rahab and Ruth, the Gentile women in the lineage of the Son of David, the ancestors of Jesus. 
In Mark's account Jesus says, "First I should help my own family, the Jews," and then, "Good answer!" in place of "You have great faith."
I am a Gentile.  And I think Jesus was pleased to have mercy on this woman.  I hope to have such great and humble faith.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Hosea

"Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the LORD, until he comes and showers righteousness on you."
Hosea 10:12
Hosea is so poetic.  I like the words, the sound of righteous judgements showing God is just and the declarations of loving compassion and mercy.  I almost wish there was more about Gomer, but perhaps what is told about her is just to show how God made Hosea understand His love for unfaithful Israel.  I wonder if she did run away multiple times, if each time he brought her back, torn by her betrayal or lovingly able to forgive, was when the word of the LORD came to him.
Here I am seeing again, what God gives us is deeper in meaning than I might first understand.  Hosea's life, his unfaithful wife, his morbidly named children, were a living illustration to Israel.  But it must also have been for Hosea to understand and feel what God wanted to say; so that, from experience, he could express it well.  I think the prophet was invited to empathize with God.  Which means he must have loved his wife very much.  Which means that these words given by God were also written out of the prophet's own anguish, yearning, anger, and love.  He must have been a faithful man to be entrusted with this.  I like Hosea.  I admire his faithfulness, his ability to convey the words God gave him, his courage and strength in empathizing with the LORD, if I may say that.
God, thank You for Hosea.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Psalm 16: A Heart That's Secure

"Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup; you have made my lot secure.  The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.  I will praise the LORD who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me." 
Psalm 16: 5-7
LORD, You are the God who knows me, who has my heart.  You know my every desire, my every wish, my every thought.  You are intimately acquainted with each and every feeling that touches me.  You know every reason and every cause for every wistful look and quiet moment and soft smile and racking sob.  You know exactly what springs me into exultant joy.  And everything perverse in me is laid bare before You.
You know who I am , who I was, and who I will be.  You know and understand all my words and fully know every intent behind them.
Knowing full well, You are the God who rescues me.  You give me worth and then set me up above all the mire I could have sunk in.
LORD, You are the God who knows me; and knowing full well, loves me.  You have my heart.  And every heart is known to You.
I lay my heart bare before You, God.  Even before the people in this world.  Knowing You hold it, I will not fear.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Like a Hurricane

Have you ever been overwhelmed by love? Please do not misunderstand. I mean unconditional love which is so vast you can't resist and could never repay it. Love like a hurricane that floods your carefully wrought balance of give and take. Love that plunges you into such a sea of kindness all you can do is float along and marvel at its vastness. You can't contain or understand or categorize or measure it. It seems presumptuous even to say you receive it. As if you have a choice. As if. You cannot contain it; it has no fathom. You cannot encompass it; it is beyond you. And yet.
And yet, you find yourself the object of it. Like molten gold poured into a plastic cup. Like the ocean tenderly tipped into a thimble. Love that crashes you into quietness. The only thing you could say, in a whisper: God, I am so unworthy. This is love that humbles; something so painfully beautiful. Joyous despair. Tender terror. I cannot contain. I cannot comprehend. And yet.
And yet, I am loved. And yet, the God who holds back His glory, knowing it would kill us, pulls back the curtain enough for this glimpse which slays self importance and overcomes all you are.
You hold your head in your hands and silently sob at the disparity between your capacity and the sheer greatness of what you are freely given. Oh, this is not a love that puffs up. Harrowing sorrow comes with seeing your own efforts try to stand up next to it. What a fool I was to think I could repay! What a painful delusion to ever think I could earn it! And yet.
And yet, O still, small, thunderous Voice, and yet You are with me even to the end of the age. This love never leaves you nor forsakes you at any moment. This love took and withstood the searing, Almighty wrath meant to burn up unworthiness. For you. In your place. And this love knows your heart. Knows it! Floods and overwhelms and overcomes it!
What can this love not do? What CAN this love not do? Have you ever been overwhelmed by such love? The love that you surrounds you, that you cannot always see?
Oh yes. You are loved like that.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Ezekiel 37: You Alone Know

June 16, 2011
He asked me, "Son of man, can these bones live?" I said, "O Sovereign LORD, You alone know." Then He said to me, "Prophesy to these bones and say to them, 'Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord!'"

Ezekiel 37:3-4

This sounds like a test and apparently Ezekiel gave the right answer. He does not say, "No, LORD, it is impossible." Neither does he say, "Yes, they can live." Zeke turns it over to God, "Only You know." Maybe by now, with all his prophesying, he simply knew better. God can do what to us is impossible, but He alone knows if He will. Better for us to know that, perhaps, than to build expectations of anything besides God's will being done.
I used to do that, plan the future in my head, try to figure out what would be as if I were a conjurer. But God does His will, and it is wonderful. This is trust indeed. O Sovereign LORD, You alone know our hearts and what impossibilities You will do. And this is good. I trust in You. Do Your perfect will and lead me to do it too. Forgive me for when I have not trusted, please. Jesus, let me know the Father's will.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Ezekiel 1: The Word of the LORD Came to Ezekiel

December 25, 2010
The word of the LORD came to Ezekiel the priest, the son of Buzi, by the Kebar River in the land of the Babylonians. There the hand of the LORD was upon him.
Ezekiel 1:3

My thoughts often turn to wondering about the people who wrote down these words in God's Book. Perhaps it is an exercise in empathy, which I could certainly use. I have a few questions for Ezekiel. How soon after this vision did he write it all down? How much did it mean that he was the son of a priest in Babylonia? How much social standing would he have as a 30-year-old priest? What was he doing by the river when God chose to show him this awesomely indescribably vision?
The preliminary introduction is short here. I suppose it often is but somehow it struck me that it feels like there is a sense of urgency, a need to get on to the fantastic part. It begins with a quick telling of who, when, and where, and then moves on to descriptions that somehow defy imagining. There is a sense of urgency there too, and repetition. As if he were in a hurry to put down all he saw lest he forget any part of it, but struggles to find words that can express it. And no wonder!
The verse above stood out to me on the first read through and made me wonder about his social status and personal background. The introduction is humble. I realize now he says he was among the exiles by the Kebar River. But there still seems like a note of defiance in how he says that God gave him a vision, as if to say, "even in Babylonia," or "even to me." The reason it stood out to me in the first place is how he switches from first person to third and back again. I can understand telling it all in first person. He is the one who saw it; I'm glad he did. But when he says, "There the hand of the LORD was upon him," in third, I imagine it comes with a humbling sense of amazement o realize God chose to give Ezekiel His words, visions of His glory, even as an exile in the land of the enemy. There is urgency and a sense of responsibility, ownership of his experience, if I can say that. But there is also a great sense of wonder, and this is why he is emphatic. This is why he must assert to whoever will read the book and perhaps to himself in third person, as another speaking to reassure him, that the word of the LORD did indeed come to him; that the hand of the LORD came upon him.
I wonder if that verse in third is God speaking to reassure Ezekiel as he is about to attempt to relate the glorious and fantastic things he saw.
I imagine this young priest who never lived in a God-serving Israel at peace, now in exile (were they travelling? Just arrived? Had he gone to the river to be alone with some shame or to cry out to God when the vision came?) Was he still shaking when he sat down to write? In awe of God, but doubting himself perhaps? Did he pause when he wrote that verse? Maybe he sat back and sighed, a release of his doubts and fears. Maybe he dropped his pen, fell to his knees, and wept, overcome by God's love. Maybe the humbling wonder of such a thing prompted him to write it and later, looking back, it would send a shiver down his spine to read it.
It also stuck me a moment ago (Thank You, God) that the way we are as Christians in the world today is something like what Ezekiel experienced. We are the remnant living in enemy territory. And in spite of all that was our shame, to us have been revealed the secret things of God. In spite of what we were, where we were and when, God has given His Spirit to those who call on the Name of Jesus and believe in His power to save.
The word of the LORD came to Marissa, His maidservant, the daughter of the LORD's servants, living in the world. There the hand of the LORD was upon her.
May I say this, God? Thank You for these words. Thank You for Ezekiel, thank You for being the Good Teacher and teaching me. I pray my heart stay open to learn. Please let me be filled with this humbling sense of awe and wonder at what You have revealed to Your children, to me. I will remember that You are with me, though I am not yet home. Thank You for revelation and the precious knowledge of who You are and all Your wonderful promises. Thank You for entrusting this knowledge to me. Make me worthy of it, that I might please You. I love You, LORD. Jesus, I love You. Lead me to know You and love You more.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Proverbs 23: Buy the Truth

"Buy the truth and do not sell it; get wisdom, discipline, and understanding." Proverbs 23:23

Buy the truth. Do not sell it. We say we buy into something when we believe it. We say it about others' acceptance of ideas usually with a sense of derision. We say of ourselves, "I'll buy that," in mild defiance to doubts or contradictions. In all cases perhaps the implication is that the believer of ideas is paying for the concept they accept. If someone buys into something false it may mean paying in disappointment or betrayal or loss. What are we paying if we buy the truth? Looking at this world, what we give in exchange for truth may be position or possessions or relationships or wealth or even life. To have Truth has meant giving everything for some people. Yet the writer here says do not sell it! That is how much worth truth has. Don't give it up for any earthly gain! Buy truth. Get wisdom, discipline, and understanding. Buy Truth and get the tools to live by it. That is worthwhile.
LORD, teach me Truth, please. Thank You for Your gifts of wisdom and understanding. Thank You for discipline. Teach me to use these well in all humility to reflect Your goodness and holiness. Show Yourself strong through me, Holy God, and make Your Truth lovely in my life. Let me love Your ways and live by them.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Ezekiel 15: You are LORD

"And when I set my face against them, you will know that I am the LORD." Ezekiel 15:7

All this trouble, Lord, so they would know? You set signs in the sky, bodies of splendor declaring there is a Sovereign King. You made earth with roaring oceans, waters that circle, sustain, and surround all life. You made mountains to tremble before You Whose hands were their mold. You made ants to march like soldiers at Your command, and daffodils to bloom in winter's chill when all else would rather play dead. They all say You are LORD. You made babes to quiet at their mother's touch, and lovers to sigh at each others'. You made souls cry out for someone to serve and hearts to yearn with unkept longing. Our very beings say You are LORD. All of creation knows it. Your mighty works proclaim in overwhelming sound, inundating glory, drowning out even stubbornest deafness: You are LORD!
So I would think.
And yet You act with justice, mercifully, -- You are good -- now even tenderly, gently, Mighty God, that we might know that You are LORD. What is man that You are mindful of him? O LORD, tear away our self-inflicted blindness! We are like children playing with knives, screaming at the top of our lungs, insisting, "We cannot hear You. We did not hear, so You said nothing." And yet Your whispers are overpowering: "Be still; know that I Am. Give Me your burdens. Peace, little one. I love you." The child screams louder and hearts become hard. How can You love that, Lord? Yet what is Yours, You make lovely. Your love astounds me. I hope they listen and know You are LORD.