Revelation of Grace

“…nothing in us can absorb sin.  Nothing.  Even when we are the one being sinned against, we still cannot handle sin…”

TrueFaced Thrall, McNicol, Lynch

The annual remembrance of Christ’s passion provides for me another opportunity to think about the work of the cross.  I think I said it last year…how all sin is destroyed on the cross of Jesus.  The sins we have committed, and the sins committed against us.  The effect of sin is always the same: a broken heart.  TrueFaced says it this way:
“When we sin or when someone else sins against us, we experience some automatic responses.  If we do the sinning, our automatic response is called guilt.  If someone else sins against us, our automatic response is called hurt.  God designed these two responses to tell us that something wrong has happened, that something just got fractured and needs healing.”

Good News for the Broken

The cross of Christ does not make sense if you think you have it all together.  The extravagant love of God seems wasteful.  The Good News does not seem good at all until you know your own desperation before God.  But we live in a sin soaked world and all of us have been brushing up against sin since we entered this world.  It has broken our hearts.

The effects of sin, whether it is ours or someone elses, are the same: broken heartedness.  The answer is also the same: the cross.

Hebrews 12 describes Jesus as, “the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2 ESV)  Look at our responses to sin in the passage from TrueFaced: guilt or hurt.  These are both good indicators that we need Jesus.  But so often we hide our guilt and hurt in a vain effort to make them go away.  Left unchecked, both become shame.  Shame moves us from “something wrong has happened” to “I am wrong.”  But Jesus despises the shame and pushes through to the cross anyway…for the joy set before Him.

Do you know what Joy was set before Jesus that He would go through everything He endured?

You.

Me.

We are His joy, and “if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.”  (Romans 6:5 ESV)

God is doing a really cool work in me this season.  I haven’t been keeping up with the Lenten devotion I talked about in my last post…but mostly because God had other things in mind.  I guess He’s God.  I guess He can do that.

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Beauty and Ashes

Wednesday morning I woke up with a deep need for a revelation of grace.

I think that we walk around with fear and pain and anger and all sorts of things bound up and hidden in our hearts, even from ourselves.  When the time is right, the waters start churning and those things come to the surface.

So it is with me.  In the past few weeks I have become painfully aware, once again, of my need for a savior.  I do not need to know that I am human and every body makes mistakes.  I need to know, desperately, that I am forgiven…that I am being made new.

I did not remember until later that day that Wednesday was Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent.  Lent is the liturgical season where we set aside 40 days to remember Jesus sacrifice for our sins and to repent in the context of His resurrection and grace.  The season is actually 46 days long, because Sundays are not counted.  They are still a celebration of the resurrection.

I believe God is wanting to spend time with me in stillness…so I am setting aside the first hour of every day, and I would like to invite you to join me.  I will be going through the Litany of Penitence, one line a day, reading from scripture, and ending with a symbolic act of forgiveness to remind myself I am forgiven.

This morning I walked to the park and read from John 13:31-15:11, and then I thought about and journaled about the first line from the Litany: “Most holy and merciful Father.”  I asked forgiveness for the times I have been unmerciful (already at the forefront of my mind), forgave others for not being merciful, and then asked Jesus to make me merciful.  As I walked home, I washed my hands in the dew soaked grass as a sign that I am washed clean by Jesus.

We Must Play

I make it no secret that I often consult God regarding my wardrobe.  It’s not because I do not feel capable of choosing my own clothes (although some days that is debatable), or because I think I will accomplish some spiritual aim for having consulted Him, or worse yet, simply to be more spiritual somehow.  It is, quite frankly, because He is my friend.

The idea that life could be more…or less…spiritual seems strange to me.  Either the spiritual is real, and is an integral part of everything we do, or it is not.  I think the trouble in accepting this comes, for most people, in the perceived weightiness of it.  Because I am lacking in profundity today (but apparently not lacking in big, obscure words), I will quote C. S. Lewis:

There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilization—these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendours. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously—no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption. And our charity must be a real and costly love, with deep feeling for the sins in spite of which we love the sinner—no mere tolerance or indulgence which parodies love as flippancy parodies merriment. Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbour is the holiest object presented to your senses. If he is your Christian neighbour he is holy in almost the same way, for in him also Christ vere latitat—the glorifier and the glorified, Glory Himself, is truly hidden.

You could probably just stop reading there.  ‘The Weight of Glory” has been my favorite essay, and probably even my favorite extra-Biblical writing, since I first read it in college.  It is foundational to my world view, particularly that last paragraph (quoted above).  But the part which is ringing in my ears today is, “We must play.”

God is a lot of fun.  He is tender and joyful and dynamic.  He likes delicious things (as evidenced when He turned water into wine and it was the best wine of the evening).  He likes laughter (the second patriarch of the Old Testament is named Isaac which means, literally, laughter).  If we understood how truly joyful He is, would we take ourselves so seriously?  Would we be so afraid of the reality that everything is sacred?  Or would we take more delight in each other, more delight in following Him where He leads, more delight in every bit of life?

Working with God is a lot of fun.  It is a life worth living.

Chewing Gum and Stillness

The difference between shame and conviction is that when God convicts you of something, His purpose is change and He always gives you a way out.  I mentioned in my last post feeling convicted about my words.  I would like to share with you some of the practical strategies I have come up with in the last three days.

PRAY…at the start of my day, or entering into another meeting, I ask God to help me hold my tongue and think before I speak.

Chewing gum…okay, this is an old favorite of mine.  Probably not the best, but it works, and saves me from gaining 15 pounds.  I used to eat to keep myself from saying things I should not say.  Shove down those words with a sandwich or a baked potato or a cookie.  Ick.  I learned that some situations call for chewing gum…because either I will eat my weight in caramel popcorn or I will light the figurative match that burns the house down.  It’s not the ONLY reason I chew gum, but it’s a good one.

Heart check…“Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.”  (Matthew 12:34)  Ouch.  I think I’m in a season where stuff I kept hidden from others and even myself is coming to the surface.  Fortunately, God can deal with the ugly junk when it comes to light.  Unfortunately, everyone else has to, too.

Stillness…I think this is my new secret weapon in the war against my tongue.  It’s pretty much my secret weapon in everything.  “In repentance and rest is your salvation; in quietness and trust shall be your strength.”  (Isaiah 30:15)  So…slow down…listen louder…wait on God.  I figure if I intentionally set aside time for silence throughout my day, it will help me in the moments I am speaking.  It’s a simple strategy, but one that has always worked before.  Plus, it’ll help with God dealing with the junk stored up inside.