Monday, December 17, 2012

Powerful Words

... having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.  And you who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands.  This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.  He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.

Therefore let no one pass judgement on you...                          - Colossians 2:12-16

Just as soon as I think I've found a new favorite passage of scripture, I pick up my Bible and find another one.  Through my times of discouragement, one of the things that happens to me is sort of defeatist attitude towards scripture.  "I've read it all.  It doesn't have anything new to say.  I probably will just read it and feel more guilty."

But then I read a passage like this and, I don't know whether it's the coffee I just drank or what, but the gospel just explodes off the page.  And as I wipe gospel shrapnel off my face, I'm thinking, "Wow, that is really, really good.  I wish I believed it more."

I mean, just to think that I was really buried and put to death with Christ in baptism, raised with him by faith, made alive with God in him, totally forgiven, debt nailed to a cross, in a demonstration of power that put all earthly rulers and authorities to open shame, in order that no one (including myself) should pass judgement on me.

Boy, a covering that thorough, a covering of rightness and goodness that is so infused with God's affection towards me, is good, good news.

Often I don't believe that I am lovable.  And when I look at the old me that was buried, I realize that I'm not.  But God shows his staggering love in this, that he loves the unlovable, and not only loves, but moves towards, dies in love, washes in love, and fights in love for me.

And this is for you.  May you rejoice in the powerful words of the gospel this Christmas.  And if they've grown tired and weary to you as they are so often to me, my hope is that you'll hold to them until you hear them afresh, and they grow deeper into you.  Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Cool Video

I had the privilege of helping work on this video with Cru.  Check it out and share if you get a minute.

How Clouds Break

"All things in heaven, earth, around, within, without condemn me-- the son which sees my misdeeds, the darkness which is light to thee, the cruel accuser who justly charges me, the good angels who have been provoked to leave me, thy countenance which scans my secret sins, thy righteous law, thy holy Word, my sin-soiled conscience, my private and public life, my neighbors, myself-- all write dark things against me.

I deny them not, frame no excuse, but confess, 'Father, I have sinned';  Yet still I live, and fly repenting to thy outstretched arms; thou wilt not cast me off, for Jesus brings me near, thou wilt not condemn me, for he died in my stead, thou wilt not mark my mountains of sin, for he levelled all, and his beauty covers my deformities.

O my God, I bid farewell to sin by clinging to his cross, hiding in his wounds, sheltering in his side."              

- Puritan prayer from The Valley of Vision

This morning I woke up tired and depressed.  I woke up wanting to ride my bike and escape the tasks of the day that loom over me.

Being a "professional Christian" can be really hard when I'm not feeling my faith.  I possess a deep passion for escape, materialism and entertainment (the pleasures that are so easily attainable in my culture) that often and (it seems like) always overrides my passion for God.

Facing my reality, I  feel like an empty shell.  I feel hollow and without much hope.  I feel like I'm attempting to lift a weight of condemnation that I can't bear.  I'm even finding it hard to write.

That's why it was so good to read the words above.  To know that I'm not alone and that many a weary traveller has been my way before - travellers that have seen glimpses of their sin and are overwhelmed.

It is good to know that they found hope in the reality of God.  It is so comforting to know that I have Jesus and his sacrifice to cling to.

A clear vision of Jesus and his mission can break through the heaviest clouds of condemnation.  He lifted the weight.  He carried the burden.  He knows the guilt and shame.

When I am tired and want to give up and give in, I have a savior.  When I am sick of my old ways of escape and entertainment, I have a savior.  When I've exhausted every other avenue in the pursuit of self and satisfaction and am left like an empty shell, I have a savior.

And this savior, this Jesus Christ, not only has "more medication than I have pain" (as a friend of mine put it), but he is with me.

God with me always.  To think that he knows far more about my sin than I do, and that he radically and furiously loves me and covers me, and that he never, ever, EVER leaves me is simply too much to comprehend.  But it is an encouraging thought on grey mornings.

Monday, December 3, 2012

My Story

"Repetitive patterns have become themes in our lives over time, themes that impose structure on us even when a surface evaluation would tell us that these themes are nothing more than personal preference or desire.  We are not wholly our own, we are exclusively the result of what has happened to us.  No wonder reading the plot of our lives is so difficult."  - Dan Allender, To Be Told

Just as soon as I've begun to think that I have a handle on the story of my life, some sort of banner gets jammed in the wheel of my understanding.  I think I have forgiven, only to have something send me off into worlds of bitterness and rage.  I think I know love, only to find that I need so much more than I can give.  I think that I know healing, only to run towards all the wrong sorts of medication.

I have a God who knows all the ins and outs of my story not only because he wrote it, but because he loves it.  My story is so very precious to him.  Now I'm not saying he loves the tragedy both that I've suffered and committed, but he is not only interested in my story, he loves it.

This is a start.  As a Christian, I am in the really unique and weird position of knowing the one who's written and continues to write my life.  I don't know what tragedies or joys are around the bend, I don't even know what I have experienced all that well, but I can rest in the knowledge that the resolution, the climax, the ending will be glorious.

I was thinking about this last night as I sat with our small core church-planting group.  We were talking about hope - "the ernest expectation of things to come."  We were talking about longing.  And we were looking at the painting I've pictured above, "Lift up Thine Eyes."

As we were talking and sitting in silence as well, I was wondering, "What if my deepest hope and longing is true?"  What if all that I most sincerely hope for in the dark will one day explode into the light and color of reality.  What will it feel like to have my heavenly father's kiss, to hear his tender words and to finally, beyond any of the shadows, know that all will not only be well but will be beyond what I've even dared to dream.

My dreams are too small for a God like this.  A God who indeed is working all things for good, not just for the elect but for all creation.  He knows that my eyes are half-shut to his realities.  He knows the internal wounds that bleed and the ways in which I interact with the world simply out of these wounds.

And the great thing is, the fantastic thing, the thing that makes my heart race, is that this is not the end.  In the gospel it will never be the end.  And when it is we will all say "Amen."  Truly.  And just at it was at the beginning, it will be very good.