more than Your own body

How comforting, Jesus.  How comforting that You love us more than Your own body.

. . the Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took a loaf of bread, gave thanks for it, and broke it in pieces, saying, “This is my body that is for you. Keep doing this in memory of me.” (1 Corinthians 11:23b-24, ISV)

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Jesus’ Prayer

The hour was dark.  Time, slipping away.  Jesus would soon be betrayed by one of His own friends, abandoned by all His followers.  But rather than pray for vindication, He prayed for light.

Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son so he can give glory back to you. For you have given him authority over everyone. He gives eternal life to each one you have given him. And this is the way to have eternal life—to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one you sent to earth. (John 17:1b-3, NLT)

Jesus is incredible.

Father, the hour has come.

  • He knows He is going to give His life for our sins.

Glorify your Son so he can give glory back to you.

  • He will be glorified and His Father will be brought glory because of His priceless gift to humanity.

For you have given him authority over everyone.

  • Jesus has the right to forgive sins.  He has total power to give eternal life to who He wishes.

And this is the way to have eternal life

  • Jesus could have created an exclusive club.  In fact, He had every right to do so.  He is the one who paid for our sins.  He can choose who is saved.  But here’s one of the most astonishing things about Jesus: He doesn’t hide the invitation to eternal life.

And this is the way to have eternal life—to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one you sent to earth.

  • These two things that we must know to have eternal life are not separate, but as seamless as two drops of water.  We must know

the only true God

  • Because if we serve any other god, we are merely idolaters.  All other gods, whether the wooden kind, or the kind that thirst for money or swell with pride or resist admitting to sin, are plain old horrible trash that will one day be burned.

and Jesus Christ, the one you sent to earth.

  • There is no access point to the Father except Jesus Christ.  We can by no other way have knowledge of Him or experience the eternal life that would follow.  Jesus’ Father is by nature so holy that to see Him in our sinner’s state would be to die.  Only because Jesus came to us as a human without glory were we able to look upon God’s holiness without perishing.  (At the Transfiguration, Jesus’ closest disciples got a glimpse of the glory Jesus gave up for us.  Now He has been given glory upon glory in Heaven, as He will be revealed in the Second Coming.)

At His worst time, knowing He was very soon going to be abandoned, alone and tortured, Jesus still wasn’t distracted from loving us, revealing Himself to us, and rescuing us.

Not even for a moment.

This is the prayer of Christ: out of His own suffering, He builds for us a stairway to Heaven.

There can be nothing so awe-inspiring as the love of God.

Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.

You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.

Though he was God,

he did not think of equality with God

as something to cling to.

Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;

he took the humble position of a slave

and was born as a human being.

When he appeared in human form,

he humbled himself in obedience to God

and died a criminal’s death on a cross.

Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor

and gave him the name above all other names,

that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,

in heaven and on earth and under the earth,

and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,

to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:3-11, NLT)

The I-love-you message.

I love mail.  So much so that, during a lonelier time in my life, I responded to sweepstakes and even bought some scrawny mop thing from them . . not so much because I thought it would really increase my chance of winning the sweepstakes as that I appreciated someone writing to me.

I grew up in the generation of Hallmark card commercials–and boy, were they good.  Little movies about being loved and feeling treasured that made every little girl want to give cards to everyone she loved . . and maybe, just maybe, receive a card, too.

So what is it about a piece of paper folded in half, girls?

It’s this inexplicable desire to be loved–and to be told about it.

We don’t just want to be loved.  We want to be told about it.  It isn’t only because we want to tell others about it (though there is that, too), but also because we think like this:

  • The highest level of love is expressive love.

This is what we seek, girls: expressive love.  We want love that we can see, feel, and hear.  A card is all about the “hear”.

Sometimes (not that I would know anything about this), we spend our lives “fishing” for value.  We cast fishing lines in our relationships, complimenting or even flattering people just so we might hear that they love us.  But then when they do try to affirm us, we wonder if they really meant it, or they were just reciprocating back our manipulative sentiment.

Why is it, girls, that we desperately search to hear the words that we are loved . . why is it that we will give our right arm (and throw in a foot, too), to know we are treasured by someone?

We were created as a treasure.

When God made Eve, He made her not to tend the garden alone, or pioneer new land, or make useful stuff, or even so that Adam and Eve could have offspring.  God made her first as a beautiful, loving being who could love God in a tender, fragile, and utterly trusting way . . and who, secondly, could love Adam as her protector, companion, and friend.

Even since the fall, both relationships have been out of whack.  We struggle to trust God, and we try to hide our tender and fragile thoughts from Him.  And as far as men go–well!  We struggle to find someone to walk beside us who has even a remote desire to protect us or truly befriend us.

Many of us know what it’s like to wait and wait for that kind of love to come along.  We wonder if we are too unlovable to ever be treasured.  Being 29 years old and passed by many times, I understand what it feels like to want that card in the mail you never get.

Others of us have had that kind of love, but we’ve lost the one who loved us.  My mom has gone through several 30 + year anniversaries now since my father died, and none of them are easy.  I had a 97-year-old friend of mine told me that she misses her husband, her sadness as if she had lost him a week ago.  He has been gone for over 20 years.

And there are others of us who found that kind of love, but arguments, or if-I-could-only-take-them-back mistakes, or years of growing apart have made us feel separated, isolated, and unloved.

The truth is, love in this life is always on shaky ground.  Our sin nature, death, and the messy circumstances of living in a broken world all mean that love isn’t going to ever be totally perfect here, that we can’t fully go back to the inseparable, totally complementary, & never-selfish love that Adam and Eve had for each other before sin.

But we can go back to the relationship that Eve had with God.

As hard as it can be to believe sometimes when I look at myself–and all the tragic mistakes I’ve made in my life–God wants to treasure me.  He is beckoning me to come to Him to be treasured.  And He knows all about how a girl’s heart works, how we get all gushy inside for Hallmark commercials, how we long to be sought after.  The Bible is God’s love story for us–the story of how we ran away and how He has pursued us, ransomed us, and is ready to take us back in His arms the moment we cry out to Him.

God has been sending you the I-love-you message your whole life.  From the moment you were born, He had His eyes on you.  He has been looking out for you, watching over you, and creating ways for you to notice Him your whole life.  God knows that we want to see, feel, and hear His love.

He has given us His willing, full-of-love Son–and how can I miss the gravity of this gift?  The love for a child is sewn into a parent’s soul.  Yet God gave His Child for us, that He could ransom us and make a way back to Him.

Jesus is the greatest greeting card ever.  What He did for us on the cross is a Message that is sent to everyone.  No one is excluded from His mailing.  The question is, have you opened the card?  Have you really heard what He has to say?

“We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them.” (1 John 4:16, NLT)

Does Jesus offer salvation to me? Is the invitation for me? Or am I not on His list?

I’m teaching a craft class at my church for children right now.  This week, we have three choices of designs they can choose for their project.  I asked each of them last week which design they wanted, so it would be ready for them.

Suppose, though, that I already knew exactly what each child would choose.  Imagine that I got the craft ready, knowing what each would choose, but–without showing them the choices I already knew they would make–I asked them what they wanted.

So, who made the choice for what craft they would do?  It might appear to have been me, as I got the craft ready beforehand, but it was actually them.  Not only did I base what craft they would get on knowing what they would each choose, but I even let them choose without revealing to them beforehand what they were going to choose.

This is an important point.  Although I could have told them beforehand what they were going to choose, I let them discover what they were going to choose for themselves.  This is a simple illustration of a little bit of how the omniscience (all knowingness) of God might work.  Me planning for the craft ahead of time is not fatalism.  I based the choice of craft on what I knew the children would choose; I did not ‘program’ them to choose something, and I even gave them the opportunity to know what they would choose without seeing it first.

Does Jesus already know if we are going to receive Him and spend eternal life in Heaven, or whether we will reject Him and spend eternal death in Hell?  He does.

He could hand our parents cards at birth that said Heaven or Hell.  He could have our eternal destination branded on our cheek.  We could look around and read foreheads and think, “Oh, that person is going to Heaven.  That one is going to Hell.”

There would be no need for evangelism.  No need for missionaries, no outreach to the public, no witnessing to friends.

But isn’t God good!  Thank God, this isn’t what He does!  I have so much respect for God’s kindness  He wants us to know that we choose, and so He gives us a life with total mystery on our part as to our eternal destination.  The only way we solve this mystery is if we receive Jesus Christ.  Otherwise, we will solve it the moment we die and find ourselves in Hell.  But God never tells even one living soul that we are destined for Hell and there’s nothing we can do about it.

Even when Jesus spoke about Judas’ betrayal, He never used his name to identify him.

“But here at this table, sitting among us as a friend, is the man who will betray me.” (Luke 22:21, NLT)

While they were eating, he said, “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me.” (Matthew 26:21, NLT)

Now Jesus was deeply troubled, and he exclaimed, “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me!” (John 13:21, NLT)

When Judas asked Him if he was going to be the one to betray, let’s listen to what happened.

Judas, who would betray him, answered, “Is it I, Rabbi?” He said to him, “You have said so.” (Matthew 26:25, ESV)

Did Judas feel hopelessness?  A feeling of destiny overcoming him?

If he did feel that way (and I doubt he did), it was because he had no faith in Jesus’ teachings.  After all, he had been one of Jesus’ disciples.  He had most likely heard Jesus say,

“Nothing is impossible with respect to any of God’s promises.” (Luke 1:37, NLT)

and,

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28, NIV)

Jesus promised–anyone who came to Him would receive His rest.   But Judas did not come to Jesus.  Judas wanted money.  I don’t think he was feeling fated.  I think he was feeling greedy.  We can’t know what thoughts and feelings motivated him to do what he did, only that they were feelings and thoughts from Satan himself.  And rather than resisting Satan, he listened to him.

I think about Jesus’ words,

“You have said so.”

If Judas had wanted to repent, he could have confessed what he’d been planning to do right then and asked Jesus for His forgiveness.  But he didn’t, because he didn’t want to.  His heart was turned towards Satan.

Later, when he realized his sin, he wanted despair.  He did not beg to be forgiven or ask Jesus how he could turn from the path of Hell he was on.  He could have, but he didn’t.  Jesus as still alive when Judas realized his mistake.  He could have run to Jesus in the courtyard of the mock trial, or he could have fallen down at His feet when He was on the cross.  But Judas didn’t.

Maybe he doubted Jesus’ teachings.  Maybe he was so focused on his sin that he didn’t have room for the love of God.  For whatever reason, Judas chose to hang himself rather repent.  He was sorry for what he had done, but he did not ask Jesus to forgive his sin.  Instead, he chose to end his life.

This very moment, God knows where each of us is going to be spending eternity.  But He didn’t make our choice for us.  What a blessing to know we have the free choice to choose eternal life!  Max Lucado in his book He Chose the Nails makes an amazing point.  We complain to God about our metabolism, family makeup, big nose, bad back, and poor singing voice.  But would we take all of the genetic things we didn’t have control over and ask God if He would trade with us and we could choose our biological makeup and He could capriciously choose our eternal destination?  Of course not.  God left the most important choice of our eternal destiny up to us!

God isn’t capricious.  Everything He does, He does for reason.  And His reason is always good.  God isn’t running an inventory list and deciding their needs to be more people in Hell.  The Bible tells us, unequivocally, that God wants everyone to receive forgiveness and spend eternity in Heaven with Him.

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9, NIV)

I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men—the testimony given in its proper time. (1 Timothy 2:1-6, NIV)

And He makes this promise when talking to Israel about His nature:

“As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways!” (from Ezekiel 33:11, NIV)

So does Jesus offer salvation to me?  Is the invitation for me?  Or am I not on His list?

What we need to fear is not God’s response to our cry for salvation, but rather whether or not we are crying out for salvation!

God has promised He will receive those who come to Him for rest.  He does not break His Word.  He does not lie.

God made a promise to Abraham. Since he had no one greater on whom to base his oath, he based it on himself. He said, “I will certainly bless you and give you many descendants.” So Abraham received what God promised because he waited patiently for it. When people take oaths, they base their oaths on someone greater than themselves. Their oaths guarantee what they say and end all arguments. God wouldn’t change his plan. He wanted to make this perfectly clear to those who would receive his promise, so he took an oath. God did this so that we would be encouraged. God cannot lie when he takes an oath or makes a promise. These two things can never be changed. Those of us who have taken refuge in him hold on to the confidence we have been given. (Hebrews 6:13-18, GW)

If you sincerely want to believe in Jesus as your Savior, know that He will not fail His promise.  His list includes everyone who receives His gift of salvation, a gift He willingly paid for us when He was on the cross dying for our sins.

The question is not whether or not Jesus is offering His free gift of salvation to you, but whether or not you will receive it.

“WHOEVER WILL CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED.” (from Romans 10:13, NASB)

‘AND IT SHALL BE THAT EVERYONE WHO CALLS ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED.’ (Acts 2:21, NASB)

Phone calls, tiramisu, and agape: For anyone who’s ever felt worthless, been at the bottom of the popularity food chain, or hated God

                 

14 years ago, I traveled to Hungary with a group of teens for 3 weeks.

It quickly became one of the worst experiences of my life.  In a way, it was actually harder than my father dying because I had no one who loved me around me.

I was poorly fed, I became sick, fatigued, and I rapidly lost weight.  I injured my back and I’ve never fully recovered from it.

If it had only been that stuff.

I was attacked, belittled, devalued, isolated, scorned.  I felt so worthless I just . . I didn’t know what to do, so I kept going.  My posture, my body language, and my social skills began to aggressively reflect how little I thought of myself—and people picked up on it.

The details are humiliating.  I kowtowed to the teens in my group, longing for acceptance that seemed to keep fading further and further into the distance.  It wasn’t everybody who treated me bad.  And I was very sensitive.  And I had bad social skills.  This isn’t about condemning the teens in my group.  I pray God’s grace over their lives.

Just now.  For the first time.  The scar I got from that trip is deep.  I was so often embarrassed and felt so worthless that I had to cover who I was with a faker and faker self.  Even so, I got to a point I have never been where I could start sobbing at the drop of a hat on a bus, in a church, in the middle of the night, and not be able to stop.  It didn’t even take the drop of a hat.  I told everyone I was homesick (and myself) to cover.

Not homesick.  Humiliated.  I felt like a stray dog.  Only uglier.

There were two things, two things that meant hope in my life: phone calls and food.

Not God.

God did not mean hope in my life.

Just phone calls and food.

I did not talk to God, but I talked at God.

“I know God hates me.  He hates me.  He hates me.”

The thought—somehow–became comforting.  Like—the battle was over.  I’d lost.  No matter.  In that time, in that misery, for me there wasn’t going to be eternity.  There was just right here that went on forever.  If God didn’t love me right here, why would I want to see Him in eternity?

I was numb, dull.  Shut off.  Fake.  Grinning, now bawling.  Grinning, now bawling.  Pariah.  Trash.  Not worth God’s attention.  Not worth anybody’s attention.

Well, almost anybody.

There was the phone calls.  There was the tiramisu.

The twenty-year-olds in the group threatened to guard our phone calls.  I got that we were not to tell bad things.  I was scared.  So scared.  I was afraid for them to see me call.  I was afraid to talk on the phone.  But I desperately, desperately needed to hear my mother’s voice.  Desperately, desperately, desperately, desperately.

I can still remember the phones in the student campus we stayed.  They were pay phones, old fashioned pay phones.  They were in the middle of the lobby.  Everybody could see.  I was so afraid.

And then there was the overweight man in probably his fifties who worked there.  You know, I never realized until just now why I always wanted to date an overweight guy with a belly.  Funny–now I get it.

That’s how powerful he was in my life.

This is how it happened.

I was making that phone call, daring to call home.

And I began sobbing uncontrollably.  Sobbing, sobbing.  Hysterically.

And suddenly, he was out, out in my world.  I’d seen him before, but he didn’t matter to me.  He was just the guy behind the desk.  But suddenly, he was my connection to home.

It wasn’t like he dignifiededly beckoned me in his world.  Oh no.  He came out to me, gestured big, and he begged me to come behind the glass wall that separated me from him.  He begged me to come to his office.

I will never forget the feeling of standing in the room behind the glass.  I will never forget it.  It was my harbor.  The waves couldn’t get through.

And he loved me.  He absolutely loved me.  He absolutely, undeniably loved me.

He smelled like pipe smoke.  I don’t think, as long as I live, I will ever dislike pipe smoke.  (Probably not in eternity either.)

We couldn’t speak to each other, but I knew this—he wanted to help.  Oh no way—it wasn’t that he wanted to help.  He was frantic to help.  He pointed to his phone.  His office phone.  He and his office mate shielded me from the lobby, their backs to the door, and all of the sudden . .

I got value.

Instant value.

There was not a blessed thing or an unblessed thing or any other kind of thing that the leaders, especially the one who so hated me (in my eyes), could do.  I was in that office for safekeeping.  I could make my phone call.  I could say whatever I wanted to say to my mother.

I was free, and I was safe.  There is no more I could ever ask.

Oh, wait.  But there was more.  I was loved.

You know, I was so vulnerable that day, and every day after I went to that office.  If that man had tried to misuse me, I can tell you he could have.  But he didn’t.  In no way.  He wanted no harm for me, and it wasn’t about me giving him something.  It was about him sheltering me.  A true shelter.  He never touched me—it wouldn’t have crossed his mind.  All he ever did was give me free access to his phone, access I could never ever pay him back for.

And then there was the tiramisu.

I finally got so sick, that the leader (the one I felt hated me) took me to the doctor.  She seemed disgusted to do so.  I was wasting her time.

In order to take me to the doctor, she had to take along a translator.

And in walked the tiramisu.

This is how it happened.

I was not looking forward to spending the day with my leader.  Yes, I had wanted to go to the doctor.  But a whole day alone with her?  I had been allowed to spend the day before in bed—what a precious relief.  I had been allowed, but I knew that was it.  No more.  I would have to get up and work from then on.  How on earth.

I followed her and she did not seem happy.  This was going to be ridiculous.  This was going to be awful.  Already, a day or so before I’d asked her about the doctor and she’d scorned me.  I felt like trash to her.  Now I was traveling trash.  And we were alone.  I wasn’t afraid she was going to hurt me.  I was afraid that she was going to scorn me long enough that I was going to fall into shreds right before her eyes, and no one would care to carry those shreds back home so I could see my family again.

Somebody had packed sandwiches for us and they were weird.  I think they were for breakfast.  But weird or not, I was hungry.

We got on the bus.  And we were joined by a translator.

And I don’t know why.  And I don’t know why.  And I don’t know why.

But he loved me.

Instantly.

He  was a translator.  He translated how I felt and he understood at least some of it, because he showered me with compassion.  He told me I was brave and he repeated it.

The doctor gave me antibiotics.  I drank out of a cup to take my first one that I thought was clean.  I found out it was a cup another patient had drank out of.

Really, I didn’t care much.

(I wouldn’t get to take many of those antibiotics, and I wouldn’t get over my sickness while I was in Hungary.  Rather than giving me—a 14 year old—the antibiotics, they gave them to the leader directly overseeing me.  I would plead with her to give them to me.  Sometimes she would.  Sometimes she wouldn’t.  She had control over them.  It became so condescending, I just didn’t care if I got them or not.)

After we got my antibiotics, we went to a mall.  We ate lunch.  I got a good lunch.  I can’t even tell you what it was.  All I remember was the translator walking off with a purpose.  He came back with a cup of tiramisu.

(Later, when he gave me one, my leader was disgusted with me for eating on it without offering anyone else some and embarrassed me in front of everyone and said I had to share it with everyone.  That was probably the ugliest moment for me on trip.  It was my tiramisu.  It was the only time on the trip I had something that made me interesting.  Not only that, but I was the one person who they would not translate my money over so I could have enough money to buy good evening meals after almost no breakfast and a small lunch.  I didn’t get my money translated until the day we bought souvenirs, like the day before we left.  Then I had too much money because I translated too much.)

As I said, he got me a cup of tiramisu.  From a KFC in Hungary, actually.  I’d never had tiramisu.  I didn’t even like coffee.

On that trip though, I learned something about being hungry, really hungry.  Food is good.  The body stops discriminating the way it does when you are full or know food is in plenteous supply.  And I discovered something.

I loved tiramisu.

Picture this, if you will: I stood at a high barstool table with the leader who seemed to hate me the translator walked up and gave me the tiramisu for being brave.

Can you imagine how she felt?

Now picture this: I stood at a high barstool table eating a dessert in front of my enemy.  It wasn’t about me having it and her not having it (although, yes, I thought about that).

It was about that I had been honored.  Honored.  Honored trash.  Nothing I have ever eaten has ever tasted better on a spoon.

Two things, two things I took back good from my trip.  Phone calls and tiramisu.

But it wasn’t phone calls and tiramisu.

It was value and honor.

I left Hungary feeling like a dumpster.  I had hate, anger, bitterness, and a real longing for vengeance.  I had grief, depression, anxiety, and timidity.  And I stamped myself with worthless, unbeautiful, fake, stupid, and a big old black hole of waste.  And there was another stamp I gave myself: God made me this way.  And: because He hates me.  And: God has favorites—and I’m not one of them.  And: God has least favorites—and here lies my name.

I wanted to leave God in Hungary.

And herein lies the wild irony of this tale.

The man in the lobby who gave me his phone and the translator who fed me in the presence of my enemy—

—were such vivid, astonishing, unmistakable allegories of Christ that I couldn’t have done better if I’d made them up out of thin air.

And what is tragic and absolutely incredible is that I didn’t even know they were revealing to me a little glimpse of the nature of Christ.

I would love to share more about these men and how God, in all His wisdom, tried to lead me to Him through them.  I hope to share more in blogs to come.  But first, I have to address what I just said.

Yes, I did say tried.

Did I just say, God tried?  What do I mean?  How can God try at anything?  Am I saying God can fail?

Never.  God tried and when God tries anything, He is perfect.  God can’t fail.

But we can fail.  I think it’s jaw-dropping to realize God places Himself in our lives, draws us to Him, and lets us—lets us—fail to respond, if we want.

Whoa.

The man inside the lobby didn’t force me at gunpoint into his office.  How would that have changed the story?  And the translator didn’t force my mouth open and stuff tiramasu inside.  I wouldn’t be ordering the dessert today if he did, I can tell you that.

Amazingly, incredibly, God doesn’t make us respond to Him.

God tried to catch my attention, draw my love, through value and honor.

And I failed to see.  I totally did not see.  I idolized the two men who helped me, and that was that.

Would you believe, could you believe, that God would do something neither of those men could have, or would have done?

That man in the lobby was kind, but if I had refused to enter the protection of his office, I don’t think he would have asked me again.

But what if he had kept asking me for 12 years?

WHAT????????

And the translator.  He was so compassionate.  But if I had pushed away the tiramisu he offered, would he have given me another chance the next day?

Would he have kept offering his free gift to me for 12 years?

Who could have the will, or the grit, or the love to do that?

The same God who sends a hotel clerk and a translator to a teenager He knows will have no acknowledgement or appreciation of Him sending them.

What is that?

What is that called?

That is love.

That is phone call love.

That is tiramasu love.

That is the love of a God who breaks His body on a cross for the people who mock Him, spit on Him, and hit Him with their fists.

That is agape—

–the love only God can own.

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit. (Psalm 34:18, NIV)

_____________________________________________________

Photograph of tiramisu by Peter Alfred Hess, profile on http://www.flickr.com/people/peterhess/

Photograph of pay phone by jmconn1, profile on http://www.flickr.com/people/jimconn1/

Photograph is under Creative Commons License.

See Copyright Page for Bible translation information.

Any language

1 Corinthians 13:1 says:

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. (ESV)

And 1 John 4:16b tells us:

God is love (ESV)

Any language, without God, is worthless.

“Lord, there is no one else that we can go to! Your words give eternal life.” (John 6:68, CEV)

_____________________________________________________

Photograph by x3shuqi, profile on http://www.flickr.com/people/x3shuqi/

Photograph is under Creative Commons License.

See Copyright Page for Bible translation information.

Published in: on February 12, 2012 at 3:29 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Opossum Grace

On my way to church tonight, I hadn’t even made it out of the neighborhood when suddenly my headlights picked up a very out-of-place creature in front of my car.

I hit my brakes and I thought, I’m going to run over a possum as I looked at the crouching lump skuttling across the road.  I looked in his beady, black, alarmed, little eyes.

Now aware of doomsday, the possum began running as hard and as fast as he could across the road.

As I pressed down on my brakes, I was mesmerized by the clearly well-fed, unsightly creature in front of me.

I said the possum was running as hard and as fast as he could, and this was true.

The problem was the as he could part.

As my car slowed to a stop, the Macy’s Day Parade could have passed before the opossum had made it across the road.  Almost.

This little rodent was running as hard and as fast as he could, and there was no way even in a neighborhood subdivision he could have made it across the road before he was mush.

If I hadn’t stopped.

And then I remembered.

This is a picture of what You have done, God, for me.

The Bible teaches us that God didn’t plow over us the instant we sinned.  Instead, He slammed on His brakes and made a way for us to cross unharmed.

Little opossum, I love you for reminding me what God has done for me.

Rescued.

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8, NASB)

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Photograph by Patrick Feller, profile on http://www.flickr.com/people/perspective/, website http://www.accentoneclectic.com/  Backstory: The photographer (Patrick Feller) rescued this opossum and released him into the wild.

Photograph is under Creative Commons License.

See Copyright Page for Bible translation information.

The Bible’s First Inning

Genesis 1 is the story of God’s homeruns.  Every time God is up to bat, He creates ex nihlo (out of nothing), and what He creates is very good.

The crowd is almost too shocked to keep cheering.  Surely there must be a catch somewhere.  Surely there is something that God cannot do.  Don’t all stories have a problem?  What problem will God have to overcome?

And yet, there is nothing in Genesis 1 that would bring us to conclude God has any sort of problem at all, or that He needs any sort of problem at all.  His creative processes are so marvelous that they need no mistake to make them exciting.  In fact, any such error from God would ruin His perfect inning, prohibiting the perfect creation that we find our hearts so longing for.

Will God actually succeed?  Will He be able to smash homeruns on every single pitch?

The unquestionable answer Genesis 1 leaves us with is yes.  Yes, God will get homeruns every single time.  Usually, we long for variety in a game, but we find ourselves here (as our hearts fall in love with a God who acknowledges us on His first time up to bat–waves to us even!), filling with deeper and deeper joy each time the ball flies out of the stadium.  There is something deeply personal about God’s homeruns, and we intuitively know He is doing this for us.

We have the astonishing inkling, so uncanny we’re almost sure it can’t be true, that we are actually going to find ourselves stepping up to the mound very soon.  But why?  Why would God share His field with us?  As Genesis 1 unfolds, He proves time and time again that He can do everything well–alone.  Why would He want us?

Could it be that God delights in giving away adventure, creativity, and the choice and power to love . . . as free gifts . . . because His very nature is to be good?

He has hit the biggest homerun of the inning.

Then God looked over all he had made, and he saw that it was very good! (Genesis 1:31, NLT)

The Bible’s First Homerun

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

In the very same sentence that God tells us He created a universe we cannot wrap out minds around, He tells us He created our tiny earth!  That is the kind of God we have!

He pays attention to us!  He uses one word to sum up the entire marvels of the universe: heavens.  And then He chooses to tell us one itty-bitty place within that universe He made: the earth!!!!!!   But it’s not just that He made the earth.  In this verse, the very first verse of the Word of God, God tells us He made the Heavens, and, separate from that, He made the earth!

I used to be an avid baseball fan, and when I think about Genesis 1:1, I think of God stepping up to bat and, on the first pitch of the night, slamming a homerun. I mean He just slams a homerun.  The baseball goes out past the highest bleachers, never to return.  In one verse, in only one verse, God has already revealed His grand surprise for us:

He cares about us.

He cares about us!

And, just as the crowd goes wild when the first pitch results in the first homerun of the night for the home team, our hearts should go wild for the first verse of Genesis 1:1.  Our souls should be on their feet, applauding frantically, as we witness the first sign of God’s love for us in the very first verse He says.

God didn’t just get lucky at bat, either.  We have the profound feeling that God has planned out the whole game and, as He takes His first victory lap around the bases, we will see more runs to come.

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

Thoughts after reading from Ezekiel today

What a privilege to be loved by a holy God.

Suddenly, the glory of the God of Israel appeared from the east. (Ezekiel 43:2a, NLT)

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Photograph by Berduchwal, profile on http://www.flickr.com/people/62136890@N02/

Photograph is under Creative Commons License.

See Copyright Page for Bible translation information.

 

Published in: on November 25, 2011 at 12:34 pm  Leave a Comment  
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