Monday, April 25, 2011

What A Savior!

     I step out into the predawn semi darkness and the chill air of a spring morning wraps itself around me. Raising my eyes to the slowly lightening sky I see the waning brightness of a crisp half moon still lingering above the trees. Pausing to listen, I hear the sleepy twittering of awaking birds. And in the hush before a new day breaks I picture the women of long ago on just such a morning, on their way to the tomb of their beloved Master.
     As the world slowly grows light we load into the car with hot food, Bibles, and anticipation of the celebration ahead. Driving east into the sunrise we watch the sky melting into lavender and pink. Then we see it. A flash of brilliant light through the trees ahead. And as we crest a rise the top of the flaming red orb of the morning sun peeks over the horizon. Rising in steady glory it soon shines in a dazzling flood of light over the frosty countryside silhouetting a white cross atop the steeple to our left. And I am reminded again of His sacrifice but it's shadow does not dim the joy of the morning, for today death is conquered and we serve a Risen Lord!
     Through the early hours of morning we troop from house to house, raising our voices in triumph on high in the invigorating air as we carol of the Risen Savior for shut ins and neighbors. Could anything be more wonderful than sharing this message of hope and cheer? 
     Yet somehow even in the joy my heart is not fully at rest. And as we sing I realize my own need for more of the resurrection life at work within me. And I turn to the Giver of all life, and I ask that He might roll the stone of self away. I ask to be called forth from the tomb of self conscious bondage and to be unwrapped from the grave clothes of my own desires. And even as I ask I know He will and I sense that He is, and my heart rises with a greater freedom in the victorious ringing words "Sing halleluiah, sing hallelujah, my Jesus is alive forevermore...
     The congregation gathers back at the little white church where a scrumptious banquet awaits the hungry group. The basement is alive with the warm fellowship of saints as we partake of a feast both physical and spiritual, hearts encouraged as we celebrate the life of Christ among and in us.
     The bell rings, and we gather in the sanctuary. Though reverently hushed an undercurrent of unmistakable excitement seems to pervade the room. And as we begin to sing this place rings with joyous voices as we stand in worship before Him. And for an instant my eyes see only Him, and I KNOW in this moment in a clearer sense that this is truly what life is all about, for He is the Resurrection and the Life. 

I know that my Redeemer liveth,
And on the earth again shall stand;
I know eternal life He giveth,
That grace and power are in His hand.

I know, I know, that Jesus liveth,
And on the earth again shall stand;
I know, I know, that life He giveth,
That grace and power are in His hand.

I know my mansion He prepareth,
That where He is there I may be;
O wondrous thought, for me He careth,
And He at last will come for me.

The music swells and the room nearly bursts with the triumphant ring of the refrain 

I know, I know, that Jesus liveth,
And on the earth again shall stand;
I know, I know, that life He giveth,
That grace and power are in His hand.

     Is this a foretaste of heaven? And I can't help but look forward to the day when we shall be FOREVER WITH THE LORD, where our praise shall rise in perfection unceasing to the risen King of kings. 
     And  I ask that I might not forget the joy but that I might truly celebrate this Life every day of the year. This wondrous gift. This victorious redemption. This Risen Lord. My Jesus, What a Savior!



Friday, April 22, 2011

His Example...

     His hands are roughened by years of hard toil, his face weathered with the wind and sun. On weekdays he holds a hammer, evenings he feeds cows. On Sundays he's a song leader at a little white church tucked away in the pines.
    I watch him kneel to place an arm around a small child's shoulders. She's a little girl who doesn't really know the security of a daddy's love and I see him quietly stepping in to fill the vacant spot. I watch him move among the men he calls his brothers with an unassuming confidence, pausing to place a hand on the shoulder of one who others consider fringe.
   A man with a sense of humor and an unassuming cheer he has a smile for all and a personal interest in each. He remembers everyone's names and when he forgets who a visitor is he lightens the day with laughter at his own expense.
   I watch him witness with a boldness unapologetic. And disciple with a steadiness that brings fruit. There are those now growing in their faith among the congregation who know the love of Christ because this man touched their lives.
   In his family I see the fruit of a strong leader,a kind father and a loving husband. And they testify to the fact that he lives the love of Christ at home as well as abroad.
    In his down to earth labors is embodied the unassuming labor of the Carpenter of Nazareth. In his servant's heart the one who came to give, in his glad sacrifice I see the cross, and in the love of this hidden life I see the radiance of Jesus Christ lived out by one who lives for Him.
     Though he may never know the laud of men, it is often the greatest lives that are lived out quietly, serving behind the scenes. And though they may never know it, it is lives like these that truly change the lives of others, simply by letting Christ live in them. Someday I am sure, these hidden hearts will receive a crown as they hear the words "well done, thou good and faithful servant..."

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

For Lo the winter is past

My lover said to me, “Rise up, my darling!
Come away with me, my fair one! Look, the winter is past,  and the rains are over and gone.
The flowers are springing up, the season of singing birds has come,
                                                   Song of songs  2:10-12a nlt
     Rivulets of muddy water form rivers in the lane as the winter whiteness melts in the warmth of spring. Robins hop in the lawn, hinting green. Pussy willows bud and crocuses bloom. Spring peepers trill loud and long outside our window, and the pair of mallards returns to the melting pond below the house. The season of singing birds and barefoot children has come again and our hearts lift with the long days of sunshine and patter of spring rains on the roof. And as the seasons of the earth now change so do the seasons the heart.
     For months the winter of soul held on. Many were the long cold nights when the stormy winds of grief blew wild, and the questions drifted deep. When sleep fled and fear fed and the soul was locked in ice. And when the cold sun rose next morn to dance upon a vast expanse of unknown whiteness with no end in sight, the heart that longed for spring, trudged ever on through the shifting drifts, with a weary hope that had grown old and feeble with the wait and the seemingly endless struggle.
    But the hope would not die, for it had first been given life by a whispered promise from above and somehow the struggling traveler knew that as the earth turns in it's orbit, and as the sun rises anew each morning, so the promise of spring too was sure, as long as the earth remained. And slowly, slowly - the days began to grow longer and the feeble soul stronger and the soft winds of love began to blow around the heart that had been shut up in the dark so long.
     And the One whom the traveler had long trusted drew near and spoke to the heart of longing, scarred with a thousand battles, and beaten down with discouraged desire. And for the heart grown sick with hopes deferred, the morning of delight began to dawn. For in the hands of the One that drew near she saw anew the nail scars, and remembering she knew that her feeble faith had not been placed in vain.
     And the words that were spoken were not words that could be heard by any human ear, but words that were heard deep in the soul, stirring it to new life and the realities of a Love she could not explain but was finally beginning to understand.
     And the Lover of all broken hearts whispered her name with a tenderness she had never known before, a tenderness that ached with happiness. And the call was to come, to find rest from the toil of the way, and to bask in a sunshine of love that was unconditional. 
     "You mean I do not have to earn this love?" She asked, with wonder and the shimmering of tears in eyes half dazzled by His brightness.
     And with tears standing in His own eyes He replied. "I have loved you with an everlasting love. Before you were I was Love, and in fulfillment of that love I died - for you and rose again. And before you ever knew my name I knew yours, and I chose you to be Mine. The love I give you is not a love that can be earned, do you not yet know this My beloved?"
     And the heart bows low in silence. "What is it?" He asks for the silence is a cry and the question that burns in the heart of the beloved now falls from faltering lips. "But where was this love when all was darkness...what of the silence...what of the battle wounds that still lie deep and seep loss and slowly bleed...and what...what of the seeking wanderings that ended in naught and the nights that the tears of sorrow burned the cheeks with the salt of disappointment? Where in all of this was the love?
     And with the infinite compassion that stooped to become finite He replies. "I have seen your wanderings. Through the fiercest storms and strongest blasts I was there. In the darkness when the tears fell and you felt alone, not one of them fell that I was not here to catch. I have recorded each one of your sorrows and I am intimately acquainted with your pain. And in every silence I was trusting you to trust me. And there in the deep stillness was the echo of the promise to remind you that in a world all unknown I remain  The Unchanging. 
     You have trusted me in the silence of winter when you could not see, and now you shall feel my love in the glory of the fulfillment. Come away My beloved. Arise the spring has come. And the winter is over and gone."
    And hand in hand rejoicing they go forth, she, garbed in the freshness of a hope renewed, and radiant in the joy of Him whom her soul loveth. And her laughter mingles with His for her heart has come to rest in a Love that has no beginning and knows no end. And beyond the delights of this present love He whispers that very soon the winter shall be forever forgotten in the endless spring of glory and then she shall know even as also she is known.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Proud or Broken?

Proud People:

1. Focus on the failures of others
2. A critical spirit , fault finding
3. Self-righteous
4. Independent, self sufficient spirit
5. Have to prove they are right
6. Claims rights; have a demanding spirit
7. Self protective of their time, rights, and reputation
8. Desire to be served
9. Desire to be a success
10. Desire self advancement
11. Have a drive to be recognized and appreciated
12. Wounded when they are overlooked
13. Think of what they can do for God
14. Feel confident in how much they know
15. Self conscious
16. Keep other’s at arms length
17. Quick to blame others
18. Defensive when criticized
19. Work to protect their own image and reputation
20. Do not want others to find out about their sin
21. Have a hard time saying, “I was wrong, please forgive me.”
22. Tend to deal in generalities when confessing sin
23. Concerned about the consequences of their sin
24. Sorry they got caught in their sin
25. Wait for other to ask forgiveness when there is a misunderstanding
26. Compare themselves to others and feel worthy of honor
27. Blind to their true heart condition
28. Don’t think they have anything to repent of
29. Don’t think they need revival, but everyone else does.

Broken People:

1. Sense their spiritual need
2. Compassionate
3. Can forgive much
4. Esteem others better than self
5. Recognize their need for others
6. Yield the right to be right, Meek in spirit
7. Self-denying
8. Motivated to serve others
9. Makes others a success
10. Desires to promote others
11. Thrilled God would use them at all
12. Rejoice when others get lifted up
13. Know they have nothing to offer God
14. Humbled by how much they have to learn
15. Not concerned with self at all
16. Takes the risk to love
17. Accept personal responsibility when wrong
18. Open and humble
19. What matters is what God knows
20. Willing to be exposed
21. Quick to seek forgiveness and admit failure
22. Acknowledges specific sin
23. Grieved over the root of their sin
24. Genuinely repentant
25. Takes initiative to reconcile
26. Compare themselves to the holiness of God and feel desperate for His mercy
27. Walk in the light
28. Have a heart attitude of repentance
29. Sense their need for a fresh encounter with God.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

All Sufficient Grace

"For daily need there is daily grace; for sudden need, sudden grace, and overwhelming need, overwhelming grace."             --- John Blanchard

Friday, April 8, 2011

Out of the wreck I rise


                  "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?" Romans 8:35

     God does not keep a man immune from trouble; He says - "I will be with him in trouble." It does not matter what actual troubles in the most extreme form get hold of a man's life, not one of them can separate him from his relationship to God. We are "more than conquerors in all these things." Paul is not talking of imaginary things, but of things that are desperately actual; and he says we are super-victors in the midst of them, not by our ingenuity, or by our courage, or by anything other than the fact that not one of them affects our relationship to God in Jesus Christ. Rightly or wrongly, we are where we are, exactly in the condition we are in. I am sorry for the Christian who has not something in his circumstances he wishes was not there.
"Shall tribulation . . . ?" Tribulation is never a noble thing; but let tribulation be what it may - exhausting, galling, fatiguing, it is not able to separate us from the love of God. Never let cares or tribulations separate you from the fact that God loves you.
"Shall anguish . . . ?" - can God's love hold when everything says that His love is a lie, and that there is no such thing as justice?
"Shall famine . . . ?" - can we not only believe in the love of God but be more than conquerors, even while we are being starved?
Either Jesus Christ is a deceiver and Paul is deluded, or some extraordinary thing happens to a man who holds on to the love of God when the odds are all against God's character. Logic is silenced in the face of every one of these things. Only one thing can account for it - the love of God in Christ Jesus. "Out of the wreck I rise" every time.
                                                                                        -Oswald Chambers

Thursday, April 7, 2011

His Ideal Unhindered

"Holiness, not safety, is the end of our calling. 
Separation from all known sin is the starting point for sanctification, not the goal: 
it is only the negative side of holiness; it is only reaching the place
where God can develop His ideal in us unhindered.
It is when the death of winter has done its work that the sun
can draw out in each plant is own individuality, and makes
its existence full and fragrant. Holiness means something more than the
sweeping away of the old leaves of sin: it means the life of 
Jesus developed in us.

What more do we need for our souls than to have this God for our God?"

                                                                            - Lilias Trotter

Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from Him, throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.
                                     Ephesians 4:21-24 nlt

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Spring Forth

"For as the earth bringeth forth her bud, and as the garden causeth the things that are sown in it to spring forth; so the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations." Isaiah 61:11

Friday, April 1, 2011

Ressurection: What Life is Really All About


     I sit, the morning sun on my face, and on the pages of the sacred story. It is Sunday, and I read as I do every first day of the week, the story in remembrance. For all too often I forget. Yet, I long to make remembrance my way of life. To find my life moment by moment in the Resurrection and the LIFE. And so I read, tracing again the love scars that redeem and the wounds that make me whole. Seeking to enter deeper into the mystery of the Holy of holies and the heart of God, made man for me. Will I ever understand such love?
    In one tribe's language love translates as "a pain in the heart."  I see again the pain of His love for me as I retrace His steps, and I too feel the pain of love, love that comes only because He first loved me.
    I follow Him to the upper room. To the beginning of the end.  I hear in His tender words to those He calls His friends that this is really only the end of the beginning and the dawning of so much more. I see Him kneel with towel and basin and wash their feet--an act of lowest servility, God of the universe kneeling at the feet of fisherman, an act of sacrificial love, forerunner to the greatest sacrifice ever given. And in the darkness of this world of hate and selfishness the light dawns on a new way of life for those who follow. "A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another." We see that love always goes down lower, always stoops, always pours itself out for another, for the greatest of all has served the least.
     I stand now in the shadows, in an olive garden. It is Gethsemane. And the night is dark, the darkest night in history. And I watch the One who knelt in service only a little while before, at the feet of the men He's chosen. Now kneeling alone. And His agony knows no earthly description, but His cry in the lonely night does not stir the sleeping disciples, nor does it remove the bitter cup held out for Him to drink. And the Father's heart of love for us is the only thing that keeps Him from removing the cup. The Lamb of God surrenders to become our sacerfice because He shares the Father's heart.
     He is betrayed by one chosen.  With a kiss of greeting the man who has walked with God in person now hands Him over to those who hate Him. Has any betrayal ever been more bitter? But perhaps more painful still is that even those who said they would go with Him unto death have left Him. In this hour He is ALONE and utterly forsaken.
     On trial He answers His accusers not a word. He tells them Yes, He is King, but His Kingdom is not of this world. So in this darkest hour, He reveals the deeper secrets for those who would endure unto the end. For He sees what the eyes of man cannot. The vision of glory yet lives in His heart, for He knows that though He dies it will not end there. For the glory that is set before Him, He despises the shame and endures unto the end.
     And the tree for the despised, now holds the King of kings, crowned with thorns, and stripped of all but love. And the hands that fashioned the universe, submit to the hands of His creation, as the nails are driven through. The hands that were only used to heal, are now hurt with the hate of my sin. And the piercing of the heart is deeper than the piercing of the flesh, and the pain of love cries out "Father forgive them for they know not what they do."
     And the torn flesh bleeds, and the depths of pain are sounded. The horror of my sin and the sin of the whole hating, broken, sin black, world rests upon the One who has never committed sin. He becomes that Lamb without blemish, and the flow of the lifeblood of Jesus becomes the fountain of redemption for all who come. And His wounds become our ransom. Such Love! How can it be?
     And the cry of the forsaken  rends the air. The deepest agony that ever sounded over the shivering earth. The whole of creation shakes as the God Man dies. And the temple curtain, the barrier between God and man splits. And the way of entering in to the Holy of holies has come.
     But those who followed Him weep as their hopes shrivel into ashes in the fire of sorrow and their dreams of the Messiah crumble into the dust of despair. Wasn't He supposed to deliver them? To set up a Kingdom? And their questions haunt them. And fear stalks them like a shadow. And they hide away, and mourn His memory, past.
     And my heart throbs as I trace the steps of Mary on that early Sunday Morning. And as darkness yields to dawn early on this third day, so too the sorrow in my heart yields to the joy of what is to come and I find I'm rushing on. Eager in my haste, but Mary's feet do not hasten for she does not yet know the good news.
     And as she weeps at the entrance of the tomb, now empty. I watch in breathless awe as He approaches. And I see His eyes ablaze with love and I see Him speak to her. And I strain to listen and I hear him ask her why she weeps and whom she seeks.
     But  her eyes dimmed by tears do not yet recognize who He is.  Then I hear His voice and in it all the love of the Heart that bleeds. "Mary."
     "Rabboni!" And in that moment she knows Him and all the adoration and ecstasy of heaven come down to this earthly moment. And the woman, forgiven much has no words for the love that she feels but to worship and to cling.  I too bow in worship.
     But she must not linger here for the Master bids her go and tell the others that she has seen Him. To take the message of hope to those who yet dwell in the darkness of sorrow and despair. The joy that wells within gives her feet wings and the message that she carries is the message that now goes out to all the world. "I have seen the Lord."
     And this morning I have seen Him and I have heard His call anew and I too must now hasten to bring the message of great joy to those who yet sit in darkness. "Jesus has arisen. He is the Resurrection. This is what true Life is really all about!"