Thursday, April 21, 2011

Oh, how He loves us!

Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.
John 15:13

I was reading of Jesus' treatment prior to His crucifixion. I read of the whipping, the thorny branches pushed down on His brow, the mocking, the ridicule.

And then ... I don't know how it happened ...but in my next cognizant moment, I realized that I had been daydreaming. About Christ and what He went through? No.

I was thinking about my "to do" list for the day. I was thinking about my discussions with people yesterday. My head was filled with questions like, "I wonder what she thought when I said ..." On and on and on.

Here I am one moment reading about the terrible physical, emotional and spiritual torture of Christ and then my mind wanders to how I can make my life more comfortable today. Does anyone need to remind me of how prone I am to wander? That I have a sinful, selfish nature? is ever present.

It is in that moment of recognition that I realize just how precious is His blood ... every single drop - such great value that it can completely cover my every sin.

And I am reminded just "how beautiful You are and how great Your affections are for me. And on, how He loves us, oh, how He loves us, how He loves us all.

We are His portion and He is our prize. Drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes. If grace is an ocean, we're all sinking.

And heaven meets earth like an unforeseen kiss and my heart turns violently inside of my chest. I don't have time to maintain these regrets when I think about the way...

Oh, how He loves us. Oh, how He loves us, how He loves us all." (David Crowder)

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

But ...

But you are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love. Therefore you did not desert them, even when they cast for themselves an image of a calf ... Because of your great compassion you did not abandon them in the desert ... You gave your good Spirit to instruct them. You did not withhold your manna from their mouths, and you gave them water for their thirst. Nehemiah 9:17b-20

Sometimes I can see my story written on the pages of Scripture.

I too turned from God and chose to worship things of this world.

In fact, I vividly remember standing in my driveway and arguing with God (arguing may not be an accurate verb because I was doing all of the talking). I boldly told Him not to expect me to go into the mission field. I told Him that my "idols" meant to much to me to abandon. I even named them - they were lifestyle choices, material possessions (don't ask me to name them for you - way too embarrassing - and you may worship some of the same ones).

God had every right to walk away from me and abandon me to my idolatry (in fact, He had every reason to send a bolt of lightning and zap me on the spot).

But (I love that word when God is involved) He did not strike me down with His wrath. Nor did He abandon me. Instead, God showered me with His great compassion and grace. And He gently began molding my heart and revealing His heart for me. His kindness led me to repentance. His grace revealed what my true desires were.

All those idols were eventually cast aside - every single one - and God's provision never failed. God did not strip away those hideous idols away from me overnight but He led me to a place of joyfully giving them up. Once they were gone, that of greater value became obvious.

And so I praise you, God. "Blessed by your glorious name, and may it be exalted above all blessing and praise. You alone are the LORD." (Nehemiah 5b-6a)

PS. That was over 30 mission trips ago!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Responding Rather than Reacting

In the temple courts he (Jesus) found men selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, "Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father's house into a market!" John 2:14-16
It was almost time for Passover. Jewish families were expected to travel long distances to Jerusalem and participate in the celebration. Part of the celebration included the sacrifice of animals. And monetary donations had to be made in special coinage. So markets were set up to exchange monies and to sell animals suitable for sacrifice ... and the temple became that place of commerce.
Jesus arrived at the temple, which was intended to be God's home of worship, prayer, sacrifice and hearing His Word. Instead Jesus saw a busy marketplace. Did he see greed? Surely he saw distractions to those with hearts of worship. What else did he see? Jesus became very, very angry - enraged! But he did not immediately begin shouting and running around pushing over tables. He "made a whip out of cords." I've read this passage dozens of times but just noticed this phrase. I wonder ... how long did it take to braid cords into a whip? As he braided, undoubtedly he was thinking. observing and praying to his Father - lining up his heart with his Father's will. His anger did not dissipate. Did he get angrier? Did he calm down a bit? He obviously did not rationalize what he was seeing. He took a few minutes ... or however long it takes to braid a whip ... and then he responded with righteous anger.
I am guilty of reacting, often with regrets. I want to be a responder. I want to be courageous and respond when I see injustice. I want to remember to take a few minutes to think, observe and pray. I want to follow the example of Jesus. God help me!