Friday, May 11, 2012

The Death of Life

The women sat around the table, grappling with the  impossible, the inconceivable, the unimaginable and their hearts twisted, their stomachs clenched, their minds spun.  Okay, maybe the other women didn't feel that way, but I did.  It was lesson seventeen of eighteen on the book of Mark and, once again, I marveled at Jesus' journey to and through the cross.

We discussed the courage of Peter and John in the courtyard, the physical abuse and the betrayal Jesus endured, but could not get past the fact that God Himself bore our sin, that the Godhead was rent.  How could the one who said, "I am the resurrection and the life," become unrighteousness and death?  

And I realized that we, the created beings, live in a state of death.  Until God draws us and quickens us, there is no spiritual life (Ephesians 2:1).  We begin as small babes with little awareness of the world around us and grow, day by day, as we are fed and nurtured into fullness of life (John 10:10).  Jesus was life.  The Author of life. The Giver of life.  The Fullness of life.  And He, bearing my sin, gave up that spiritual life, what He was, what He had always been.  There is no level of human comprehension to span that distance.

Then we, dead, naked corpses that we are, claim that God died for all, that we will all join Him in paradise, that we can live as we choose and take the rot to heaven where God will miraculously transform unrepentant hearts into joyous rapturous ones that continue to seek their own pleasure.  Not so.  We must come.  We must fall on our faces, acknowledging our sin and fallenness and asking for His mercy and forgiveness.  We choose to take the life He gives and live daily in the dual body of death vs. life until this body is left behind and we, too, experience His presence in its fullness.  We would still be dead.  We deserve nothing more....

But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us,  even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),  and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,  that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.  For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,  not of works, lest anyone should boast.  For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:4-10).

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Come and See!

Our ladies Bible study group has been working its way through the book of Mark, and this Easter morning, I am thinking about faith.  Faith is the act of going to God with expectation.  The four friends took their lame companion to Jesus and lowered him through the roof because they expected Jesus to heal him.  Jairus went knowing Jesus could heal his daughter.  The hemorrhaging woman reached out and touched, believing He would make her well.  Then Jesus went to Nazareth and taught in the synagogue.  There was amazement, but without crowds, clambering people, mobs of distraction.  "And He could do no miracles there except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them.  And He wondered at their unbelief"  (Mark 6:5-6).

On Easter morning, I often think of Mary.  "Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came early to the tomb, while it was still dark, and saw the stone already taken away from the tomb.... But Mary was standing outside the tomb weeping; and so, as she wept, she stopped and looked into the tomb..." (John 20:1,11).  Mary went to Jesus with every expectation of finding Him.

This morning, as I consider struggles and disappointment and my need, am I willing to go to Jesus?  To leave behind excuses and justifications and simply go?  Do I believe, truly believe, that He is who He says He is?

"And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him" (Hebrews 11:6).

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Radio Show: Following Jesus

The radio announcer was talking with Michael Card about Jesus' death and asked the audience, "What does the idea of taking up your cross and following Jesus mean to you where you are today?" (Yes, Chris Fabry likes words.)  I fumbled with my phone, but didn't dare dial as I exited the interstate.  Compared to the 71-year-old woman's ups and downs, my personal examples felt silly.  However, these examples came to mind immediately, and I know there is no inconsequential choice.  If I'd called in, this is what I would have said:

Today, dying to myself meant not eating the frosted cherry pop-tart.  I wanted it.  Really wanted it, but I have been convicted of consuming more calories than I need.  Disobedience, following my wants and desires, would have been eating the pop tart.  Obedience, following Jesus, meant choosing a low-calorie alternative.

Today, dying to myself meant placing a call to the nursing home.  "Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this, to visit orphans and widows in their trouble..."  (James 1:27).  I've been unable to connect with this friend lately.  Disobedience would be indulging in story-world via an audiobook or netflix.  Obedience meant putting my friend's preferences before my own.

Today, I am reminded that dying to self is not all about loss, for God's rule of sowing and reaping applies at all times.  "Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap" (Galatians 6:7).  When I do that which is right and good and pleasing to God in faith, I am rewarded with like consequences.  I feel good, my heart is filled with joy and peace, my faith is assured and doubt is diminished. 

As I choose to follow Christ in obedience, in suffering, in dying to self, I am encouraged that God provides for each and every need, that I might glory in Him and glorify Him!  As a result of the radio program and meditating on Jesus' sacrifice, I pray that death to myself would be more than martyrdom; that it would be the supernatural outpouring of gratitude and devotion.  It is Jesus Christ, beaten,  brutally killed, bearing the wrath of Almighty God in my place, who rose to victory over sin and the grave!  It is because of this that I can joyfully endure trial, temptation, loss (Hebrews 12:1-3, James 1:2-4).

"But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.   So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.   And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.   As it is written:
'He has dispersed abroad,
He has given to the poor;
His righteousness endures forever.'

"Now may He who supplies seed to the sower, and bread for food, supply and multiply the seed you have sown and increase the fruits of your righteousness,  while you are enriched in everything for all liberality, which causes thanksgiving through us to God.  For the administration of this service not only supplies the needs of the saints, but also is abounding through many thanksgivings to God,   while, through the proof of this ministry, they glorify God for the obedience of your confession to the gospel of Christ, and for your liberal sharing with them and all men, and by their prayer for you, who long for you because of the exceeding grace of God in you.   Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!