God’s language

Jesus is the Word.  Whatever He speaks stands forever.  His breath is so powerful it can kill His worst enemies.

Creation is the effect of His language.  As far deep as we can go into biology, we find DNA, the hidden language of our bodies.

But there is a deeper language of God still.  For the believer, the Word is in our very souls.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1, NLT)

In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1, NLT)

The earth will shake at the force of his word, and one breath from his mouth will destroy the wicked. (Isaiah 11:4b, NLT)

_________________________________________________________

–I wrote the idea for this while watching the film God of Wonders.

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Published in: on May 31, 2012 at 4:28 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Mercy

Christians, preach the mercy of God to yourself.

–From Pastor Daniel

Christ has received the punishment for our sin–there is no revenge on us.

–From my Sunday school teacher, Kevin

Have you ever been afraid you made one too many mistakes?

Missed one too many dental appointments?  Forgot one too many birthdays?  Flunked your New Year’s Resolution one too many years?  Botched one too many tests?  Failed a friend one too many times?  Lost your phone one too many times?  Told a lie one too many times?  Wrecked your car one too many times?  Gotten fired from a job one too many times?  Lost your way one too many times?  Gotten one dollar too many in debt?  Argued with someone you love one too many times?  Broke your promise one too many times?  Wasted the day one too many times?

Disappointed God one too many times?

Sometimes I live in fear that I just broke the last straw.  I broke the rule one time too many.  I missed the last chance.  I went too far.

Can I come back?  Have I ruined everything?  Do I still matter?  Do you still love me?

These are the questions of the insecure heart.

Sometimes we try to ask forgiveness like we are offering God lambs to be sacrificed on His altar.  We try to be sorry enough, pay it all back, make up for it, do something good enough to offset the bad.

We forget that the Lamb of God has already come.  There are no more lambs to offer.  The sacrifice is over.  The new life has begun.

To be a Christian is to receive the sacrifice of Christ.  The merit is all Christ.  The life after is learning to be like Him.

It would be something like if I flunked a chemistry test (which is very believable).  A student approaches me and offers to give me his A+ paper.  I receive his paper and receive his grade.  But he doesn’t just walk away.  He begins to coach me in chemistry.  But the whole time he coaches me, and the whole time I improve, I must still have his A+ paper to save me from flunking.  The test is already over.  I’ve already failed.  And I’ve taken his paper for my own.  None of that changes by my improvement.  (And besides, if at any point I was the one tested, I would still fail to make that A+.)

Christ is the only one who lives a perfect life on this earth.  He is the only one who can coach us towards holiness.  He’s earned the right.  But it is always only His sacrifice that brings us to Heaven.  One day, we will die to our flunked self, and the only thing left in us will be the perfect work of Christ Jesus.  That is what God will see in us.  But it is not this work He has done in us that brings us to Heaven.  It is the work He has done for us that brings us to Heaven.

That is mercy.

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2, NIV)

Unexpected

For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the Christians who have died will rise from their graves. Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever.

(1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, NLT)

It will be one of the two most unexpected moments in history.

The moment has been on my heart lately, and I have been burdened with its heaviness.  I’ve been waking up at night thinking not about its galaxy-crumbling effects, but its effect on me.

Am I ready for Christ to come?

I remember as a child hearing this question.  I thought of it as a ploy or a threat to try to push people into salvation.  The question itself can certainly be misused, but I see now it has nothing to do with trickery or force.  It is a question of the gravest concern.

Am I ready for Christ to come?

Gravity does not hold this world together, nor molecules; it is the Son of God.  Kingdoms will crumble at His Word.  Nations rise and fall on His time.  No one rises in power who does not rely on the breath of God that filled Adam’s lungs thousands of years ago, the breath of Life.

How am I using that breath of Life?  I will answer for it.

Am I ready for Christ to come?

I don’t want to be caught dabbling in sin when the King of kings returns.  What do I want to have done on my last day on earth?  I want to have served Jesus with everything I have.  No second wasted, no ill thought, no moment of inaction, no whiff of sin.  That’s what I want my last day on earth to look like, not because God needs my service but because I love Him so!

I was the dirty, naked, wounded, bankrupt beggar who Christ washed, clothed and healed.  He has taught me to cup my hands and filled them with His treasures.  He has lavished His jewels upon me like an honored daughter.  Around my neck I wear the pendant of His love.  He decorates my head with a band of grace.  He fills my arms with bracelets of His value for me.  He wraps my ankles in His kindness.  He places in my ears rings of devotion.  He slides the ring of purpose on my finger.

Am I ready for Christ to come?

I do not want to be found wandering the streets, or in worthless gossip, or wasting my time buying cheap jewelry when there is no room for them among the jewels God has placed upon me.  I do not want to be found halfheartedly telling a few people I meet of the kindness of God.  I do not want to be found harboring Satan’s bitterness among God’s treasures.  I do not want to be caught in anything but wholehearted devotion to Him.

Am I ready for Christ to come?

Every moment could be my last.  If Christ does not return in my lifetime, I will most certainly die.  I will see His face one day.  I will see the head that was once crowned with the thorns of my heart.  I will look upon the face that was struck for my sin.  I will see the hands that hung for my shame, the feet that tore for my sake.

I want Him to see a servant who did not forget the Gift.

Am I ready for Christ to come?

I know my Savior, and I ache to be holy for Him.  I long to sin no more.  One day, I will be made new, and I will look as someone who belongs in the clothes and jewels He has bestowed upon me.  This is grace beyond the realm of grace ever known among mortals or angels.  Everlasting grace, perfect grace, holy grace.

But what about until then?  Do I sit like a spoiled, thankless child and wait for Him to give me more gifts?  Oh, by God’s grace, I pray never again.

Am I ready for Christ to come?

Christ’s return will be unexpected.  It will be one of the two most unexpected event in the history of the earth: the Resurrection and the Return.  The Resurrection has happened.  The Return is held back only by the patience of God, that you and I might be ready.

Are you ready for Christ to come?

Do you know Him?  If not, you will face Him as a criminal faces a King.  There will be one trial, and no second chances.  The sentence will be permanent.  Everlasting.

God is waiting, waiting for us.  But He won’t wait forever.  One day, the door will be locked.  Whether that is through His return or your death, one day the door will be locked.  There will be no way in.

The Way is open now.  Receive Him before it is too late.  Bow before the Maker of the world, the Maker of you, the Maker of salvation, the Maker of redemption.  Is He the Maker of your salvation, your redemption?  Only you and God know the answer to that.

Salvation is not only a prayer.  It is a belief.  It is a bowing down before the one and only God and reaching for His mercy scepter.  He has only one mercy scepter, and it is held in the hand of Christ Jesus.  Would you not receive His mercy?  Would you not hold out your heart, to be pardoned by the mercy of His death on the cross?  Would you deny yourself His everlasting love?

Christ is coming back.  It will be unexpected.  It will be the worst moment in history for those who serve a different king.  It will be more frightening for them than I can put in words.  God’s heart longs that no one should experience this everlasting terror.  But He will not hold back His Kingdom forever.  Justice must come.  And justice must rule.

It will be one of the two best moments in history for those who know Him as their God.  I am sure there will be unspeakable fright in seeing the Heavens torn open and the Son of God descending.  And I am sure there will be an unimaginable terror as they see, once and for all, how unworthy we all really are of His love.

But there will be utter adoration and incredulous joy when Jesus calls those people His children.  It goes back to the other best moment in the history of those who know Him as their God.  The moment in which Christ rose up from the grave as the undefeated King of all, holding the keys of death and Hell in His nail-scarred hand.

This same God who rips open the skies and shakes the foundations of the earth with His trumpet call, this same God who casts into Hell sinners who have refused His payment for their debt, is the very same God who opened His hands for nails to be driven in, who knelt chained before the flogger’s whip, who offered His face to be spit upon for the payment of our debt.

This is the God we will all face, whether by death or His return, and we must all ask ourselves,

Am I ready to stand in His judgment hall?  Am I ready to look upon His face?

If Jesus is not your King, and your heart is longing to be right with God’s Son, cry out to Him.  He is waiting to hold His mercy scepter out to you.  He came to earth for the purpose of saving you, to the glory of God, because God glories in sinners running to Him.  What does this say about God?  By His very nature He is so kind, so merciful, that He glories in sinners running to Him.

Here is a prayer if you want Him to be your King right now.  Remember the prayer must be from a heart of belief, not recitation.

Jesus,

I want You to be my King.  I’m scared because I don’t want to stand before You with my sin.  I need Your mercy.  Please pour Your sacrifice over me.  I want Your death to count for me.  I want You to raise me up in Your resurrection.  Help me to be Your servant.  Teach me through Your Word, the Bible, and let me be like a little child listening with an open heart to the most beloved Teacher.  Bring me to meet Your servants and find friendship with them.  Bring me to wise servants who can mentor me and a trusted servant who can pastor me.  Show me what You want from Your new servant.

In the Name of my King, Jesus,

Amen.

If Jesus is already your King, would you take up this commitment with me?

King Jesus,

Forgive me for so many times living like a lazy servant or acting like a servant who serves another king.  I can’t live this way.  My heart’s desire is to be faithful to You.  I want to stand before You and kneel at Your throne knowing I have served my King, not that I have squandered my precious hours in Your fields.  Jesus, I can’t even be a servant without Your grace.  Teach me how to be a good and faithful servant.  Give me the courage and love to serve You to my utmost.

In Your Name, by Your Gift,

Amen.

But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus; the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God. (Acts 20:24)

On faith

“It’s not the size of your faith.  Do you have faith or not?”

–My Sunday school teacher, Kevin

Kevin pointed something out last Sunday that I’d never seen.  When Jesus’ followers ask how they can get more faith (how they can upgrade), Jesus redirects them to looking at the outcome of faith, rather than the quantity.  Even the tiniest faith in Christ can uproot large heresies.  And even the tiniest true faith can grow by the grace of God into a giant wonder for all to see.

I find that very encouraging.

The apostles said to the Lord,
         Make our faith greater.

The Lord answered,
         If you had faith as big as a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree,
         Pull yourself up by the roots and plant yourself in the sea! and it would obey you. (Luke 17:5-6, GNT)

What shall we say the Kingdom of God is like? asked Jesus. What parable shall we use to explain it? It is like this. A man takes a mustard seed, the smallest seed in the world, and plants it in the ground. After a while it grows up and becomes the biggest of all plants. It puts out such large branches that the birds come and make their nests in its shade. (Mark 4:30-32, GNT)

(Luke 17:5-6, CEV)

A keeper of a quote

“I want God to see Jesus first, and then me.”

–My Sunday school teacher, Kevin

Published in: on May 30, 2012 at 3:13 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Selfishness

“My selfishness is less ugly than your selfishness.”

–Pastor John, on the (hypocritical) difference between the standard we hold for others and that which we hold for ourselves

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Published in: on May 30, 2012 at 3:10 pm  Leave a Comment  
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God is here, too.

It’s not my habit to blog at 2:34 a.m.

I haven’t been ‘up to par’, as the saying goes, for a few weeks.  Allergy season hit early and hard this year.  I’ve had something that’s become more than just allergies.  I woke up tonight with a thunderstorm and a handful of hymn:

Take my life and let it be

Consecrated, Lord, to Thee.

I woke up sweaty and, frankly, scared.  My heart began to beat fast.  I don’t like not feeling my best.  I don’t like lingering colds.  I don’t like crackling thunder in the dark.  I am afraid of the bright beams of lightning that shoot through my high window.

Here in the night, I think of all the failures God knows only so well.  My mind can even stray into all the things I have wanted to accomplish by this time in my life–and not achieved.  I think of what I want to do, and not feeling good, it seems like a gloomy forecast on my picnic of goals.

But in this hour, in this fear, it was as though God had woken me up for time with him.

Like a friend waking me up to share a depth of honesty in conversation that cannot be brought out any other time, God has woken me up to remember, in this night, how dependent I am on Him, and how dependable He is for me.  He is the Rock on which I lean, the cove of forgiveness from the storms of my guilt, the oasis of purpose in the center of a meaningless desert.  He is the God who allowed my father’s body to deteriorate into a corpse, and He is the God who pulled me up by the hand from a valley of depression I was not seeking to climb from.  He is the same God.

We say that He is the God who gives and takes away, and it is true, but it can be confusing to hear that without knowing the LORD.  He is the God who can take away our health, our pride, our lusts, our dreams, our depression, our shame, and our pain.  But He is never the God who takes away our love for Him or the treasure of His Son.  He does not snatch salvation away just when we open our hand to receive the living Bread; He does not take away our choice to love Him forever.  He gives us, and only us, that choice.

Max Lucado points out in He Chose the Nails that we complain about what God hasn’t given us the choice over–where we were born, what we would look like, our family, our talents, etc.  But we rarely realize what He has given us choice over: our eternal destiny.  It is a gift God never takes away as long as we have breath in our body.  And after death, it is not ultimately God who has taken away our choice; it is the nature of death–the final blow of sin in this world–which we chose for ourselves in a life of sin, that brings us to the other side of eternity to face Him.  Had we never sinned, there would be no closure to our time to choose Him.

But we are, all of us, on a schedule of death from our sin.  We all have a daily planner in front of us.  For any one of us who have lived long enough to read this blog, it is much thicker than the ones you can buy at the office supply stores.  The first part of our planner is already filled with the notes of everything we have ever done, handwritten by the choices we have made.  There are events written in–events that have happened to us, events that are happening to us, and events that will happen to us.  Flipping through the planner, there are blank pages, too–the pages that represent how much time we have left.  Some of us may have pages and pages to flip through.  Others of us might be astonished at the thin edge of paper separating us from the next world.  And for a few people tonight, there are no more pages.  The coroner is writing their name on the death certificate, even now.

For the Christian, our planner is filled marks.  God has scratched through every sin we have ever committed with permanent marker.  The sins simply can’t be read through the wide marks of forgiveness.  God has even highlighted any good we have done through His Son, not forgetting a single choice we made for His Kingdom.

This is the God I serve.  The God who can work even at 3:07 a.m., even when I have a cold, even in a life such as mine.

Take my life and let it be

Consecrated, Lord, to Thee.

What sweetness in the unfathomable truth:

God is here, too.

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.

(Psalm 46:1b, ESV)

Published in: on May 30, 2012 at 3:24 am  Leave a Comment  
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Dini

I watched the story of Dini on the DVD More than Dreams this afternoon.  I was very skeptical of the whole title “More than Dreams”.  I almost chose a different DVD to watch from the Christian Cinema DVD’s that came in the mailbox today (it’s like Netflix).

There are five testimonies on the More than Dreams; the first is Dini’s.

It was one of the best forty-two minutes I have ever spent in my life.  I mean that.

I was blown away.  It was not at all what I had expected.  Rarely has such a masterpiece of the power of Christ-in-the-human-heart been created.  The depth of the exploration of Christ’s redemption in this forty minutes is more like forty months.

Dini’s story captured my heart to even deeper love for my Jesus.  My life goal is this: that every day, for the rest of eternity, I will love Him more.

I can’t express in words how humbled I am by my own struggles for forgiveness when I see the breathtaking power of Christ’s forgiveness in and through Dini’s life.

Her story is not angelic, however, but very real.  Intricate, as all our lives are, but stripping itself of the false glamor we so love to clothe ourselves with.  The beauty of her life, as any heart change made for Christ, is simply stunning.

I didn’t know until I did a little research after watching, but More Than Dreams won 2008 Best Evangelistic Film at the International Christian Visual Media Awards.  It’s easy to see why.

I am keeping this in my home to share with others.  I bought two copies on Vision Video’s website not long after the credits closed.  I just wish I could do justice to how powerful this film is in this blog.

Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding. (Ephesians 1:4-8, NLT)

On Jaws and Failure

Great white shark

I never watched Jaws.  I don’t want to watch Jaws.  But I did see the beginning clip of the movie on TV several years back.  I’m not sure that I remember it all that correctly.  But here’s how I remember it.

An attractive girl is swimming in the waters.  She comes up for air, and there are underwater shots to let us know something terrible is going to happen.  We can see her legs kicking under the surface.  The depth looks like a black-blue bottomless pit.

We see her from above the water again, and suddenly she takes in a sharp breath.  A look of terror is on her face.  The ocean has betrayed her.  At the same instant, she goes down in the water, just a little, and we know something has tugged on her, because you can’t go down in the water feet first without momentum.

And then, before she has time to plan any strategy or even face that she is in her last moment, she plunges down.  We never see her again.

–Have you ever felt like you were down for your last plunge, caught off guard, struck helpless by surprise, not sure if there is any hope of getting back up again–or maybe sure there isn’t any?

I don’t know anyone who would seriously place odds that they could outlive a hungry shark in a tank.  No one in their right mind would volunteer to be thrown into the waters with such a shark, to see who would win out.  There’s no comparison between a 10-ton shark and a something-pound human.  There is no competition between a shark’s teeth and a human’s fists.

I would think the most terrifying moment would be going under.  There is no way anyone by human strength could fight back to the surface when a shark is pulling its prey down to the depths.

Maybe, though, the most terrifying moment is actually the last breath.

There have been a lot of people throughout history who have been lured into the ocean by temptation and dragged down to their last breath by their sin.  Judas is the most memorable example.  He called the shark upon himself, as we all do when we sin, and then found himself hopelessly sucked under by its power.  Seeing no way up, he committed suicide.

I think most people who commit suicide simply see the power of sin more clearly than we.  Would to God that we saw the seriousness of sin as they do, and would to God that they saw the grace of God as revealed in His Word.  For centuries, people who commit suicide have been harshly judged.  The great tragedy is that many who commit suicide are a great deal wiser than those of us who keep our lives until natural death ever will be on this earth, because those who are ready to commit suicide have seen the reality and ramifications of sin as we do not.  What we would call mental illness I see often as the crystal-clear clarity some have of the depths to which the shark can pull them.

Thousands throughout history have taken their last breath in this struggle, whether through suicide or illness or accident or murder.  Sometime or other, they gave up getting out of the sin that locked its jaws on their soul.  It is just more powerfully revealed in those who commit suicide, but that doesn’t mean it’s not there for all of us.  We are all startled by the power of sin, and we will all be dragged under for the last time by something beyond our ability to fight if we do not find salvation.  Powerless, hopeless, astonished, and terrified, we will die just as so many before us have died.

–David didn’t seem any different.  Once a man after God’s own heart, he had become a man after the heart of another’s wife.  Probably Satan had imagined if only he could seduce David into this kind of sin, he would be able to pull him under for the last time.

This wasn’t just the wife of any man.  This was the wife of a man with great integrity, very little means (at least compared to David, see Nathan’s analogy in 2 Samuel 12:1-14), and loyal to David to the nth degree.

Just to get David to sin in such a way would be the death sink.  Satan probably had hopes that the nation of Israel would not recover from their leader’s great sin, and God’s beloved people who be scattered, falling into the crevices and pits of sin everywhere that Satan had dug them.  That was something like the plan, I think.

But an opportunity came up that delighted Satan even more.  A chance to cinch the bite of sin on David’s life.  If the shark had been 10 tons before, Satan found a 100 ton shark of sin to sic on David.  How was this?  Satan discovered (or it may have been preplanned) that David had gone so far down the road, gotten so lost, and was so completely out of his relationship with God that he could actually be seduced to murder the man whose wife he had stolen.

Death, from this world’s perspective, is ultimate, permanent, and closes any opportunity to make restitution.  Whereas David could have made great apology to this man, fallen on his knees before him, and hoped to make some kind of life of forgiveness between the two of them . . all chance of that was gone as the curtain between the body and the soul was torn apart.  There was no going back.

And then came the conviction.

What a painful thing is conviction, especially over the worst of the sins we commit!  Easier a dagger to the heart.

Satan enjoys conviction, I think, to a point.  But he recognizes it can always lead to repentance, so it is extremely dangerous.  Satan wouldn’t-and couldn’t–bring conviction upon us, because he’s not righteous and it takes righteousness to do so.  But he can still enjoy the misery of a person who has fallen under the conviction of God.  I use “fallen under” because it really is a falling under.  Conviction is something like God lifting His hand in permission for the shark of our sin to drag us down, down, down, down, down.  It is Jonah in the monstrous, stink-smelling belly of the fish.  It is Judas throwing down the pittance of money that bought the crucifixion of Jesus.  It is David hearing from Nathan,

“You are that man!”

(2 Samuel 12:7b, NLT)

David’s journal (the Psalms he wrote) become outpours of deep, almost hopeless, sinking.  He was in bad shape, and he knew it.  There was no earthly way up.  He might as well have committed suicide as try to make things right.  Everything in his life was falling apart; it was as if the columns of his kingdom were falling down around him. How could he ask for mercy?  This was before the time of Christ.  There was no provision in the law for forgiveness of cold-blooded murder.  There was no sacrifice, no sacrifice, no matter how great, that David could offer before the Lord to be made right with Him once more.

The agony of this pours through the journal he left for us.

For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. (Psalm 32:3, ESV)

Because of your anger, my whole body is sick;

my health is broken because of my sins.

My guilt overwhelms me—

it is a burden too heavy to bear.

My wounds fester and stink

because of my foolish sins.

I am bent over and racked with pain.

All day long I walk around filled with grief.

A raging fever burns within me,

and my health is broken.

I am exhausted and completely crushed.

My groans come from an anguished heart. (Psalm 38:3-8, NLT)

All day long my enemies taunt me;

those who rail against me use my name as a curse.

For I eat ashes as my food

and mingle my drink with tears

because of your great wrath,

for you have taken me up and thrown me aside.

My days are like the evening shadow;

I wither away like grass. (Psalm 102:8-11, NIV)

This is heavy duty anguish.  David is ruined.  Satan might as well be clapping his hands in glee.  The fight is over; sin has won.  David has nothing within himself he can do to make up for the sin.  He can’t work hard enough, pay back enough, do enough good to outweigh the bad.  He is ruined; he is ruined.  It is over.

“for God all things are possible.” (Jesus, quoted in Matthew 19:26c ISV)

David opens up his diary for the world in Psalm 32.

Happy is the person
whose sins are forgiven,
whose wrongs are pardoned.
Happy is the person
whom the Lord does not consider guilty
and in whom there is nothing false.

When I kept things to myself,
I felt weak deep inside me.
I moaned all day long.
Day and night you punished me.
My strength was gone as in the summer heat.
Selah

Then I confessed my sins to you
and didn’t hide my guilt.
I said, “I will confess my sins to the Lord,”
and you forgave my guilt.
Selah

For this reason, all who obey you
should pray to you while they still can.
When troubles rise like a flood,
they will not reach them.
You are my hiding place.
You protect me from my troubles
and fill me with songs of salvation.
Selah

The Lord says, “I will make you wise and show you where to go.
I will guide you and watch over you.
So don’t be like a horse or donkey,
that doesn’t understand.
They must be led with bits and reins,
or they will not come near you.”

Wicked people have many troubles,
but the Lord’s love surrounds those who trust him.
Good people, rejoice and be happy in the Lord.
Sing all you whose hearts are right.

David, king of a nation, opened his diary for all to see the working of God.  Imagine a king or prime minister or president today publishing a book called something like, My Utter, Abysmal, Awful Failure: And the God Who Saved Me.  But that is something like what David did in writing Psalm 32 [1].

He was so confident in the love of God that he allowed his people to see his deep sink into sin.  He ends with

Sing all you whose hearts are right.

David’s heart was right.  In an instant, the shark keeled over and died, harpooned by a mysterious figure of the future.  This mysterious figure was working long before He was born into a stable in an overflowing city during an inconvenient government census.  But just like then, He chooses to work in the most real of circumstances.

He chose to be born not in a king’s palace during a time of glorious prosperity and peace, but instead in a lowly stable during a time of political unrest, corruption, and crucifixion.  And Jesus, the mysterious figure in David’s life, chooses to work even with David’s awful life.  I mean, let’s be honest–who would want to trade places with David right before the point God intervenes? Jaws wasn’t in the mind of Steven Spielberg yet, but David’s sin was an ever-present shark thirsting for his blood and pulling him further and further down, away from God’s Presence.

I imagine here a picture [2].  I see Jesus as the ultimate scuba diver, swimming to a depth no one else would dare go.  The pressure of the water is more than anyone else could bear, yet Jesus swims deeper, deeper, deeper.  Harpoon in hand, He swims right up to the shark, and the battle that ensues is nothing short of epic.  Tremendous.  Teeth cracking, flesh mangling.  Jesus, who would become so wounded by the effect of our sin that He was said to not even be recognizable as a human (see Isaiah 52:14).  And the shark, pierced to the heart and dethroned as the king of the deep.

Jesus comes in our darkest moments–yes, Jesus comes in our darkest moments and harpoons our greatest evil!  There is never, ever justification for you or me, whoever you are, whoever I am, to think all is lost and there is no reason to go on.  There is never, ever a reason for you or me to surrender to the shark.  The shark is ever-present, yes, but so–yes, so!–is Jesus.

God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble. (Psalm 46:1b, NASB)

Is there any help?  You betcha there is!  The only reason anyone dies in the depths is because their last breath was taken in despair or delusion, rather than to cry out for the Son of God.

–God will not save you if you don’t want to be saved.  It is your shark; you have to want to get rid of it.

–God will not save me if I don’t want to be saved. It is my shark; I have to want to get rid of it.

–And I do!  I DO!!!!!!!!  Like David and every other person ever gripped in the locked jaws of sin, I cry out to God to save me.  And He does. He DOES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The ending to that scene in Jaws. . changes.

The girl still gives a gasp, still feels the initial jerk, still plunges under the surface of the water with no hope for return.

The silence tells the story of no hope.  It is such a long silence there is no reason to think it won’t be eternal.  The surface of the water gives no rustle of life.

It is so dark, so still.

And then, just as we are sure we have seen the end, something happens which utterly changes the whole scene.  As though thrown up from the depths–and as a matter of fact, this is just exactly what happened–the girl emerges, gasping for air.  Black water from the depths of the ocean runs down her hair and face as her mouth opens wide to breathe the sunlit air.  She blinks as her lungs expand once more; she can’t believe what she’s seeing.  The sun shines down on her pale face, and color, real, living color, begins to flush her cheeks.  Her eyes are wide, but in wonder, not fear, and then, true to horror movie form, the shark breaks the surface of the waters.

In all its horror, it thunders upon the surface of the water, a fearful wave created from the blow of its body.  Its full length is finally seen, its full weight, the magnitude of its presence, the hideous length of its countless teeth.

The shark is right by the girl, as close as it can be without touching her, and there is no doubt she will be ripped back down to the depth in greater fury then before.

But then, the viewer realizes something.

The girl is not screaming.

And the shark is not on its back, but on its belly.  Its jaws are on full display, but they are not biting.  Its eyes are wide open, but they are not set on her.  There is no dorsal fin to see.

The shark is dead as a doornail.

In regust–but not in fear–the girls begins to swim away from the ugly, floating corpse.  The implanted harpoon gleams in the sunlight.  She wipes her face of all the water of the deep, takes another big breath, and begins to swim for shore.

Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, you God of my salvation: and my tongue shall sing aloud of your righteousness. (Psalm 51:14, AKJV)

Bless the Lord, O my soul
O my soul
Worship His holy name
Sing like never before
O my soul
I’ll worship Your holy name

The sun comes up, it’s a new day dawning
It’s time to sing Your song again
Whatever may pass, and whatever lies before me
Let me be singing when the evening comes

And on that day when my strength is failing
The end draws near and my time has come
Still my soul will sing Your praise unending
Ten thousand years and then forevermore

Bless the Lord, O my soul
O my soul
Worship His holy name
Sing like never before
O my soul
I’ll worship Your holy name

(Lyrics from 10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord), by Matt Redman)

Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD, O my soul! (Psalm 146:1, ESV)

____________________________________________

[1] The collection of psalms are not placed in chronological order in the book of Psalms.  We might wonder at this, but, first of all, it’s very likely that the original hearer’s knew the events that occurred before psalms.  Certain psalms are marked with what events preceded them.  Hymn books are not sorted in chronological order, either, or some poetry compilations, and no one asks why this is.  Psalms, as poetry, lend themselves to a focus on themes other than chronology.

[2] The scuba diver analogy comes by God’s grace through C.S. Lewis’ diver analogy in Miracles.

I thank John Eldridge’s Epic for ideas in this blog.

The new arrogance?

I remember a time–because I am very old, and almost out of my twenties–when the word “arrogant” used to mean someone who behaved in a haughty manner, like, for example, Nellie Olsen on Little House on the Prairie.

Now, though, I have lived to see the day when arrogance has come to mean not only the above definition, but an entirely new definition as well: someone who is certain about something that is considered controversial, especially if that person holds an opposing viewpoint.  This has come to be seen, publicized, and popularized as the new arrogance.

Christians are accused of the new arrogance for believing there is one way to Heaven.

But, if this is true, Muslims and Jews must be arrogant, too, because they also believe there is only one way to Heaven.  And what about atheists?  Don’t they believe that there is no way to Heaven?  How is it less arrogant to believe there is no way than to believe there is one way?

And for that matter, how is it more arrogant to believe there is one way than to believe there are many ways?  Aren’t both claiming that they are the truth?  One claims truth is through one way, one claims truth is through many ways.  Both would seem to be equally arrogant in their claim.

If it is because Christianity (and other one-way religions) “bottleneck” at one point of entry, I don’t understand how that is any more arrogant than the bottleneck at the entrance to Silver Dollar City theme park.  It’s certainly true that you can make your way to the entry point from different starting points–you can come from St. Louis or Topeka or New Jersey–but it is also certainly true that you must come through the admission gate, and you must present a ticket or you will most certainly not get in.  I cannot present a ticket from Six Flags, Disneyland, or Schlitterbahn and expect to get into Silver Dollar City.  And no matter how many protects I cry of the arrogance of the park, I won’t be allowed in without a ticket to Silver Dollar City.

Maybe it is more arrogance for me to presume I can get in with another park’s ticket than it is for the park to expect me to have a ticket in their name.

Christians believe people have different starting points–you can be raised in a Christian household or an atheist household, for example–but anyone who wants to be saved must receive Christ as the only salvation and bow to Him as the only Lord.

The new arrogance . . isn’t arrogance.  It’s just being certain of what you believe.  The old arrogance is still around, and some people who are certain of what they believe (a.k.a., the new arrogance) do act arrogantly (a.k.a., the old arrogance) . . . but there’s something a little funny about that. . . . .

Isn’t it a little arrogant for me to point out the arrogance in others, if arrogance includes being certain of something?

–And if all ways lead to the same truth, then why should it matter whether I behave arrogantly or not?

I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. (John 10:9, ESV)