Pulling

I’ve never appeared in a theme park commercial for a reason.  Rides make me motion sick and/or scared out of my wits.  My stomach doesn’t handle carnival food, and I don’t particularly enjoy standing at the bottom of rides waiting for my friends to finish.  Ergo, I’m not much for theme parks.

One time at a theme park, as I was waiting at the bottom of a ride, a friend suggested I try a smaller ride off to the side.  The ride was all self-propelled.  You sat down in a buckled seat and pulled one of two ropes to either go up or back down.

I sat down and began pulling myself up.  Since I’m terrified of heights, I was comforted to know I could stop at any time and come back down.  No one was expecting me to make it to the top.  I could go halfway and slide back down and no one would care.

The verse for the day in my inbox reminded me of this ride.

He personally carried our sins in his body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. By his wounds you are healed. (1 Peter 2:24, NLT)

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Jesus’ trip to the cross was totally self-driven.  He had to, every moment, pull the rope to take Him toward suffering, shame, condemnation, guilt, and death–none of which belonged to Him.  He had, every moment, to resist pulling the rope to take Him back toward joy, exaltation, freedom, peace, and life.

He personally carried

As no one expected me to make it to the top that day, no one expected God the Son to overcome the cross.  If at any point He had given up and simply chosen to die early (He could release His Spirit at any time), no one would have noticed.  Not even His most ardent followers expected that anything good would come from a cross.

He personally carried our sins

It was comforting to me that no one expected anything from me, because my task didn’t matter.  But can you imagine how agonizing it was for Jesus to have NO support from His own closest friends and family?

He personally carried our sins in his body

No one knew how to support Him, because no one knew it was possible to do what He was doing–to pull oneself into the responsibility of paying for the whole world.  Only God in His love could shoulder the infinite grief He was taking upon Himself.

He personally carried our sins in his body on the cross

The cross looks like a stationary object.  But, we should see the spiritual cross Jesus took on in motion, swaying as He pulled Himself up inch by inch.  As though ropes were attached, Christ with perfect resolve pulled Himself closer and closer until, at last, He had arrived at the place of worst human agony and defeat.

And there, all of us who believe find life.

He personally carried our sins in his body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. By his wounds you are healed. (1 Peter 2:24, NLT)

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Published in: on April 11, 2014 at 6:32 am  Leave a Comment  
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Sunlight

Weather has an uncanny way of reflecting on the outside feelings we have on the inside.

We can describe depression so well as a rainy, gray day . . nostalgia by autumn leaves . . a troubled spirit by a blizzard. There are all kinds of feelings weather evokes, but my favorite, my very favorite is sunlight.

Sunlight is like the start of an adventure.

Country road in the mountains

When the hobbits set out for Rivendale in The Fellowship of the Ring movie, it was sunny. And that is exactly how I think of adventures. Sunny. Full of promise. Bold.

I wouldn’t much want to go on an adventure where it was raining and lightning, and I sure wouldn’t go if it was hailing and ten below zero. But on a perfect sunny day, ahh . . adventure awaits.

Jesus did the opposite of what I would do.

Jesus went out for His adventure on a day when hail was pummeling the earth, ice and snow were blowing in faster than dandelion petals on a spring day, a sharp wind cut through the air, and there wasn’t a ray of sunshine in the sky.

No, I don’t mean it was storming the night He came to Earth as a baby. It could have been, but that isn’t the point. The point is, Jesus left Heaven-a place without a drop of cloud or a breath of chill-to come to Earth. That was how He came by His adventure.

He came backwards how we want to go. He came from Heaven to Earth, not from earth to Heaven. And Scripture tells us He even tasted Death. So He went from Heaven to Earth to Death-not the order we want for our adventures.

Can you imagine going from somewhere without sin, without death, without suffering to come to a place with all those things?

I can’t.

One thing Jesus did have in common with the Hobbits, the “there and back again” part.

Jesus has been to the depths of sin and pain, grief and anguish, guilt and terror, and He has come back. And He did it so that you and I could travel in the opposite direction He did, away from sin and towards the Son.

Now that’s the kind of God I want to serve.

. . let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up. (Hebrews 12:1b-3, NLT)

Published in: on March 22, 2014 at 7:00 am  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)

Something I’ve been thinking about . . .

If God is love, and God the Father turned His back upon Jesus, then Jesus was without love, forsaken, yet He kept the love within Himself because He, too, was God.  In the moment God the Father turned away from Jesus, Jesus had only love to give, none to receive.

And Jesus is the One who said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (from Acts 20:35, KJV)

How many

How many kings, stepped down from their thrones?
How many lords have abandoned their homes?
How many greats have become the least for me?
How many Gods have poured out their hearts
To romance a world that has torn all apart?
How many fathers gave up their sons for me?
Only one did that for me.

–“How Many Kings”, DOWNHERE

“This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:12, NASB)

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Photograph by Ariaski (Roberto Arias), profile on http://www.flickr.com/people/roberto8080/

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