LENT15 – Beloved Dust and Perfect Love

Yesterday was Ash Wednesday, the day on which we begin our slow and reflective journey to the cross and the tomb beyond. We begin that journey with the reminder of death. Yet, we hold closely to the hope of resurrection, for Lent doesn't end at the cross. It ends at an empty tomb with the joys of Easter, because, after all, we are Resurrection People.

I've been thinking a lot for the past several weeks about pain and suffering and the ugliness of the world around us. It's really quite easy to do. Simply turn on the news for five minutes and you will hear of the latest atrocity. Yet, for me this is all a little closer to home than a story on the evening news.

A couple of months ago, I had the opportunity to meet with several Pastors who are serving among refugee populations in Turkey and Kurdistan (Northern Iraq). Throughout our time together, I heard story after story after story that makes one sad to be in the same race with those committing the atrocities. And that is something that we are forced to face head-on in Lent–we do share a race with them.

So, last night, as we stood with hundreds of other people in a Colorado Springs high-school auditorium with our friend, Pastor Glenn and his congregation (New Life Downtown), we embraced our shared humanity. We stood and asked for mercy and grace and peace and forgiveness not just for our sins, yet also for the sins of humanity. We were reminded anew that from common dust we come, and to common dust we will return. All of us.

In that moment of having the ashes applied to my forehead, and hearing the words, “Remember you are dust. Beloved dust.” I felt a weight lift from my shoulders. I felt (both spiritually and tangibly) what can only be called healing. Restoration of life. I was reminded–deep in my bones–that Perfect Love drives out Fear. I was reminded that no matter the level of fear, Perfect Love drives it out. And, the cross is the ultimate expression of Perfect Love.

So, while the conflicts rage on, we stand in a different understanding. We stand on different ground. And, we know that only Perfect Love will drive out fear. We stand in opposites.

We remember those words that Paul wrote to the Church in Rome reminding them of how Jesus-Followers are to treat their enemies:

Bless those who persecute you: bless and do not curse.

Do not repay anyone evil for evil.

…as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Romans 12:14,17,18-21 (NIV)

As the conflicts rage on, we–as Kingdom citizens first–are called to respond to these conflicts differently. It's an upside-down Kingdom in which we live. We have a King who calls us not to physical fights for freedom, but rather to Love and Bless and Serve. And, in our loving and blessing and serving, we bring the Kingdom into darkness.

We are not called to bring the military might of our physical nations to fight our battles. Rather, we are called to bring the might of the Gospel. We're called to bless and do not curse. We're called to rise above the physical fray and love our enemies–as we would love ourselves. And, we are called to do this NO MATTER HOW BAD OUR ENEMIES MAY BE.

“Peter,” Jesus said, “put your sword away!” (John 18:11 NIV) And, to us he says the same. Reminding us that we are called to fight our battles in a different way. We are called to fight as citizens of the Kingdom. And, in the Kingdom, we fight with love and blessing and honor and food and water and clothes and tents.

As I stood and received the ashen cross on my forehead last night, I was reminded of the state of the world. We are all dust. Beloved dust. Dust into which has been breathed the breath of God Himself. God's breath breathed into all of mankind. God's breath bringing life to all.

We are all beloved dust. Dust loved by the King of all Kings. Dust invited to be a part of a Kingdom that supersedes all earthly kingdoms. Dust invited to be a part of a Kingdom that doesn't look like–or act like–earthly kingdoms.

We fight battles with the Gospel. We don't fight battles with the sword. We bring the gospel. We bring Perfect Love. And in the bringing of Perfect Love, fear is cast aside. In the bringing of Perfect Love, hatred is cast aside. In the bringing of Perfect Love, the need for the sword is cast aside. In the bringing of Perfect Love, the King comes.

And the Kingdom comes.

And God's will is done.

On earth.

As it is in heaven.

From A Farewell to Mars by Brian Zahnd

From A Farewell to Mars by Brian Zahnd

 

Merry Christmas

We pause a moment this morning to wish you all a Merry Christmas.

Here's the telling of the Christmas story from our favorite children's book: The Jesus Storybook Bible. If you have kids, or if your don't, then this book is a must-have.

Merry Christmas to you and yours!!!

Emmanuel has come!

You can purchase The Jesus Storybook Bible through our affiliate link to ChristianBook.com below.

708257: The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name
By Sally Lloyd-Jones / Zonderkidz

Every story whispers his name.

A Bible like no other, The Jesus Storybook Bible invites children to join in the greatest of all adventures, to discover for themselves that Jesus is at the center of God's great story of salvation–and at the center of their own story too!

The Jesus Storybook Bible tells the story beneath all the stories in the Bible. At the center of all is a baby, the child upon whom everything will depend. From Noah, to Moses, to the great King David–every story points to him. He is the missing piece to the puzzle–the piece that makes all the other pieces fit together. From the Old Testament through the New Testament, as the story unfolds, children will pick up the clues and piece together the puzzle.

The Jesus Storybook Bible makes an excellent gift at Christmas, when we all remember that he is the puzzle piece that makes all the other pieces in our lives fit.

Recommended for ages 4 to 8.

 

Advent 2012: Preparing The Path: Father’s Song

As we did throughout Advent 2011 and Lent 2012, we are blogging our way through the Advent 2012 Lectionary Readings. We love this time of year, and sharing with you in this way. Our overarching theme during this season is “Preparing the Path” and our prayer is that as we march together toward the manger, we will prepare the way for Emmanuel.

A reading from the Prophet Zephaniah

Sing, daughter of Zion!  Shout, Israel!  Be glad and rejoice with all your heart, daughter of Jerusalem.  Yahweh has taken away your judgments.  He has thrown out your enemy.  The King of Israel, Yahweh, is in the midst of you.  You will not be afraid anymore.  In that day,, it will be said to Jerusalem, “Don’t be afraid, Zion.  Don’t let your hands be weak.”  Yahweh, your God is in the midst of you, a mighty one who will save.  He will rejoice over you with joy.  He will calm you in his love.  He will rejoice over you with singing.  I will remove those who grieve about the appointed feasts from you.  They are a burden and a reproach to you.  Behold, at that time I will deal with all those who afflict you, and I will save those who are lame, and gather those who were driven away.  I will give them praise and honor, whose shame ha been in all the earth.  At that time I will bring you in, and at that time I will gather you; for I will give you honor and praise among all the peoples of the earth, when I restore your fortunes before your eyes, says Yahweh.

— Zephaniah 3:14-20 (WEB)

As I was reading this passage that reveals our gracious and compassionate Father God, several other passages that say the same thing came to my mind:

Ezekiel 37:21-28 (WEB)

Say to them, Thus says the Lord Yahweh: Behold, I will take the children of Israel from among the nations, where they are gone, and will gather them on every side, and bring them into their own land: and I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king to them all; and they shall be no more two nations, neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms any more at all; neither shall they defile themselves any more with their idols, nor with their detestable things, now with any of their transgressions; but I will save them out of all their dwelling places, in which they have sinned, an will cleanse them:  so shall they be my people, and I will be their God.  My servant David shall be king over them; and they all shall have one shepherd: they shall also walk in my ordinances, and observe my statues, and do them.  They shall dwell in the land that I have given to Jacob my servant, in which your fathers lived; and they shall dwell therein, they, and their children, and their children’s children, forever: and David my servant shall be their prince for ever.  Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them; and I will place them, and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in their midst forevermore.  My tent also shall be with them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.  The nations shall know that I am Yahweh who sanctifies Israel, when my sanctuary shall be in their midst forevermore.

Psalm 126 (WEB)

When Yahweh brought back those who returned to Zion, we were like those who dream.

Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing.

They they said among the nations, “Yahweh has done great things for them.”

Yahweh has done great things for us, and we are glad.

Restore our fortunes again, Yahweh, like the streams in the Negev.

Those who sow in tears will reap in joy.

He who goes out weeping, carrying seed for sowing, will certainly come again with joy, carrying his sheaves.

Isaiah 35 (WEB)

The wilderness and the dry land will be glad.  The desert will rejoice and blossom like a rose.

It will blossom abundantly, and rejoice even with joy and singing.  Lebanon’s glory Lebanon will be given to it, the excellence of Carmel and Sharon.  They will see Yahweh’s glory, the excellence of our God.

Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees.

Tell those who have a fearful heart, “Be strong.  Don’t be afraid.  Behold, your God will come with vengeance, God’s retribution.  He will come and save you.

Then the eyes of the blind will be opened, and the ears of the deaf will be unstopped.

Then the lame man will leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute will sing; for waters will break out in the wilderness, and streams in the desert.

The burning sand will become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water.  Grass with reeds and rushes will be in the habitation of jackals, where they lay.

A highway will be there, a road, and it will be called The Holy Way.

The unclean shall not pass over it, but it will be for those who walk in the Way.  Wicked fools will not go there.

No lion will be there, nor will any ravenous animal go up on it.  They will not be found there; but the redeemed will walk there.

The Yahweh’s ransomed ones will return, and come with singing to Zion; and everlasting joy will be on their heads.

They will obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.”

Luke 15:20-24 (WEB)

“He arose, and came to his father.  But while he was still far off, his father saw him, and was moved with compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.  The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight.  I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

“But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring out the best robe, and put it on him.  Put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet.  Bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat, and celebrate; for this, my son, was dead, and is alive again.  He was lost, and is found.’  They began to celebrate.”

Revelation 21:3-7 (WEB)

I heard a loud voice out of heaven saying, “Behold, God’s dwelling place is with people, and he will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.  He will wipe away from them every tear form their eyes.  Death will be no more; neither will there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain, any more.  The first things have passed away.”

He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things news.”  He said, “Write, for these words of God are faithful and true.”  He said to me, “It is done!  I am the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End.  I will give freely to him who is thirsty from the spring of the water of life.  He who overcomes, I will give him these things.  I will be his God, and he will be my son.”

This theme of our Father God–who desires us, though we have sinned and fallen short; who redeems us, though we neither deserve it nor can repay Him for the sacrifice freely given; who adopts us, though we were orphans–weaves itself throughout the scriptures and gives testimony to who He is. He loves us with an unconditional love, and the longing in His heart is that we will turn our faces toward Him that He might receive us into His arms, His kingdom, His family, His abundant life. It is only because of His grace that we are saved, for we could never work hard enough or be worthy to receive His salvation – His adoption. But He is a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger, and abundant in loving kindness and truth (Psalm 86:15).

Father God is rejoicing over us with singing, and in His joy, we are able to sing with Him, shout, be glad, and rejoice with all our heart for He loves us, and we are His children!

View from Golden Ponds, Longmont, Colorado

View from Golden Ponds, Longmont, Colorado

Quiet(ly Working) Weekend

We had a reasonably quiet weekend.  Steph and Emily are both sick, so we basically locked ourselves in our room and “vegged”.  I was able to get caught up on a bunch of reading, which was nice.  Here are some things I read and learned:

Finished Lucky: How the Kingdom Comes to Unlikely People by Glenn Packiam.  You should read this book.  Not just because Glenn pastors the church we attend here in Colorado Springs, but rather because it presents a beautiful (and easily understandable) look at the Beatitudes and the Kingdom of God.  It is well-written and packed with truth.

I read about a third of The Sermon on the Mount by John Wesley.  This volume is a collection of Wesley’s sermons and commentaries on Matthew 5, 6 and 7 (aka The Sermon on the Mount).  As with most of Wesley’s sermons, these aren’t for the faint of heart.  Sermons in Wesley’s era were much deeper than a lot of the sermons we hear today.  Yet, these are loaded with deep truth of God’s Word and His Kingdom.  Well worth the read (keep a dictionary handy).

I read the Psalms.  I can’t even begin to tell you the beauty that I find in these chapters.  Wow.  I am convinced that it is impossible to walk away from a reading of the Psalms and say, “That was a waste of time.”

I read Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians.  This quartet of books by the Apostle Paul make up my second favorite book in the Bible (Job is first).  While the overall thematic ideas are the same between the four, Paul tweaks each one just enough to give you the nuggets of truth in different ways.  At the heart, though, is a recognition that grace supersedes all else.  And through that grace we are made to be the Righteousness of God in Christ Jesus.  In Ephesians, we get this incredible cosmic view of God followed by a “this is then how we should live” section.  Finally, Paul says, “You can’t do that on your own, so let me tell you how to walk in the Spirit.”  Even though God is BIG, He is still relational and wants to walk through your day with you.  Beautiful.

I read First, Second and Third John in five translations.  I love John’s epistles.  John gives us a view of the love of God unlike any other view in the Scripture.  Written toward the end of John’s life, he has come to understand what Jesus was trying to teach back in the Sermon on the Mount.  Love must be central.  All else is noise unless there is love (1 Corinthians 13).  John came to a deep understanding of this revelation and then said, “Here, church, live this.”   Throughout his letters to the four churches (Ephesus, Galatia, Philippi, and Colosse), Paul prays that they may have a deeper revelation of that love.  To Ephesus he writes, “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.  And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and huh and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge–that you may be filled to the measure of the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:16-19).  The Love of God.

Finally, I caught up on the news from around the world (by specifically reading media out of about 7 geographical regions, 4 other areas with socio-political situations currently percolating, 2 other areas that God is talking to us about).  The world is a hurting and broken place.  It’s chaotic.  It’s confusion.  It’s darkness.  Yet, we know the Light!  We know the Bringer of Orderly Order!  And we look for Kingdom to come in those situations.  We pray.  We hope.  We give.  We work.

So, how do I sum up what I learned this weekend?

  • God is a big God with big plans, dreams, goals, and visions.
  • God is not just “some god” who chooses to take an inactive role in the universe.  Rather, He is constantly working (ofttimes quietly) to set up His Kingdom.  Yet, He needs His people (you know, “those called by His name…” (2 Chronicles 7:14)) to be active through prayer, giving, and service in order to bring that Kingdom to pass.
  • Jesus came to show the world that the law wasn’t just a set of rules to follow.  Rather, at the heart was a Heart.  A big Heart.  A Father’s Heart.  The law was written because people didn’t love, honor, and serve one another.  So, Jesus sits on a mountainside and tells a multitude that there’s more than just not murdering, or not seeking vengeance, or worrying about tomorrow.  That more, as Paul and John teach us, is that there is a Father.  That Father loves us beyond our comprehension.  And, as a response to that love, we should love others beyond comprehension.
  • No matter how dark a particular situation may be (I’m thinking of North Korea and some things I learned about it earlier in the week), God is at work in the background.  He’s preparing.  Piece by piece.  Poco y poco.  Bringing it all together.  The darkest hour is just before dawn.
  • Finally, keep praying.  Prayer unlocks things.  Prayer changes things.  Prayer positions things.  As Karl Barth said, “To clasp the hands in prayer is the beginning of an uprising against the disorder of the world.”  (Acts 2 prayer class, that should sound a lot like John 1.)

Blessing on a Bun

Yesterday afternoon during my work duty, I was really craving a hamburger. I mentioned it to my work partners even. It was a mad craving.

Juicy burger.

Cheese.

Bacon.

Mustard.

So, last night while I was laying in bed talking with God, I said, “I’d really like a hamburger”. I wasn’t really asking. Just more of a statement.

Well, when our class broke for lunch today, one of our staff members said that lunch was hamburgers! I was stunned, and laughed.

“Seriously?”, I asked.

“Yeah.”

“Last night, I mentioned to God that I’d like to have a hamburger.”

“Really?”

“Yep.”

“Wow! They rarely make burgers. They take too long to prepare. Plus, today is a staff meeting day so time is even more limited.”

Well, I have to say, that was one tasty burger. Not even a prepackaged frozen burger. It was the real deal. With cheese. With bacon. Even guacamole for those who like that on their burgers.

God looking out for His kid.

I’m convinced that when God does things like that He chuckles. Almost like a parent when their kid opens a gift that’s been on the wish list for awhile.

God chuckling at me.

It’s amazing to think that God would take time out of His schedule sometime last week to mention to the Kitchen Manager that one of His kids was going to want burgers the following week. Yet, that is exactly the kind of God I serve! One who cares about hamburgers with cheese and bacon,

So, Father, thanks for the burger! It was a meal that I will never forget!

 

Lent 2012: 7.1 — Give Thanks! The Lord is Good!

Throughout Advent, we posted blogs each week based on the Lectionary Readings for the previous Sunday. It was truly an awesome experience to travel through Advent with the universal church by praying, meditating, and responding to those texts. We loved it so much, we thought we’d do it again throughout Lent.

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.

Let Israel say: “His love endures forever.”

— Psalm 118:1-2 (NIV)

Give thanks!!  The Lord is good!  His mercy and faithful loving-kindness endure forever!  This is the overarching message of Psalm 118.  Something changes in our minds, wills, and emotions when we choose (because it is a choice!) to remember the goodness, faithfulness, mercy, and loving-kindness of our God and Savior.  I love John’s relationship with Jesus, which comes across so distinctly in his gospel and epistles — if you love Jesus, you will obey Him; if you love Jesus, you will love others.  Our love for Jesus is shown through our obedience to him and our love for others.  How much easier it is to trust Him enough to obey Him when we are remembering his goodness and faithful love!

Open for me the gates of the righteous; I will enter and give thanks to the LORD.  This is the gate of the LORD through which the righteous may enter.  I will give you thanks, for you answered me; you have become my salvation.

— Psalm 118:19-21 (NIV)

In John 10:9, Jesus says, “I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.”  As we remain in Jesus — entering through the gate that is Himself — we receive righteousness, and upon that understanding and knowledge (not only head knowledge, but a knowledge deep in our spirits), our hearts are overflowing with thanksgiving.  He is the gate in which we enter relationship with Father God.  His sacrifice of laying down His life to receive the punishment for sin that we deserved is the only we we may enter into relationship with Father God.  Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; His love endures forever.

The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; the LORD has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes.  The LORD has done it this very day; let us rejoice today and be glad.

— Psalm 118:22-24 (NIV)

Just as John had a unique knowledge of the interweaving of loving Jesus, obeying Him, and loving others, Peter seems to have a special kind of grasp on this cornerstone concept as he speaks of it in both Acts 4:11 and 1 Peter 2:7.  (I wonder if this analogy had such significance for Peter, because of what Jesus did in John 1:42 when instead of calling him Simon, Jesus calls him Cephas–which is translated Peter and means “rock or stone.”)  Peter explains this prophetic word from the other side of Jesus’ death and resurrection by saying that Jesus was rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to Him.  The very ones whose debt Jesus was paying for with His own life, were the ones who were rejecting Him.  Even Peter rejected Him, yet Jesus received him back with an everlasting love and forgiveness.  Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; His love endures forever.

LORD, save us!  LORD, grant us success!

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD.  From the house of the LORD we bless you.  The LORD is God, and he has made his light shine on us.  With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession up to the horns of the altar.

–Psalm 118:25-27 (NIV)

Hosanna!!  It means “Save us now, we pray!”  We see this cry for salvation in this psalm together with more prophecy of God’s rescue plan through Jesus.  This prophecy is realized as Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a colt with people waving branches and shouting, “Hosanna!  Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!  Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!  Hosanna in the highest heaven!”  Is the kingdom of God established in our whole heart, or do we have a divided heart with shaded fragments?  Let’s repent for any area of our heart in which we’ve not allowed the King to reign.  Let’s invite Him to ride into those places as we cry, “Hosanna!  Bring salvation and wholeness.  Let your light shine on us and in us!  I offer myself to you wholly and unreservedly.”

You are my God, and I will praise you; you are my God, and I will exalt you.

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.

–Psalm 118:28-29 (NIV)

Not only is YHWH the one, true God.  He is my God!  We say it directly to Him, “You are my God!”  I love the way the psalmist goes back and forth from speaking of God to speaking to Him — He is good!  I will give you thanks!  You have become my salvation!  The LORD has done this!  LORD, save us!  The LORD is God.  You are my God!

When we have an attitude of praise and thanksgiving, it is natural for us to both tell others of His goodness and to be in communication with Him, telling Him directly and personally of our love for Him and our thanks to Him.

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good!

LORD, my God, Your love endures forever!

Lent 2012: 6.5 — Guest Post: Wendell Fields

Throughout Advent, we posted blogs each week based on the Lectionary Readings for the previous Sunday. It was truly an awesome experience to travel through Advent with the universal church by praying, meditating, and responding to those texts. We loved it so much, we thought we’d do it again throughout Lent.

Wendell and Deborah Fields

Today, we are delighted to have a special guest post. Stephanie’s Dad, Wendell Fields, graciously agreed to author this post for us! We are so excited to have him write for us. We are also extremely grateful for the sacrifices that he and Deborah Fields have made to support this ministry!

Many, O LORD my God, are the wonders which You have done, And Your thoughts toward us; there is none to compare with You. If I would declare and speak of them, they would be too numerous to count.

Sacrifice and meal offering You have not desired; my ears You have opened; burnt offering and sin offering You have not required. Then I said, “Behold, I come; in the scroll of the book it is written of me. I delight to do your will, O my God; Your law is within my heart.”

I have proclaimed glad tidings of righteousness in the great congregation; behold I will not restrain my lips, O LORD, You know. I have not hidden Your righteousness within my heart; I have spoken of Your faithfulness and Your salvation; I have not concealed Your lovingkindness and Your truth from the great congregation.

— Psalm 40:5-10 (NASB)

What are the wonders that God has done for you? We sometimes walk through our life’s journey thinking that our lives are monotonous and mundane, but God has shown great interest in us. If you feel that there is no “wonder” in your life, consider these words from Jesus: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16). That is the bedrock of what God has done for each of us – whosoever believes on Jesus Christ – God’s Son – Savior. But that isn’t all. God has “thoughts for us.” What are those thoughts like?

For some reason, I used to think that God was angry with me – that there was something about me that he didn’t like. I had a faulty understanding of who God was, and of His interest in me. I didn’t realize the awesomeness of the value of the Gift of God – eternal life through faith in his only begotten Son. But sometime, over the course of my journey, I began to realize that God wasn’t mad at me. He loved me. Just as he loves you! He had done wonders to get me to believe that! He has done wonders to get you to believe also. Some of the wonders are in the family God put us in. Some of them are in the people whom He put in our paths to speak words of life to us at an important time in our lives. Some of us have experienced wonders of God’s deliverance us from a life of disobedience to life in His kingdom. The process that we’ve gone through should remind us how good He is and how great His love is toward us, even if things haven’t always looked “good” to us.

His thoughts for us are for good and not for evil. There are times in our lives when we ask, “Why do I have to go through this?” “What good is there in this?” When I ask those questions about the small troubles that I have experienced, I’m reminded of the story of Joseph, who was SOLD by his brothers to a group of strangers going down the road. And why? Because they were jealous of his father Jacob’s love for Joseph. Because of his dreams. Because of the coat of many colors that his father made for him. Most of us reading (and writing) do not have a grid for being bought and sold, yet it is still one of the plagues of the lostness of mankind in our world. If we can find nothing else to do for those who are trapped, snared in the evil of human trafficking, then let us pray for them today. Let us pray that they will see the wonders that God has done for them. That they would be set free from the bondage of those who have used them and from the bondage of sin. That they would know that God is not angry with them, but that He loves them, even as He loves us. That He has fond thoughts of them.

What are those thoughts like? It doesn’t matter if we feel that we have sinned little, or if we carry the awareness of sin like a ball and chain, God’s thoughts toward us, according to the prophet Jeremiah, are “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11). Wow! That excites me as I copy and paste the text into this blog! There is eternal life (a future!) in God’s thoughts for us! There is A PLAN! In my experience, I only see a piece of the plan at a time, but it is exciting and comforting to know that GOD HAS A PLAN FOR ME! Good thing – I’m not good at planning. But God is The Master Planner! And His plans are GOOD! After following Christ for a while, we come to the understanding that God is Good, All the Time! Even when we don’t think He is good, or that He loves us, or that He has a plan for our lives.

 

Lent 2012: 5.3 — Adopted by Love from Death

Throughout Advent, we posted blogs each week based on the Lectionary Readings for the previous Sunday. It was truly an awesome experience to travel through Advent with the universal church by praying, meditating, and responding to those texts. We loved it so much, thought we’d do it again throughout Lent.

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions–it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

— Ephesians 2:1-10 (NIV)

Have you ever considered adopting a child? Maybe you have adopted a child or have applied for adoption. Chances are, if it’s something you’ve ever considered, you’ve only ever considered adopting a live child. After all…..that only makes sense. But what does Ephesians 2 say about our state of being at our adoption? We were dead. God saw a world of children that He wanted to raise from death and bring them into the life His precious Son was living.

So, Father sent His one and only Son to us. God reached out to us through His Son, and His Son laid down His life as an offering of love for us and to the Father. Then, the Father raised His Son to life, and not His Son only, but all who would believe in His Son, and to all who believed in His Son, to them He gives His abundant, everlasting life.

He adopts us because He loves us. We didn’t earn His love. We can’t run away from His love. Nothing can separate us from His love. God loves us and adopts us because He is full of grace and mercy, and He has compassion on us. His grace and our salvation are not bragging rights for us based on us being a people who were deserving of salvation, for we could never have deserved it! Rather if we are going to boast, it should be in the immeasurable riches of God’s grace expressed in His kindness to us through Christ Jesus. Let us enter His Life!

 

Lent 2012: 4.1 — How we do things in our Family

Throughout Advent, we posted blogs each week based on the Lectionary Readings for the previous Sunday. It was truly an awesome experience to travel through Advent with the universal church by praying, meditating, and responding to those texts. We loved it so much, thought we’d do it again throughout Lent.

And God spoke all these words:

“I am YHWH your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.

“You shall have no other gods before me.

“You shall not make for yourself a graven image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.  You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, YHWH your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.

“You shall not misuse the name of YHWH your God, for YHWH will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.

“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.  Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to YHWH your God.  On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns.  For in six days YHWH made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day.  Therefore YHWH blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

“Honor your father and mother, so that you may live long in the land YHWH your God is giving you.

“You shall not murder.

“You shall not commit adultery.

“You shall not steal.

“You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.

“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house.  You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”

— Exodus 20:1-17 (NIV)

YHWH had just brought Israel out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery, after the Israelites had lived in Egypt for 430 years (Exodus 12:40). They had been in slavery for generations. God had to teach Israel how to be a people again, how to be community, how to be family. God gave ten commandments to teach them, “This is how we do things in our family.” When God rescues us from the captivity of sin, we are adopted into a new family–His family, the Kingdom of God. God has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and led us into His family of light.

In this family, we give our Father all of our devotion and loyalty.

In this family, we will find that Father is all we need. We don’t need to look anywhere else, but only in Him.

In this family, we set apart language that we use only when we’re talking to or about Father.

In this family, we set aside the day of rest that our Father gives us in our weekly schedule.

In this family, we honor those who love, train, and discipline us.

In our family, we choose to forgive and love others.

In our family, we stick together faithfully. We can count on each other.

In our family, give generously to others.

Our family is a family of truth. In our family, we are truthful.

In our family, we know that Father gives us everything we need, and we are content in following His way.

Essentially, what it all comes down to, is in our family, we love Father with all our heart and with all our soul and with all our mind and with all our strength. And we love our neighbor as ourselves.

 

Lent 2012: 2.1 — The Lord of the Broken

Throughout Advent, we posted blogs each week based on the Lectionary Readings for the previous Sunday. It was truly an awesome experience to travel through Advent with the universal church by praying, meditating, and responding to those texts. We loved it so much, we thought we’d do it again throughout Lent.

To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul; in you I trust, O my God.  Do not let me be put to shame, nor let my enemies triumph over me.  No one whose hope is in you will ever be put to shame, but they will be put to shame who are treacherous without excuse.

Show me your ways, O LORD, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.  Remember, O LORD, your great mercy and love, for they are from of old.  Remember not the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways; according to your love remember me, for you are good, O LORD.

Good and upright is the LORD; therefore he instructs sinners in his ways.  He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way.  All the ways of the LORD are loving and faithful for those who keep the demands of his covenant.

— Psalm 25:1-10 (NIV)

David is in such a beautiful place in this Psalm.

The place is repentance.  Humility.  In need of grace.

David picked up the broken pieces of his soul and lifted them as an offering to the Lord whom he trusted.  We see a readiness in his desire to know the Lord’s ways, His paths, His truth.  As a faithful shepherd himself, he also takes the role of a sheep and trusts the Lord to be Shepherd.

Are we ready to release our position as leader and allow God to lead and teach and reveal and guide and instruct?

Do we trust Him and put our hope in Him to know what is best for us?

Are we ready to retrieve the pieces of our souls from those who have broken and shamed us and in our place of humility and need for grace, to turn fully to our Father and lift that brokenness to Him?

He loves us.  He is faithful.  He is true and right.  He is gracious.  He protects us.  And He sees you, not according to your sins and rebellious ways, but according to His love.  He is good!