Tuesday, August 31, 2010

They Know Not What They Do

We have reached the climax of our story.  The moment in history that made all things new.  The crossroad of God and humanity.  The place where we kissed the Son and the Son kissed us.  “And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left.  And Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do’,” Luke 23:33-34.  
Up until this point, we know that every human life is a uniquely created being.  Each is thoroughly desired by Divinity.  We know that God beautifully designed the cosmos.  And that He is familiar with all of its ways.  We know that there is an Adversary.  That he positions himself against anything that represents God.  We know that he works aggressively to stir humanities hearts against God and each other.  We know that in our weakness we are easily deceived and driven to this end.  We know that all have been victimized by this scheme.  And all, at some point have victimized another.  We know that justice is needed.  And lastly, we know that humanity has never been able to adequately and successfully establish that justice.  But, by a Divine Miracle, our Savior adequately and successfully established it.  Justice was fully accomplished at the cross!  “Father, forgive them…”  
Let every wounded soul stop here.  Look and listen.  Let every assaulted vessel pause and wait.  Every sin aroused individual lie down here.  Groan here.  Lament here.  Languish.  Let every angry man and women be still here.  Be embarrassed.  But be unburdened and be tamed.  Let every violent warrior be pursued here.  Be overtaken.  Be bound with mercy.  Be understood and released of pain.  Let hot and cold tears flow from the human race.  You have all been forgiven.  
Killing God’s Son is our most wicked act.  And it’s not altogether unusual.  The image of God is all around us, reproduced every day.  We have very little regard for this reality.  But the Son of God is a completely integral expression of God, not just a fingerprint in our genes.  He is the sum of everything that is God.  And Psalm 2 tells us that the nations rage against the Son… .against His beautiful, loving and preserving government in the hearts of men.  Yet, you have been forgiven for the death of the Son.  All your hot passions against Him are forgiven.   He knows you were deceived to this.  He knows you thought your way of survival to be better.  He knows that you didn’t understand what you were doing.  “…for they know not what they do.”
Put your weapons down.  Lay down your swords.  No one is guilty anymore.  There is no life to take for a life.  It was already taken.  He heard you.  He knew that you were in pain.  He knew that an Adversary had come and stolen and destroyed in your atmosphere.  He knew that others had joined him.  Divinity was there.  But instead of taking the life of the victim who victimized you, He gave His own.  Are you satisfied?  Is the cross enough?  It was enough for God.  It was enough for His Son.  


Monday, August 30, 2010

Jesus, Thank You for the Blood

His blood still speaks.  “…and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel,” Hebrews 12:24.  
An angry mob has gathered at the foot of the iconic cross.  I see their faces everywhere.  Red, yellow, black and white… just like the song says.  No one is looking at the man.  No one is paying attention.  It lingers in our memories too often as merely an ancient symbol, however, the blood of Jesus speaks a word of justice that I wonder if I will ever fully understand.  It speaks the salvation of a race of individuals demanding a life for their life.  In a relatively short moment of history, God met His own demand, and ours. Our own life’s blood would have met the demand… .we were the guilty party both in relation to God and man, however, Divinity would give His Life’s blood for both causes and leave us completely liberated.  An unprecedented act of loving-kindness…
The Son of God offered to be the means of justice for the whole cosmos.   In a cosmic courtroom that transcends time and culture, we humans made our declaration concerning who should bare guilt for the atrocities done against humanity.  God should be blamed.  It did not take great predestination to accomplish Christ’s death on the cross.  No, God knew that if He showed up in person, our hearts were so ripe with anger that we would surely kill Him.  Our deceivable natures had easily facilitated the perspective of the Adversary bent on removing Creator God from human interaction.  And God let it be so.  He left His Beloved Son to our verdict; our death sentence.  “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Matthew 27:46.  Jesus Christ risked His life to bring us face to face with our Heavenly Father…. .and He lost His earthly life.  “By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people?” Isaiah 53:8.  It must have been a risk worth taking.  
Abel’s blood cries out to us from the ground.  In dust and ashes he reminds us of historical human injustice.  He tells us honestly that our lives are owed.  We are dead men walking.  But the blood of Christ speaks to us from elsewhere… .from a Heavenly Tabernacle, from before and unearthly Throne.  The Risk-Taker, the Earthly Forsaken One has once for all approached boldly with His own bodily, humanly red life source and announced, “It is finished.  It is done.  All are acquitted.  No one is guilty.  The debt is paid.”  Read the book of Hebrews.  You won’t be disappointed.
Jesus, Thank You for the blood…

Sunday, August 29, 2010

It Had To Be Done

The disciples and their swords did not understand the depth of salvation that Jesus would accomplish through His death.  It had to be done….   
It was not the brave desire of Jesus to die.  He did not fit the description of an epic figure marching to a pious death by which He would solicit greater support for a fantastic cause.  No, Jesus really did not want to die!  “Then he said to them, ‘My soul is very sorrowful, even to death, remain here, and watch with me.’  And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, ‘My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will’,” Matthew 26:38-39.  The Son of Man coveted life over a heroic, praiseworthy death.  Life retained value in His good perspective.  The Son of Man knew the preciousness of His own life in the eyes of His Father.  His humanity, despite its representation of our sin and death, was still a desirable creation that brought a smile to His Father’s eyes.
Jesus Christ carried deep down depths of sorrow and agony over the justified human condemnation He would experience.   “..a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief..” Isaiah 53:3.  It genuinely pained His heart that the Jewish people, to whom he had preached salvation, healed their sick, cast out demons, raised their dead and fed, wanted to kill him.  “…rejected… .despised… .esteemed not..” Isaiah 53:3.  Rather, the brave desire of Jesus was to save them.  The only possibility for the reconciliation of God and man, was for Jesus Christ, the God-Man, to receive all vengeance, both justified and unjustified, upon Himself. Mankind placed their anger on Jesus….  And this was the Father’s will to allow it.  “Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him…” Isaiah 53:10. God the Father allowed His own character in His Son, Jesus Christ, to take the punishment for every human assault against humanity.  Jesus paid the life that we owed.  He would extend salvation to the moment of His last breath and beautifully offer it again with the inhalation of His first renewed breath.  He was and is always a Savior!  
Jesus did not saunter to the cross that day as a heroically dying man.  He bore our shame.  “…oppressed…” Isaiah 53:7.  He bore the weight of our condemnation.  “…upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace…” Isaiah 53:5.  Our cries of anger over justice fell upon His heavy heart.  “…he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows…” Isaiah 53:4.  He lingered under hard wood and words.  “…stricken.. .afflicted… .wounded… .crushed,” Isaiah 53:4, 5.  Yet, Jesus went to the cross that day full of Life.  He carried a load upward, closer to the heart of Heaven than ever before, with a deep passion for Life to prevail… .not only for Himself, but for the whole human race.  Jesus accomplished what had to be done to work reconciliation.  
He embraced a vision before every Golgothan step.  A vision of us, you and I, seeing, hearing and knowing the Father once again.  “..when his soul makes an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.  Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities.  Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many; and makes intercession for the transgressors,” Isaiah 53: 10-12.  Selah, He is truly a Savior!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Blood Bath

An angry mob stands at the foot of the cross.  No one really sees the Man.  Although He had healed their sick, raised their dead, cast out their demons, increased their understanding and filled their mouths, He had not satisfied their personal agendas for justice.  The anger and hate that we develop for a man who won’t kill with us is remarkable!  Our response to Jesus Christ was the classic childish tantrum: we wouldn’t give to Him what He wouldn’t give to us.  So we withheld justice.  
The irony in the story is that Jesus Christ actually did satisfy our personal need for justice.  “For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification,” Romans 5:16.  “Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men,” Romans 5:18.  But we were so bent on getting it for ourselves that we arranged for the execution of our own vengeance.  
Humanity exists in the midst of a bloodbath.  Everyone seeking to take a life.  “…the Lord has a controversy with the inhabitants of the land.  There is no faithfulness or steadfast love, and no knowledge of God in the land; there is swearing, lying, murder, stealing, and committing adultery; they break all bounds, and bloodshed follows bloodshed. …Yet let no one contend, and let none accuse,” Hosea 4:1-4.  What begins as the victimization of our ignorance becomes the uncontrollable force of seeking retribution.  We don’t really like to see ourselves that way.  We like to think that we deserve what we take.  We like to believe that we are only fulfilling a need.  Even if that need is to take our own lives.  But, in the end, it doesn’t matter if we deserved the fulfillment or not.  Jesus Christ revealed to us through His willingness to give His life to us, that no one is to demand personal justice.  “If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews.  But my kingdom is not from the world,” John 18:36.  But rather, we are here to do what is good for others….
At the cross, I see that I am only angry because He does not give me what I want.  I also see that I only wanted to use Him to fulfill my personal justice.  I didn’t love Him.  I didn’t care about the welfare of this Beloved Image-Bearer.  Although He was everything I really needed, He wasn’t everything I really wanted.  His Life could be exposed of for all I cared.  Silver?  Thirty pieces of silver?  Ok.  He isn’t helping us overthrow the government and He certainly hasn’t stopped my husband from being unkind.  My boss is still stingy and my mother-in-law nags.  He didn’t do anything about it.  So sure, I’ll say whatever you want me to.  I could use the money anyway.  God hasn’t helped.  I can do without Him. …and anyone else who doesn’t help me.  

Friday, August 27, 2010

A Condemned Man

It would seem, when sifting through Scripture, that the cross was an entirely planned and orchestrated event, determined and designed by Divinity from before even the sin of Adam.  “…you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.  He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for your sake…” 1 Peter 1:18-20.  The cross was planned and at the ingenuity of Divinity, it could not be thwarted.  However, there is another part to history….
  It is the part that humanity plays in producing the God/Man drama.  A holistic perspective of crucifix history causes us to realize that logically, the human heart was prone to do exactly as it did to Jesus Christ.  God was well aware that Laws of Death would one day reach a climax at the cross.  He presented His Life, in the Son, at the exact moment in history when our hearts were ripe with anger and ready for an execution.  Without direct spiritual connection with our Divine Creator, every human individual runs the gamut of responses to injustice and collides head first with a desire to destroy Creator God.  
All fingers directed themselves at Christ.  He was ultimately to blame for our human victimization.  And the intense beauty of the story is that He took it.  He took the blame.  He became for us the victimizer although He was the victim, the accuser although He was the accused, the liar although He had been lied to, the murderer although He hung there murdered.  He took our guilt as though He had committed our crimes.  And He took the guilt of those who mistreated us as though He had committed their crimes.  “…and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all…” Isaiah 53:6.
All of our proneness to sin against God and man was laid on Christ.  All of our injustices.  And Jesus took them Lawfully.  Under human conviction, He lowered Himself to the position of the guilty.  He was Lawfully crucified as a condemned man.  He handed to humanity the right to penalize His life.  Here is a hammer and take this nail.  You have been given the right to execute…
In the form of condemned humanity, He said not a word of defense.  When we elected the verdict of “guilty” He honored our authority and obeyed its ramifications unto death.  At that moment in history, He did not grasp at godship… .He didn’t appeal to His own authority to judge us; rather, He willingly excepted our Lawfully just judgment upon His Humanity.  In history, in representation of the whole human race, in human court, He really was a justly condemned Man.
“And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross,” Philippians 2:8.


Thursday, August 26, 2010

Laid Bare

The human heart was never laid so bare as it was at the foot of the cross.  The multitude of faces that gathered around the events of Golgotha betrayed our lack of interest in the preservation of God’s image.  They were the faces of those who had in some measure enjoyed Christ’s company in their hometowns.   He had walked with them and talked with them and cared for them inasmuch as they would allow Him to.  “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it!  How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!” Matthew 23:37.  Although the cross was the greatest act of selflessness on the part of Divinity, it was the greatest act of selfishness on the part of humanity.
The crucifix story itself would retain only divine, miraculous, transcendent, luminescent, fragrant and spiritual qualities… .if it were not for the addition of the human heart.  Our desires to kill Christ… .yes, current desires… .are a direct result of our victimization.  In this fallen world among subjective choices we have all, at some time in our history, experienced injustice and lost rights.  We cry our for justice and seek ways to secure it… .for self.  Someone must return the stolen goods.  Someone must pay for our losses!
The Christ peers across the terrain that is ravaged and discarded.  He observes the boundary crossers.  They are all boundary crossers!  They have all stolen and they have all been stolen from.  Each one is starring angrily at the others… .expecting retribution… .not noticing their own guilt.  To blame one is to blame them all!  But no one will lay a weapon down.  “I will,” says the Christ.  And He lays His weapon down.  He will not take from those who took from Him.  And He will not take from those who took from us.  He will give His own life as a ransom for many.  He will be the accused boundary crosser.
But that’s not necessarily what we want…. We want Christ to fight against the Romans, to take back what has been taken from us.  We want Him to join our causes of injustice.  We want Him to invest in our personal agendas.  But He says, “My kingdom is not of this world,” John 18:36.  He didn’t come to fight with us.
We wanted His kingdom to be of this world.  We wanted a Savior who would point fingers with us.  A Savior who would give condemnation where we felt condemnation was due.  We wanted a Savior who would satisfy our personal agendas for justice.   And when He wouldn’t, He became our enemy.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A Swordless King

The servant’s agonizing cry rippled hard against the eardrums of the armed band of arrestees.  It was fuel for the stoked fires of eagerly murderous thoughts.  See, this man really is a rebel leader!  The detached left ear landed at the feet of a scribe, splattering blood along the edges of his ceremonially clean robe.  A Roman guard bowed his shoulder to steady the youth as a wash of uneasy regret came and went from the scribe’s face.  The sound of many worldviews could be heard riding on the ends of fists, clubs, swords and daggers.  The entire escapade was not about lives, it was about kingdoms…
Startled moments before, among the fragrant perfumes of creamy olive blossoms, a misunderstanding disciple had arisen to the drama of this small invading army with a question, “Lord, shall we strike with the sword?” Luke 22:29.  To the average Jew, the unfolding story was a clash of kingdoms; a fight to the death of opposing agendas.  Reoccurring history had once again pitted I against They.
The servant writhed in bitter reminder of our humanness.  The middle aged man known as Jesus, a teacher, healer, and mistakenly labeled rebel leader, threw His unyielding love forward and recovered the human ear.  Odd.  What would he do with it?  Declare a sadistic revolt of blood by flinging it into the air?  No.  The Son of God once again declared an unearthly kingdom; His right hand, that had previously coddled His rough bearded face, embracing bloody streams of painful tears, set the ear gently upon its life source and wordlessly demanded a bond.  He had no quarrel with this servant, with these soldiers and these priests.  To this Man of Galilee, descended of Heaven, there were no real enemies here… .just men of lost identity and misguided hearts, brandishing deadly swords of perishing wars.  
His kingdom was not of this world.  His sword did not fight these battles.  He was here to take nothing from us.  He had no personal vengeance or agenda of His own.  He came to give and die.  Therefore, He came to us with no sword.
“Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs?” Luke 22:52.  Selah.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Fallen Frailty

How much of my skin can you see?  
I will pull the covers a little tighter  
I will build a little higher and a little thicker around my soul
My flesh is painted bright orange
It continually summons the unwanted eyes
Surrounded by battlements and towers
Everyone knows it’s just my flesh and blood in here
I cannot forgive my imperfections
I cannot agree with my inabilities
I am frail and it bothers me
How much of my skin can you see?
Is my nakedness unsightly?
Can you see I’ve been misused?
I am disadvantaged in my surroundings
And I can be taken advantage of
I will hold my weapons a little higher
A little tighter in my hand
If they come to me, I will cut them
If they bruise me, they also will bleed
How much of my skin can you see?
I can see yours too
You are naked under your defenses
And this knowledge will be my key
I cannot forgive your imperfections
I choose to agree with your inabilities
You are frail and it bothers you
If you bruise me, you also will bleed

Monday, August 23, 2010

Personal Agenda

Humanity often has a very isolated idea of justice.  It involves the restoration of rights and others getting what they deserve.  It usually manifests in the proclamation that I should get what I deserve (restoration) and you should get what you deserve (death).  My young children can testify to this!  (And all mothers say “Amen!”)  They always know how to articulate their unsatisfied rights and who should get the spanking!  I do not recall that justice has ever been radically served in my household by the innocent party offering to take the punishment for the guilty party.  If this has ever happened in your household, consider yourself wholly blessed!  You have ascended closer to Heaven!
Justice, in our thinking, is served best by each member getting their due.  We are excellent supporters of the “eye for eye” and “tooth for tooth” clause in Exodus… .as long as we are not the guilty party!  Very unconscious of our ways, we are ardent supporters of Lamech.  If another life bruises me, they will also bleed!  To us, it is only just and fair that another life should be equally relegated to the level of shame and loss that our own life now bears after we have been injured and victimized.  The injustice should be brought to justice.  This way of thinking is not entirely wrong…
Sadly, however, we are caught in a great dillemna.  If every Human heart demands a life for a life… .if each individual demands payment for his or her loss… .then everyone is woefully indebted to pay up.  
And there you have it: Arms extended with open hands and other arms thrown into the air, hurling angry fists.  “Give me justice!” is the cry - a great disguise for “Give me your life!”.  When justice is the premise for Lamech’s personal, individual agenda, there is a dangerously legal right to bruise, bleed and take a life.  These agendas are not so trustworthy.  They are frightening and very incomplete in their perspectives.  They are dangerously sharp and they come with signed papers.  
It would make a great painting some day.  A work of art littered with dozens of angry faces; people holding legal documents and swords.  And no one in the crowd seems to realize that, yes, perhaps they will get their justice - the life of the guy that bruised them may get his due - but their life is written on someone else’s paper also.  Their life is demanded as well. They linger dangerously at the end of a neighbor’s sword…

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Seven Sets of Seventy Attempts

“Lamech said to his wives: ‘Adah and Zillah hear my voice; you wives of Lamech, listen to what I say: I have killed a man for wounding me, a young man for striking me.  If Cain’s revenge is sevenfold, than Lamech’s revenge is seventy-sevenfold’,” Genesis 4:23-24.  Revenge has an old, old history…
Wounded.  Struck down.  We all bear bruises.  Injustice is not exclusive but a historically universal reality.  As long as you live in this world, you will experience it’s bruises.  It will rub and press hard against your happy existence.  Selah.  What to do?  
History thrives with the stories of “Lamechs”.  Individuals who would not bear a bruise without inflicting an equal or greater bruising on the guilty party.  Legalities only support a “life for a life” mentality.  Legally, we have at least the right to equality in regard to justice.  If you steal from me, I am authorized to recover equal goods and services from you.  I am authorized to redeem my lose.  It’s only just!
However, is this the sort of justice that we really want? Think for a moment.  Do you really want all of humanity demanding justice… .a life for a life?
“But if there is harm, then you shall pay life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for bun, wound for wound , stripe for stripe,” Exodus 21:23-25.  There you have it.  As the story goes, there must be equal justice.  We are required to do what is fair.  
Well, I am still thinking about this.  See, there appears to be a genuine problem.  If fairness is demanded then we are all dead men walking.  Because… .all are guilty.  Therefore… .all are dead.  Everyone’s life is demanded of another.
“Then Peter came up and said to him, ‘Lord, how often will by brother sin against me, and I forgive him?  As many as seven times?’  Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven’,”  Matthew 18:21-22.  Do you remember Lamech, Peter?  He wanted to take revenge as many as seven sets of seventy attempts!  Jesus tells Peter, Jesus tells us, to forgive as many times as Lamech wanted revenge. Or, perhaps it is better to say this: we are to forgive as many times as we desire revenge… .as many times as we want to demand fairness… .as many times as we feel authorized to take from another what they have stolen from us… .even when we are correct in our quest for justice.  We are to forgive rather than laying claim to our legal right of a life for a life.
So, in conclusion, “a life for a life” is just and fair.  But, we who put faith in the Son of God are to appeal to a better justice and a universal fairness that acquits all “dead men walking”.  Therefore, let us look into the matter of justice and forgiveness…..


Friday, August 20, 2010

Injustice

Injustice requires a sacrifice.  The Written Law provided a detailed description of the sacrifices required due to injustice against God and injustice against each other.  God was serious about His creation living in justice.  “You shall appoint judges and officers in all your towns that the Lord your God is giving you, according to your tribes, and they shall judge the people with righteous judgment.  You shall not pervert justice.  You shall not show partiality, and you shall not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and subverts the cause of the righteous.  Justice, and only justice, you shall follow, that you may live and inherit the land that the Lord your God is giving you,” Deuteronomy 16:18-20. 
None of us has escaped assault.  We have all experienced mistreatment, abuse and rejection at one time or another.  Added to that, is the compiling of our parent’s injustices.  We are a bundle of experienced injustice.  God knows this.  He has experienced the suggestion, accusation and assault as well. ….from us and our Adversary.  He is familiar with injustice and it’s multitude of penalties.
The repayment for injustice is clear.  A life.  As individuals, we are indebted to each other and as a race we are indebted to God.  Although the repayment of a life is demanded of mankind, God has always provided a substitute.  Throughout Biblical history  those who did not bind themselves to the covenant of substitution, remained indebted to the penalty. Even now, the requirement still exists, but He has laid the penalty upon Himself.  Therefore, humanity is free of its burden.  All demands were resolved in Christ.  All injustice was satisfied in Christ.
….yet we are often still unsatisfied…

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Victims

“…I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne.  They cried out with a loud voice, ‘O Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” Revelation 6:9-10.  
O Lord, what will you do about this?  We have been victimized!  Assaulted!  Slain!!
What were they doing there?  Why were they lingering underneath the altar?  They are speaking something to us.  They linger under the statute of justice.  The slain do not take revenge.  They do not seek retribution for sins done against them.  They do not secure their own justice.  
The Cross and its Christ are where we go for justice.  He is an eternal statement that justice was necessary and it has been accomplished.  He has taken punishment for the sins we have committed and the sins done against us….
I am thankful that God is not passive or indifferent to my cries for justice.  God takes injustice seriously.  He does not hold guiltless those who have trespassed in our territory, overstepped our boundary and taken what is not theirs to take.  But what do you believe about God?  Is He idly observing the ravaging of your body and soul?  What has He done about it and what will He do?  Your belief system is highly important here.
Two things I know: God has already executed the sinner and He has promised to redeem the saint.  In Christ, the sins of the whole would where paid for.  Christ bore the vengeance due to those who sinned against us and the vengeance due us for those we have sinned against.  God was not idle… .He poured out His anger against the injustice  done to you and me.  He poured it out on Christ.   Justice.  And the victims that refuse to take personal vengeance and wait upon God for restoration will receive more than what they have lost in rights and authority.  Justice again.  God will be just towards the victim if the victim does not seek to secure justice for themselves!  Trust in… .wait on God for justice!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Costly

Due to our experiences of injustice, our own flesh and blood cries out for a resolve.  We need justice!  “And the Lord said, ‘What have you done?  The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground,” Genesis 4:10.  The image of God had been cut and discarded.  Abel’s God-given life was actively crying for justice in its breathless state.   
Again, I will say, that injustice has happened to us all.  We have all been assaulted by words and actions done against us.  From the womb we have been aroused by the cries of injustice that inhabited our parents and the generations before.  In a fallen world, we are encouraged by our  Adversary to indulge our need for justice.  We are incited to take back the rights we deserve… .or perhaps what we think we deserve.
  Instead of seeking to do justice, we commit our time and energies to getting justice and we become demanding.  A world at war is a world full of demanding hearts.  “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you?  Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?  You desire and do not have, so you murder.  You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel,” James 4:2.  All want what they feel they deserve.  Yet, as individuals, we are not authorized to decide what “we deserve”; what is within our rights to justly take.  Truly, who can measure or decide that?  Who really knows what Life deserves but God Himself?  And who, other than He, is to decide when and how we should obtain it?  
We have no right to demand our own rights since all are also guilty of straying past the boundaries of others and taking what is rightfully their own.  Yet, under our independent governments, we make choices about how we will get what we feel we deserve.  And those choices will be costly.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Be Angry, Sin Not

“Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly,” Proverbs 14:29.  Anger is not good or evil. The Webster’s dictionary describes it as “rage” or “passionate displeasure”.  It is a disposition rather than an action.  Anger can be justified or unjustified.  
God is always justified in His anger.  In Jeremiah 44:8, He asks the Israelite nation, “Why do you provoke me to anger with the works of your hands…?” when they were making and worshipping idols.  
Anger is always the result of an imagined or real injustice.  Regardless, it is still anger.  At the moment of our anger, we are also at the moment of choice.  “Choose life and you will live…”  We have an opportunity to make use of our weaponry or to receive from God’s arsenal of grace.
It is important for us to understand, that anger, not submitted to our Original Creator, becomes a deadly force.  This is true even for those who are justified in their anger.  Every human being has been assaulted, at some point, by the working of sin against them; and therefore every human being has a very good reason to be angry.  But none of us are independently free to take vengeance.  “Repay no evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.  If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.  Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord’,” Romans 12:17-19.  

Monday, August 16, 2010

We Have All Lost Rights

Boundaries are a matter of conscience.  Recognizing the rights of God and man is simply an issue of what we ought to commonly know.  No one really needs to tell us not to kill, steal or destroy.  We are smarter than that.  
Nevertheless, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way…” Isaiah 53:6.  We have wandered into other territory.  We have eaten grass in someone else’s field.  We have taken what is not ours to take.  We have made subjective choices according to personal need or desire.  All of us.  And we have each had someone wander into our territory, eat our grass and take what is not theirs to take.  Everyone has lost what is rightfully theirs.  We have all lost rights.
What to do in the midst of injustice?!  How to handle my loss of rights?!  Truth be told, you and I need what was taken.  We need the air and food, nurture and protection, friendship and affection!  But someone has walked away with handfuls of our rights and authority.  Someone has taken our basic needs of survival!
What to do?!  I could kick, scream and blame.  Become angry.  Yes, I will probably do all of these.  But then what will I do?  There are a number of possibilities.  This is the moment of choice.  The moment where Cain’s eyes linger upon Abel in unjustified anger.  The moment where we each lay down our rights and take up the cause of others.  Or the moment where we hold tight to them and take the life of another….

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Cover Me

It is slightly uncomfortable to live in a world governed by subjectivity.  It is very uncomfortable for our vulnerable flesh.  Not one of us escapes the potential use and abuse of subjective neighbors.  And not one of us escapes the temptation to use and abuse someone else.  
There was a man from Galilee who also experienced the discomfort of vulnerable flesh.  “For I was hungry… .I was thirsty… . I was a stranger… .I was naked… .I was sick… .I was in prison,” Matthew 25:35-36.  Christ made statements of His humanity.  He fully identified Himself with the vulnerability of our flesh to good and evil choices.  In His humanity, He was tempted to choose between good and evil and He was subjected to the good and evil choices of others.  
Christ will not exploit our condition.  In our vulnerability to subjectivity He will never put us to shame.  He brings us out of this world and its exploitations.  He seeks to gather us to Himself and cover us with His mercy.  “But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet,” Luke 15:22.
And since we know that flesh and blood individuals live so uncomfortably in this world, since we are aware of their exposed humanity, since we know Christ, this is what we ought to do: clothe them!  We ought to respect their boundaries.  We are not of the way of this world.  We do not expose, exploit and put to shame.  Just as God has covered us, so also, we cover others.  We seek to bring them out of this  world and its exploitations; this world that oversteps, usurps and manipulates.  “My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins,” James 5:20.  This world walks into any individual and takes, exposes the victim and puts to shame.   It lures the unconscious into sinning so that it can take advantage of the exploitations of sin.  But, we, the covered, deliver individuals from sin and cover the manipulated flesh.  
“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me,” Matthew 25:35-36.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Sin Exploits

How much sin can I get away with and still go to heaven?
Eeeer.  Brake.  Stop.  Rewind.  Huh?  Are you serious?  What kind of question is that?  A question arising from a VERY skewed perspective of sin….
Sin always leads to some form of death!  Temporal or Etnernal.  Physical or Emotional.  Intellectual or Material.  Someone, somewhere will be dramatically affected by our choices.  Sin strives to usurp a will, take a possession, destroy a destiny, break a body… .and the list goes on.    Sin reaches over the boundary lines and extracts power.  It considers itself authorized beyond the restrictions of conscious.  It ignores the cry.  It refuses justice.  It justifies itself.  It is its own authority.  Sin creeps.  Sin ravages.  Sin exploits.  Period.  There is nothing worthy or right about the unfettered false authority of sin.
Uriah died.  Bathsheba lay uncovered.  A womb was deprived its joy.  David nearly seared his conscious.  A sword vanquished household justice.  A son rebelled.  Many, many innocent were exploited.  Read the story in 2 Samuel, chapter 11 through chapter 18.  A story of sin and the sword.  The heavenly righteous and all good Bible readers with a conscience are silent.  One self-authorized, self-justified sin brought robbery, death and destruction to a multitude.  No one feels sorry for David.  
This isn’t about afterlives.  This is about the destructive power of sin.  God says, “No” for a reason.  We may not know all the reasons, but we better heed the “No”.  We Humans are not authorized to move beyond it.   Any amount of sin we engage brings just that much exploitation to someone, somewhere.  Its not a game of how much we can and cannot do.  Sin is destructive and painful in the long run.  
God takes unfettered sins very seriously.  In a world where He actively strives to preserve wholeness, purity and soundness - to revive and renew creation to such a state - He has absolutely no tolerance of sin's aggressive and abusive tyranny.  God has never been in the business of holding an unnecessary pious standard for no good reason.  He has been a God who hates sin because its very nature exposes and undignifies creation.  It is a force that removes boundaries at a whim and reveals our weak, usurped condition.  God hates the works and affects of sin.  
He hates it because He loves you.
God has a holy place - a whole, pure and sound place - for you and I to dwell.  No exploitation.  Only dignity.  We can, individually at the least, chose to keep our hearts and hands free of sinning and exploit no one else.  Have high regard for holy restraints.  Your green pastures are within them.   

Thursday, August 12, 2010

One Little Ewe, part 3

“You are the man!”  The words reverberated through the unoccupied hall.  Only King David and the Prophet Nathan stood face to face in the hollow room.  Echo.  Echo.  It seemed to repeat itself over and over again.  You, David are the man….
Five moments before, David sat on his well cushioned throne entertaining the Prophet Nathan in a private conference.  He leaned forward, engrossed in the tale of a rich man who seemed to feel he had the right to take a poor man’s only favored little ewe for a dinner party.  David’s anger was incited and brewing busily within as he stood to his feet and begin to pace the throne room floor.  His eyes darted about the hall as he considered his judgment of such a rebellious wrong-doing. 
“THIS MAN WILL PAY!” he bellowed, fist thrown outward towards Nathan.  “I will not allow this sort of evil to pervade our city or this nation!”  He fixed his gaze on Nathan’s teared filled eyes.  David’s expression softened into slight bewilderment. Nathan lowered his eyes to the floor, inhaled a slow breath and squinted at the red swirl pattern in the marble.  How was he going to say this?  David froze in a regal stance feeling an uneasy knot in his gut.  He straightened abruptly and forced himself into a kingly trot across the marble floor.  “Death,” he judged authoritatively, “As the Lord lives, the man who has done this deserves to die, and he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity,” 2 Samuel 12:5-6.  A life for a life.  Final verdict.  He lowered himself on the throne, slowly wrapping his hands over its stately arms.
Nathan’s gaze continued to follow the red swirls, perhaps searching for a way out of exposing his royal friend’s foolishness.  Today, he did not want to be a prophet.  Nathan waited the silence.  He trembled.  He meditated on his loyalty to a God whose mercy reached high and low and covered vast sins.  He could abandon the heart of Divinity even less than he could let David feel the weight of his sins.  He waited the silence some more.  It was time…. .One breath.  A quick raising of the head.  Steady eyes.  Love.  “You, David, are the man!” his voice rose to an even strong tone.  
David’s throat went entirely dry as Nathan detailed the happenings of an adulterous, murderous sin.  Subjective, self-seeking desires filled the hall in steady words that broke David’s judgmental position.  Adulterer.  Murderer.  You, David, are the man!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

One Little Ewe, part 2

In the early afternoon of that very day, the poor man’s sons tended to the little ewe.  The older sons groomed her and the younger sons cleaned her pen behind their street level apartment home on the outskirts of the city.  When finished, they sojourned a short distance to a nearby field just outside the city gate to gather grass for this favored family pet.
While the sons were away in the field and the father was away doing business at a neighbors home and the mother was away searching the market for fresh vegetables for the evening meal, four hired men crept into the little ewe’s pen and stealthily whisked her away.
The sons returned, the father returned and the mother returned, each to find the precious little ewe missing from her pen.  That evening and late into the night their cries could be heard through the city streets and at the neighbors doors as they searched high and low for their pet….
“How do you like the arrangement of foods, my friend!?” the rich man boasted as he waved towards the feast spread across the low table.  The traveler leaned heartily into the silk cushions that covered the marble floor.  “Well done!  Well done!” he praised, arousing his appetite, “A great tribute to your excellent cooks!”  
The rich man slightly concealed his smirk, “I chose this succulent lamb very specifically for this occasion,” he sneered, “I took special care in my choice… .I believe you will enjoy every.. .juicy.. .bite,” he emphasized.  The rich man motioned to his staff to serve the lamb. “Yes,” he chuckled, “I believe this will be a satisfying feast…..”
To be continued…

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

One Little Ewe, part 1

In the days of kings and shepherds lived a man of meager means within the city of a wealthy, thriving economy.  This poorer man dwelt with his wife and five very pleasant sons and an ewe, one little ewe loved like a daughter.  He fed her from his hand and walked with her in the evening.  He spoke with her of his days and napped with her in the latter of the morning.  She was a lamb of special favor in his eyes.  
A sharp knock startled the man and his fluffy companion from one such latter morning nap.  Rap-a-rap-ap, it hastily interrupted.  The man yawned and stretched and patted his little friend and shimmied out of the stone window seat.  Rap-a-rap-ap.  “Coming, coming, coming,” he muttered, shuffling his short stubby frame to the door.  He pulled the door open to a younger servant, about seventeen, dressed in plain rich garments.  “Sir” the servant turned his nose eastward to avoid the smell of the hot, stuffy apartment, “I have come to inquire if you will allow my master to purchase your ewe for a fine dinner he will be serving this evening to a guest.”
The poor man chuckled and proclaimed with vocal exaggeration, “Your wealthy and pompous master has several hundred ewes he could chose from for his important dinner and you have the nerve to ask me for my one.. .little.. .ewe!”  The poor man was nose to nose in the servants face.  He shook his head and laughed heartily again to show his annoyance at the request.  The servant was unmoved, “He will compensate you well”, he said dryly.  The poor man threw his hands in the air and waved toward the servant, “Fool!” he shouted, “Be gone!  Such a ridiculous request!  You ought to know the answer!”  He waved and waved some more for the servant to leave.  “Go eat one of your own fat ugly ewes!” and the poor man shut his small apartment door with gusto.
He shuffled over toward the stone ledge where his little friend lay and sat down.  He patted her head and stroked her ears.  “Such a silly rich man, ey little one?” he smiled kindly. “No one will make a dinner of you,” he whispered, “You are a friend to me.”

To be continued...

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

A Sly Fox

“Catch the foxes for us, the little foxes that spoil the vineyards, for our vineyards are in blossom,” Song of Songs 2:15.  Catch for us the sly things.. .the little fleet-footed desires that know no boundaries.  Catch for us the persistent pernicious lusts that blaze through our good possibilities and run away with our bloom.  Catch the eyes that peer into vineyards not their own… .Catch them before they ravage the beautiful vines…
At 3 o’clock in the afternoon, the sun was heading towards its highest and hottest delegation of the day.  Jerusalem women would ascend flights of stairs leading to their heated roof pools in a little more than an hour.  The city relinquished its mothers, sisters and daughters to bathing in water warmed by the noonday sun.
David twirled a child’s wood toy on the edge of a table, tempting gravity to pull it to the floor.  The fascinating game was getting dull; gravity had predictably won more times than not.  David was bored.  He looked up.  Everyone else seemed to have something important to do.  Most of the court women had ventured a little closer to heaven for a warm bath; not even a beautiful form present to admire.  
The king stood up and stretched.  He looked out the window as hot light poured through and he casually strolled towards the nearest set of stairs.  He ascended slowly and lingered on the next floor, smiled and nodded at all the servants and considered ascending another set of stairs.
He did.  He went up.  And up.  And up again.  Wouldn’t it be nice to take in a picturesque view of the city?  His conscious tickled a bit.  Why?  Nothing wrong with sightseeing.  He wriggled in his skin, cleared his throat and looked around.  No one around.  He shuffled quickly towards a private chamber, slid through the door, shut and bolted the lock behind his back.  He felt like a criminal.  I just want to look outside! David silently screamed to his conscience.  And he spat inside a little too while heading towards the high open balcony to take in a lovely view….  
This isn’t the David we’ve come to know and love in musical lyrics.  This isn’t the David of heros ballads chasing Divinities heart.  This slinking sly lust reminds us more of a Foxy usurper, stealing into to vineyards not his own… .stealing lovely married ladies as the story goes… .killing faithful brethren so that nobody knows.  You know the story in 2 Samuel, chapter 11….
  Sly little lusts will always do very big damage to somebody’s vineyard….

"Say"

“Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in that land and befriend faithfulness,” Psalm 37:3.  In other words, enjoy the habitable land God has provided.  Be faithful to it.  Do not try to occupy land that is not yours to occupy… .dwell here and befriend tending to this land…
“Wait for the Lord and keep his way, and he will exalt you to inherit the land,” Psalm 37:34.  While others are taking land not their own, by force, you are befriending the territory God has given you.  You are waiting on His command…
“The steps of a man are established by the Lord, when he delights in his way… .for the Lord loves justice, he will not forsake his saints,” Psalm 37:23 & 28.  God loves the just man who cares for his territory and does not take what is not his to take.  God will be just towards the just man and He will lead Him, step by step, towards a larger habitation, a greater inheritance…
“Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart,” Psalm 37:4.  Ask and wait.  Enjoy your habitation.  Delight in His moral and provisional will.  Ask and wait.  Trust His moving.  Trust that He wants to enlarge your territory and if you move with Him you will inhabit the very desires of your heart.
We cannot just take whatever we desire.  Our desires must be laid at His feet; but we can attend to His desires and move with His will.  As we become deeply concerned about the fulfillment of the desires of God’s heart a revelation occurs: God has been concerned about our desires all along!  He is exalting us to inherit land!
Therefore, the moving of boundaries is no longer, for us, a matter of subjective lust - taking what is not ours to take.  It is a matter of agreement with His will… .and we have confidence in this to ask and wait and simply “Say”.
“…If you have faith… .You will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you,” Matthew 17:20.  Mountains represent a boundary.  They stand in our way when going from “here” to “there”.  They stand in God’s way as well and the expansion of habitable land may require their removal.  So when God is moving a mountain to enlarge the place where you live, you will have confidence!  There is no need to kick and whine and scream... .to kill or steal or destroy… .all you have to do is “Say”!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

A Confident Asker

“And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.  And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him,” 1 John 5:14.  For instance… “If anyone sees he brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life,” 1 John 5:16.  We know that we have what we ask for when it it something that God wants as well.  Simple.
Asking is not about getting our way… .it’s about getting His way.  We ask God to fulfill the very desires of His heart towards us and towards others.  Very simply, this is not about demanding and taking but about asking and waiting.  We have confidence in our asking, seeking and knocking when we are certain that our request is within the moral and provisional care of God.  He wants it, so we ask for it.  
You cannot confidently ask when you know it is not yours to ask for.  Boundaries are not ours to move as we please.  Nevertheless, as David has testified, the boundaries that God has placed around our lives are spacious and good.  “The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance,” Psalm 16:6.  As we come to know His moral and provisional will in our lives and as we submit to the boundaries of His care, we can request enlargement of those boundaries.  God wants to expand our territory... .to move us out in all directions so we may testify of His goodness.  When we know where He is going, how He is expanding and changing the territory, we can move boundaries with Him according to His will.  
“Enlarge the place of your tent, and let the curtains of your habitations be stretched out, do not hold back; lengthen your cords and strengthen your stakes.  For you will spread abroad to the right and to the left and your offspring will possess the nations and will people the desolate cities,” Isaiah 54:2-3.
The command is to “stretch out”, “lengthen”, “spread abroad”.  When we know that God is commanding a change in boundaries, we can command with Him.  We are asking “according to his will”, and there is no reason to hold back.  “You will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you,” Matthew 17:20.  

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Principle of Asking

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you,” Matthew 7:7.  
Very little is ours just for the taking.  We are limited by boundaries and rules.  Those boundaries and rules may prove to be rather inconvenient from time to time.  So, we have been given the principle of asking.
The initiative to move a boundary is always on our part.  We may usurp and manipulate and overcome those who have the power to move it or we can ask God.  I’ll give you one guess as to which is better…..
Time up!  It is not only better to ask, it is required.  After all, we have laid down our rights, our powers.  We have no right to move boundaries around.  We cannot assume that anything of earth is ours for the taking.  We can only ask according to His will.  And we become fervent “Askers”; often also known as people of prayer.  We have laid down our subjective powers.  We do not chose to manipulate and usurp according to what seemed right in our own eyes for our own benefit and welfare.  We have become fervent Askers calling on the help and government of God.
“For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened,” Matthew 7:8.  Christ tells us that askers become receivers and seekers become finders and knockers walk through an open door.  Not so, with takers, manipulators or usurpers.  For the taker, the gift is never placed in the hand by a giver.  It must be stolen away.  For the manipulator, the blessing is not stumbled upon with delightful discovery.  The manipulator knows of another’s blessing and must be wrench it skillfully from their hands.  And for the usurper, the door is never opened.  It remains shut and must be broken down.
But we are told to ask and wait, to seek and trust, to knock persistently and give the door owner a choice.  God says He will answer the Asker!  The Asker is not expecting mankind to move a boundary.  The Asker’s expectation is on God.  God will be the giver, the discoverer and the opener.  Don’t take, manipulate or usurp another life…. .just ask God for what you need…
“…How much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” Matthew 7:11.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Boundaries

Life has natural boundaries.  When God created the universe, He separated Night from Day by making the Night dark and the Day light.  There was a natural boundary.  When He formed the human body, He put blood within the boundaries of veins and thought within the boundaries of the brain.  Life has natural boundaries.  
We know that God respects the need for boundaries.  Conscience tells us that not everything we observe is ours for the taking.  Our authority begins and ends, our wisdom begins and ends, our rights begin and end.  All that we are and have is within limitations.  We cannot lawfully usurp or possess anything we please. 
David mentions the boundaries of his own life in Psalms 16:6, “The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.”  David recognized that the boundaries God had placed spaciously around his spirit were a beautiful heritage of Life.  There was no need to manipulate those boundaries.  However, sometimes we do manipulate boundaries and sometimes others manipulate our own…
And because lawlessness will be increased…” Matthew 24:12.  Someone will probably step over a boundary today.  More than likely, many people will step over boundaries today and cross over into another individual’s personal inheritance.  The boundary crosser will look around and carefully consider the collection of emotional, mental, spiritual and physical belongings.  “Which portion will I claim for myself?” he or she will think.  And for a moment too long they will close down their conscience to grab a little here and a little there.  Maybe you crossed a boundary today.  Or maybe someone crossed your boundary today and you experienced an injustice…

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