Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Excel still more.

A few Sundays ago, in a really powerful sermon on 1 Thessalonians 4:1-7, Frank mentioned Paul's urgent command to "Excel still more."

With so many aspects of my life changing - an approaching marriage, a challenging job, friends who do not believe but listen - I've re-charged myself with reading Scripture every morning and with shoring up my own understanding of my beliefs. I'll get a good chance at that with Dave training for Campus Crusade; their basics of belief program is solid, and I'm excited to work through that after him.

But today has been circuitous and odd. We had a terrific thunderstorm this morning that spawned a tornado or two, and as I type, we're waiting on the next bout of weather - it's supposed to be worse. Until this morning, I've never been in a place where I've lost touch with my loved ones and am powerless to help them, much less know if they're safe. And when we finally got in touch again and I tried to work again, my heart wouldn't settle. So I pulled up the Veritas band on iTunes (something Dave sent me after a men's retreat a month ago).

One of the songs leads with a written excerpt that caught at my heart. So I'm researching the Heidelberg Catechism now and can hardly believe the beauty of what I'm finding. It's certainly a piece I want to spend some time soaking up. For today, get a feel for the lovely wording:

What is thy only comfort in life and death?

That I with body and soul,
both in life and death,
am not my own,
but belong unto my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ;
who, with his precious blood,
has fully satisfied for all my sins,
and delivered me from all the power of the devil;
and so preserves me 
that without the will of my heavenly Father,
not a hair can fall from my head;
yea, that all things must be subservient to my salvation,
and therefore, by his Holy Spirit,
He also assures me of eternal life,
and makes me sincerely willing and ready,
henceforth, to live unto him.

How many things are necessary for thee to know,
that thou, enjoying this comfort,
mayest live and die happily?

the first, how great my sins and miseries are; 
the second, how I may be delivered from all my sins and miseries;
the third, how I shall express my gratitude to God for such

Friday, April 22, 2011

"...and in three days I will raise it up."

Today is Good Friday. I've been thinking about Jesus' death and resurrection a lot already this week and what it means for us. There are so many things to notice about the events of that week - both immediate and eternal, and I hardly know where to start. So forgive me if this feels pieced together; it is.

In John 2, when Jesus says He will destroy the temple - the singular meeting place of God and man in the Jewish religion - He's talking about Himself. He literally destroyed the need for a physical place to commune with God, and instead He built a direct connection to the holy Father, satisfying the Father's demand for atonement. His body - also a temple of sorts - was destroyed and rebuilt. The temple's necessity was voided.

I attended my first Campus Crusade meeting this week with Dave and heard a powerful message on a real God who gives real life. Most of what Darrell said caught my attention, but one passing observation has haunted me. He pointed out that throughout His life on earth, Jesus spoke of God as "the Father" and "My Father." But when He was on the cross - in that moment that the sins of the entire world fell on Him, and the holy Father-God turned His back on the ugliness of His son - Jesus cried out, calling, "My God, my God! Why have You forsaken me?" In that moment that their perfect unity was broken by our sin, Jesus couldn't call God His Father - like us, He was reduced to calling, in humility and fear, on the righteous God of the universe.

Darrell also pointed out that for the three days that Jesus was dead, He experienced every weakness, anguish, struggle, and pain that humanity has ever known. Not as punishment - because He never sinned and therefore merited no punishment - but so that He could know intimately the things we go through: "For we do not have a great high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin."

There was a second reason for Jesus to understand our weaknesses: with that knowledge, we have no fear. "Perfect love casts out fear." Hebrews says, "Therefore, let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need."

Another observation of Darrell's was the meaning of the word "resurrection"- he said it holds the connotation of "return to life, never to die again." In my limited access to study tools, I can't confirm the original Greek subtleties, but the idea makes sense. Lazarus was revived (he died again later, at the end of his natural life), but Jesus died once and was resurrected. He will not die again. And when we have lived out our natural lives, and died, we too will be resurrected to live forever with Him.

I've been working through this, trying to absorb it. I'm not sure I'll ever fully understand, this side of heaven. But I look forward to grasping it all, standing face-to-face with Him, holding His hand, and knowing.

Monday, April 11, 2011

You turned me into somebody loved.

I'm a little bit pathetic this morning. And I hate it.

Read Oswald and 1 Corinthians 1, but there's no heart behind it. I've been trying to lay my heart out before my Father (in my mind it looks like Mom's pie dough rolled out on the counter). It just feels thin, bland, and sticky. There's very little color to it. No one would want it in that condition.

And then 1 Corinthians reminds me that God didn't choose the noble, the wise, the graceful, the attractive, the perfect, or the do-gooders to bear His love note to the rest of the world. He didn't pick the ones with 4.0s, the ones who never have an angry thought, the ones who have never broken a rule (or even a nail). They wouldn't have been good messengers, and God knew it.

Instead, He chose me, and He chose you. He chose the meek, the mild, the humble, the tearful, the ashamed, the foolish, the rebellious, the silly. He chose the ones who can't follow the rules to save their lives, the ones that mess up and can't seem to learn from it, the ones that are tired to death of trying to be good and just sit down in the mud and give up.

He did it so we can't brag on ourselves. I'm not a perfectly baked apple pie. I'm icky, sticky, salty, crumbly dough on a countertop that won't roll out and won't let go of the pin and refuses to slide into the pan. I never do the right thing twice, and I rarely do the same thing twice.

But you know what's cool? It's ok that I'm messy. God takes me just like this, and then He uses me! That  second part blows my mind: even as akimbo and tousled as I am, He sometimes lets other people see His glory through me. Talk about humbling. No one knows how insignificant I am more than I do - and yet my Father knows me inside out, and He lets me help Him.

Thank You for a morning to reflect on how much You love us, and how desperate You are for a relationship with us - You take us even as dirty as we are! Thank You for making us Your little children, for picking us up when we fall down, for kissing our wounds and making them better, for seeing further than we can, and for dreaming bigger dreams than we even dare. Help us to love You! Amen.