The Veil

About three o’clock, Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Eli, eli, lema sabachthani?”, which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46, ISV)

Then Jesus cried out with a loud voice again and died. Suddenly, the curtain in the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom, the earth shook, rocks were split open, tombs were opened, and many saints who had died were brought back to life. After his resurrection, they came out of their tombs, went into the Holy City, and appeared to many people.

When the centurion and those guarding Jesus with him saw the earthquake and the other things that were taking place, they were terrified and said, “This man certainly was the Son of God!” (Matthew 27:50-54, ISV)

At noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. At three o’clock, Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Eloi, eloi, lema sabachthani?” (which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”) (Mark 15:33-34, ISV)

It was already about noon, and the whole land became dark until three in the afternoon because the sun had stopped shining, and the curtain in the sanctuary was torn in two. Then Jesus cried out with a loud voice and said, “Father, into your hands I entrust my spirit.” After he said this, he breathed his last.

When the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God and said, “This man certainly was righteous!” When all the crowds who had come together for this spectacle saw what had taken place, they beat their chests and left. But all his acquaintances, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, were standing at a distance watching these things. (Luke 23:44-49, ISV)

The veil . . torn.

The veil that separated the Holy of Holies from view:

TORN.

The veil that separated God from man.

TORN!

The veil that only the high priest could enter through, only once a year, and only with a sacrifice of animal blood . . TORN by the High Priest who entered with His own blood as the sacrifice.  That is who Jesus Christ is.

The Tearer of the Separation between God and Man.

In a mystery we do not understand, God was denied access to God.

As Jesus carried the sins of the world to become sin for us,  He lost his relationship with His Father.  God lost relationship with God.  He Himself gave Himself to be the blood.

Innocent animal blood made it permissible for the high priest to visit God once a year in fear and trembling, but God’s blood, offered to God, by God, made it possible for God Himself to rip the curtain in two.

As Christ was separated from His Father by the unbearable burden of sin He carried . . God departed from God for the first time in history.

One infinite Person of God, the Father, was just to condemn sin . . and another infinite Person of God, Jesus the Son, stood in our place to be condemned.

The penalty of sin demanded that the Judge require payment in full . . and the Judge Himself was the payment.

God the Father ripped the veil with His own hands to make way for God the Son–the Sacrifice and the High Priest–to come through.

Jesus was exactly right.

It was finished.  Right then.

The veil in the temple, separating the Presence of God from us, ripped from top to bottom, torn by the Father as the nail-scarred Son stepped right through.

The way from God to man . . opened.

OPENED.

Not since Eden had it been opened.

And now, the Son stepped through, introducing the Father to us.

The Holiest of Holies . . wants to adopt you and me.

And now nothing stood, and still nothing stands, in God’s way to reach us.

But millions die without entering through the veil.

Why?

We have our own veils we place up to block the Light of God out of our lives.

These veils serve as idols, woven by Satan, to prevent us from seeing our salvation.

These veils and not our sin keep us from Christ.  That is, these unholy veils are sin, but it is active use of them as an obstruction that keeps us from Him.

Even that obstruction, that sin of a blocked heart, can be forgiven when the heart repents.  You must actively, persistently hold the veil up with all your might if it is to remain.

To keep yourself separated from God, you must willfully hold your sin up as the veil to prevent His Light from coming through.

The most important question you can ask yourself is, Will you?  Will you allow your veil–whatever it is, Satan isn’t particular on the threads you use–to block the light of God from reaching your soul?

Or will you drop your sin-reeking, self-made veil to let the love of Christ through?

For when you drop your dark veil, what you see is the Light coming through the real torn veil.

And then you see that nothing, absolutely nothing, separates you from God.

I choose the Light.

For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.

“There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him. But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son. And the judgment is based on this fact: God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil. All who do evil hate the light and refuse to go near it for fear their sins will be exposed. But those who do what is right come to the light so others can see that they are doing what God wants.” (John 3:16-21, NLT)

On tools and truth

Using a hammer to try to get a screw out of a wall isn’t going to go well.  Neither is using a saw to try to ratchet up a car, or a pair of pliers to cut wood, or a car jack to hold wires.  Even a useful tool is completely useless and likely very dangerous in the wrong situation.

We know from everyday experience that wrong tools don’t help anybody out.  Every day, we choose the right tools for the right job–or pay the consequences.

So why is it that, when it comes to our eternal destiny, many of us hold the view that all ways repair our condition before God equally?  How could it be that all varieties of morality, all types of lifestyles, and all sorts of decisions could somehow all lead to the same right relationship before God?  That would be like checking the air in a tire with a can opener . . or using a pizza cutter to file your nails.  Think about this carefully.  Life experiences will tell you that not all tools can be used to make all repairs.  In fact, isn’t it true that, the more important a job is, the more specific you are about the tool?

A silly–but valid–example comes to mind.  I like to use an eyelash curler as a beautifying measure.  😉  One trip I was on, I forgot to pack my eyelash curler.  Would you be surprised to find out that, as much as I like to use my eyelash curler, I did not substitute it with a pair of scissors or a curling iron on the trip?  😀  Not surprising?  Why not?  Because it is my eyes!  I’m careful about my eyes.  I value my eyes.  I’m not experimenting on substitute eye lash curlers–only the right tool will do when what is at stake is my eyes!

Guys, you may not have gotten my eyelash curler example as much, but I bet you wouldn’t be caught washing your brand new car with an SOS sponge!

Whoever you are, wherever you are, you’re probably like me in that you value the right tools very much–and get frustrated when you don’t have them.

But here is a remarkably strange fact about us all.  Although we are very selective in the tools we use for everyday matters, wec an be totally tolerate of all kinds of views about where we’ll wind up for eternity.  That is, if you’re like me, you have probably spent more years of your life worrying about the right earthly tools to help you in daily living than you’ve been worried about the right heavenly tool to repair your relationship with God.

If the Bible’s claims are true, then we are all broken and in disrepair.  None of us are in a state to have fellowship with God.  All of us are cut off from His Presence forever.

There is no one righteous, not even one.

There is no one who understands;

there is no one who seeks God.

All have turned away;

all alike have become useless.

There is no one who does what is good,

not even one.

Their throat is an open grave;

they deceive with their tongues.

Vipers’ venom is under their lips.

Their mouth is full of cursing and bitterness.

Their feet are swift to shed blood;

ruin and wretchedness are in their paths,

and the path of peace they have not known.

There is no fear of God before their eyes.

 (Romans 4:10b-18, NASB)

For thousands of years, people have sensed this disrepair and tried to find the right tool to fix it.  We have tried all kinds of religions that rely on our abilities and ego and understanding.  But none of them have worked.

But still, a predominant worldview is that any tool will work to get to eternal life.  That our relationship with God can be repaired as easily by Jehovah’s Witness doctrine as by Islam’s, by Buddhism as much as by Christianity, by the New Age movement as by agnosticism’s.  That it doesn’t really matter what you try to do to repair your relationship with God or gods or Mother Nature or whoever, as long as you try something.

Regardless of what religious view you take, you should recognize that this simply cannot be so.  If you cannot repair a dripping pipe with a pair of nail clippers, why would you expect to be able to repair your soul with any religion of your choice?  If there really is a God, isn’t it certain that your relationship with Him can’t be repaired in whatever manner you choose, but rather in the manner He decides?

The Christian God makes a serious claim: the only way to be made right with Him is through Jesus Christ.  Faith in Jesus Christ is the way to Heaven, because only Jesus can repair a right relationship with God.

Before dismissing the claim, I would urge you to check out the explanation for it in God’s Word.  After all, this is not about a deflated tire or a leaky sink.  This is about your eternal destiny.

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” (Jesus, quoted in John 14:6, NASB)

“I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep.” (Jesus, quoted in John 10:7b, NLT)

“I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.” (Jesus, quoted in John 10:9a, NIV)

“No one else can save us. Indeed, we can be saved only by the power of the one named Jesus and not by any other person.” (Peter, Acts 4:12, GW)

“For there is only one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity–the man Christ Jesus.” (Paul, 1 Timothy 2:5, NLT)

With his own blood—not the blood of goats and calves—he entered the Most Holy Place once for all time and secured our redemption forever.

Under the old system, the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a young cow could cleanse people’s bodies from ceremonial impurity. Just think how much more the blood of Christ will purify our consciences from sinful deeds so that we can worship the living God. For by the power of the eternal Spirit, Christ offered himself to God as a perfect sacrifice for our sins. That is why he is the one who mediates a new covenant between God and people, so that all who are called can receive the eternal inheritance God has promised them. For Christ died to set them free from the penalty of the sins they had committed under that first covenant. (Hebrews 9:12-15, NLT)

I am the living one. I died, but look–I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and the grave. (Jesus, quoted in Revelation 1:18, NLT)

Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:15, NIV)

I am Yours

The most moving line in the movie Luther is a Scripture that a monk overseeing Martin Luther gives him one night when he is flat on the floor of his chamber cell, trying to defend himself against Satan in a crazed monologue. [1]

Luther is rambling, ranting, and crying out in an effort to overpower the work of Satan in his life.  He is frantic in his fear of going to Hell, and he keeps trying to ward off the Devil and his attacks.

Luther chronicles Martin Luther’s morphing life from trying to appease God to discovering that Christ has already taken away his sin, and the first breakthrough moment is when the overseeing monk intervenes as Luther rants and gives him a single line to cry out to God,

I am Yours.  Save me.

In the darkest times of his life that follow, Luther retreats in the arms of Christ, crying out,

I am Yours.  Save me.

The prayer is the core of faith in Jesus Christ.  We rely not on our ability to defend ourselves against Satan, but on Christ’s ability to defend us, rooted in His work on the cross.  It is the work of Christ, not the work of us, that saves us.

A heartbreaking part of American Christianity is that many in the church never or rarely get to the point where they see what the atoning work of Christ has done for them.  Either they are not saved, or they live out their existence on earth as immature Christians because they have little concept of what they have been saved from.  They see Christ more as a character from the Marvel comic series who rescued them from the world’s evil, rather than recognizing that Christ is the Lamb of God who submitted to anguish for our individual, very personal sin.  They do not know how to cry out to God for forgiveness and salvation.  They instead merely ask Him for forgiveness and salvation the way they might ask for the certain title of a book at Barnes & Noble or where the jackets are located at Macy’s or on what aisle the caulk is found at Lowe’s.

I am Yours.  Save me

Radical is Luther’s cry for forgiveness, because radical is his awareness of what God has saved him from.  Many in the church never more than glimpse at the burden, the load of weight which Christ carried on the cross.  Many in America see His suffering as something “fated” to happen, not something purposefully planned at God’s greatest expense for the sake of you and me..  They do not know enough about God, or sin, to even realize the extreme sacrifice given on their behalf.

Jesus was at odds with many people who thought they were really wise, really philosophical, and really religious.  They trusted in their wisdom, philosophy, and made-up religion to get them into Heaven.  So they didn’t grasp even the smallest meaning within the Scriptures.  The atoning work of the Messiah was completely veiled from them because they were looking to themselves for salvation, not to Him.  Jesus said one time when some of them tried to trick Him because of their total ignorance of the true and living God,

“Are you not in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God?” (Mark 24:b, NIV)

Luther experienced the enormous torment of conviction because he knew the Scriptures and he knew himself.  He knew that God is holy, and he knew that he is not.  We shirk away from conviction because, at its full weight, it is nothing short of torment.  What we don’t realize is that the more we come to terms with who we are, the more significant the Messiah becomes.

Conviction by itself is deadly, though.  It is spirit-breaking, and in its vulnerability, suicide and madness are all too eager to flood in.  But a broken spirit in and of itself is no bad thing.  Actually, it is what God longs for within us.

My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise. (Psalm 51:17, NIV)

If I am really honest with myself, as much as I hate the suffering that guilt brings, I know that without it I would be unimaginably wicked.  Luther was so burdened by his guilt that he realized, in a society that believed otherwise, that no amount of self-inflicted wounds, monetary gifts, good luck talismans, patronage to the church, ritualized prayers, chants for forgiveness, or so-called good deeds could make him right with God.

At a significant point in the movie, after his pilgrimage to the ‘holy’ city of Rome, he is barraged with the poverty and sin of the streets.  He sees a monk going off with a prostitute and a woman abused by a crowd of men.  Then everyone falls to their knees as a religious leaders gallops by–and then the wild street life starts once more just where it has stopped.

Luther decides he will complete a ritualized prayer to help a relative escape from purgatory while he’s in Rome, where just such a feat is said to be possible.  Luther pays the money at a booth, and is given a paper for his grandfather’s release from purgatory to hold in his hand as he crawls up a long, long flight of stairs on his knees and chants a prayer at each step.

As he starts climbing, he prays dutifully, in the full use of the word dutifully.  As he keeps climbing, he starts looking around him, and sees this sea of impoverished, ill-educated humans crawling up the stairs with him.  A change takes place within him, and by the time he has reached the top, and he can stand, he looks down over them with overwhelming compassion and immense anger.  He watches them all climbing towards the top, where they can look at more religious relics.  He sees a man climbing who is missing a hand.  And the paper Luther holds in his hand that is supposed to release his grandfather from purgatory becomes a wad of fury in his fist.

I am Yours.  Save me

He begins to see that everything he has ever hoped would make him right with God is, at best, a disappointing venture that never leads to the self-righteousness it promises and, at its worst, an appalling masquerade intended to rob coins out from the hands of the poor.

Rather than see himself as ‘justified’ because of the rampant wickedness of the so-called church of his day, Luther still sees himself as in need of rescue, but he stops turning to religious ceremonies, relics, and false religious teachers to tell him what to do.  Here is the turning point of his life. Instead of the artificial religion of his day, he begins to look to Christ as he finds Him in the Scriptures.

Realizing that we sin is not equal to salvation.  Judas realized his sin, and killed himself for it.  But he could not pay for his crime through that, and he accomplished only quickening the day of his judgment by his decision.  Luther, for all the times he lay flat on the floor trying to fight the sin out of his flesh, and every time he abstained from something to try to make himself right before God, and all the times he inflicted punishment of some kind on himself, was no closer to God than he had been before, except that he now knew, by God’s grace, that those things did not work.

I am Yours.  Save me.

He had to be saved by Christ.  Not by himself, but by Christ.  The blessing of a terrifying conviction is that, if that person finds Christ, he is probably a thousand times more useful to God than the one who merely thinks he’s gotten forgiven from his ‘mistakes’.

To really know yourself and how depraved you are is a grace, because God is burning in your heart a passion for forgiveness.  He is giving you a yearning for Him.  If you turn to Him and cup your hands towards Him, His love will spill out not only just over your hands, but your whole body, too.  He will drench you with His mercy and you will know, far more than the Christian who has only known mild-mannered conviction, how beautiful His grace really is.  [2]

The more convicted you are of your sin, the more thirsty your guilt.  The more thirsty your guilt, the more the love of Christ can quench you.

The one who cries out with a heavy heart,

I am Yours.  Save me.

and trusts in the Messiah will soon cry out the unburdened heart’s longing,

I am Yours.  Use me!

The more we are aware of what God has saved us from, the more God uses us in this life for the salvation of other sinners who He wants to become His, too.

The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent. (2 Peter 3:9, NLT)

Luther reached thousands and thousands and thousands in his lifetime, and millions (and counting) after his death.  Had he not seen so clearly the grace of God that destroyed the sin of his life (which climbing millions of stairs on his knees could never so much as wound), I don’t think he could have ever become the mighty man of God he became.

Had he only been a little convicted; felt a little saved . . he would have only wanted to have become a little useful.

One time, when a religious man was way offended at the way Jesus was letting a woman with a public sin life cry at His feet, wash His feet with her tears and hair, kiss His feet, and pour perfume on His feet, Jesus said this,

“I tell you, her sins–and they are many–have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.” (Luke 7:47, NLT)

Was Jesus saying it’s better to be a big-time sinner than to sin only a little?  No!  Jesus was saying that it is better to realize you are a big-time sinner than delude yourself into thinking you sin only a little.

Luther realized he was a sinner.  He had lived for years with the guilt of his past, and the nightmare that he kept sinning in his present.  His awareness of the dungeon of culpability he had been locked in by righteousness became incredibly powerful when Christ’s key turned in the prison lock and the sunlight of His mercy poured in.  Luther lived his life as a man in passionate loyal allegiance to God because he had seen where he had been, and he had an idea of what God had saved him from.  [3]

If we cry out to God with all our heart,

I am Yours.  Save me.

Then we will cry out to God with all our heart,

I am Yours.  Use me.

If we only halfway believe we are sinners, then we will only halfway want to serve Him.  If we think we’re not so bad and just needed a little help, then our service to Him will be as artificial, insincere, and destructive as that of the religious leaders in Luther’s day or those of Jesus’ time on earth.

I desire to cry out to God with the heaviest heart a sinner can have,

Jesus, I am Yours.  Save me.

so that I can cry out to God with the lightest heart a sinner can have,

Jesus, I am Yours.  You have saved me.  I beg You now to use me!

With David, we can cry out Psalm 119:94a, but, unlike David, we don’t have to hope our pursuit of God’s Law, through trusting the promise of the Messiah to come, will bring Him to save us.  Instead, we can hope in the Messiah Himself and His fulfillment of the Law.  Salvation is here.

I am Yours, save me (Psalm 119:94a, ESV)

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. (Titus 2:11, ESV)

_________________________________________________

[1] LutherMGM, 2003

[2] My pastor, John, gave me this illustration in two sermons that he did.

[3] No one actually knows how much God gave for us at the sacrifice of Christ.  As finite persons, we cannot understand what the infinite trinity of Persons, without beginning or end, gave up through the death of Christ Jesus.  We could not even bear knowing; it would burst our mortality.  God in His graciousness does not expect us to fully realize what He has done for us; never will we.  Nor do any of us understand even in full mortal capacity what He has done, because we are sinners and our understanding is crippled by sin.  In my salvation about 4 years ago, I certainly did not grasp the reality of what Christ had done for me.  I knew He wanted me; I am now on the never-ending journey of discovering how much.

Autofill

Have you ever used the “autofill” feature on your computer to enter data?  Sometimes, my computer saves data for those internet forms I fill out.  There are even programs that can “hold” your information for you, so instead of saving the information on the internet or your hard drive?. . they save it . . in an encrypted site, maybe?  To be honest, I don’t totally get how it works, so I can’t sound totally intelligent about it, but I think I’m on the right track.  😉

You can direct your questions about the process to Ben.  He’s my IT person, except that he tells me when I need help with something on my computer that that’s not what he does.  I would tell you what he does, but then I’d have to tell you about the whole conversation where he spent many long minutes trying to explain, and we talked about how electricity gets to computers from the sun, and how a machine can follow instructions when it isn’t actually thinking about what it’s doing, and how Ben kept getting this certain tone in his voice when he is heavy with laughter but holding back.

Anyway, here is something valuable I know about autofill without consulting Ben.  That is, if you type in something wrong, and the autofill form picks it up, it keeps remembering it wrong.  Whenever you start typing in the first letter or so of the entry, it will offer to fill in the wrong information.

For example, suppose that I forget my name is Teej (well, my nickname I go by) and I accidentally type in Tarantula instead.  If the autofill picks it up, then the next time I go to the site to type in my name, as soon as I hit the T it will offer Tarantula.

Fortunately, I have never had that problem, but I have accidentally mistyped a credit card number or password.  Then the site remembers the wrong information, and every time you go back, it tries to “help” with incorrect stuff.

Today, I was dealing with this very issue.  And, actually, that incorrect autofill is a lot like what goes on inside our heads every day, and we don’t usually even know it!

The Bible teaches that, because of sin, we all have wrong ideas in our head.  Our autofill is incorrect.  Every time we try to think about any given topic, the wrong things we think we know keep popping up.  It is so prevalent that, if we’re on “autopilot”, the wrong information will steer all of our thoughts, words, and behaviors.

Only God has the power and clarity to change the incorrect “autofills” in our heads.

When we read God’s Word with a willing heart and submission to His ideas, the incorrect notions we have come to light.  Sometimes, though, we bring incorrect autofills with us to God’s Word and we don’t even know it.  That’s why it’s important to be a part of a community of believers, to discuss God’s Word with them or read or listen to what they have to say.

Listening to older, wiser believers, discussing ideas in small groups, and paying attention to pastors and church teachers are all ways God erases our wrong autofills and gives us the wisdom we need to live alive and experience Life (Jesus Christ).

It’s critical to know, though, that the Bible is the ultimate test of authority.  Anyone who tries to teach something that is against what the Bible teaches should not be trusted or listened to, no matter who they are.

Have you ever noticed that you can’t get very far on bad information?

Today, when I was trying to use my debit card, the form wouldn’t accept my payment because the autofill remembered the wrong number.

No matter how many times I tried that number, or how persuasively I talked to my computer, or how much money I offered my HP Pavilion to let the transaction go through, it just wouldn’t have done it.  The number was incorrect information, and the computer has been programmed (by smart people like Ben) not to accept information that doesn’t check out with the banks.

In a bit of the same way, we can’t get very far in this life with bad information.  Without God, everything inside us will fail to work.  The phrase inside us is very important.

On the outside, we can be so rich we carry a little dog around in our purse and stores don’t say anything about our pet when we come in to shop.  We can be so famous we have look-alikes impersonating (and making fun of) us on late night TV shows.  We can be so successful we win Olympic medals and Emmys and Oscars and NFL rings and most handsome/beautiful/interesting/nicest-tie/cutest-hair-bow person-of-the-year awards.

But on the inside, nothing will have taken place but failed and frustrating transactions.  Everything becomes as “meaningless” as Ecclesiastes talks about.  Only God can give us the information we need to change our in-the-rut no-purpose lives set on death and destruction.  That’s why Solomon talks about “everything done under the sun” as being worthless–only God from above in the Heavens can give us the information we need that will bring purpose to our lives[1].

So I came to hate life because everything done under the sun seemed wrong to me. Everything was pointless. [It was like] trying to catch the wind. (Ecclesiastes 2:17, GW)

It is impossible for us to override incorrect autofill forms by using the same incorrect information (our sin nature) over and over.  We need the new information that only Jesus can give us.

Jesus, who is God-in-human-body, died to pay for every failure of holiness we’ve ever had–every time we submitted a thought, word, or action with incorrect information (and, without God, that’s every time–so Jesus forgives us of everything we’ve ever done before we knew Him).  But His death is only good for those who receive it.

Look at it this way.  If I keep typing in the wrong information over and over, I’m never going to get the result I want.  But suppose I know the correct information, but I don’t change what I’m typing.  It didn’t help me any, did it?

Of infinitely greater importance, Jesus’ death only helps someone who admits their sin to Him and accepts His payment for all the damage their lack of holiness (the correct way to live) has caused.

If we do admit our lives have been all wrong without God and that we need Jesus to forgive us, we can begin again as though we’d never committed a single sin!  And because Jesus teaches us how to correct the bad autofills in our lives through His Word, His people, and His Spirit in our lives, we can experience a new life altogether–a life where the inside of us begins to work!

I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.

Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. (Ephesians 3:16-20, NLT)

It’s important to realize the phrase inside us is still very important.  God teaching us how to rewrite our old, sinful ways of death for new, holy ways of life doesn’t mean things on the outside of us will start going well.

It doesn’t mean our spouses, children, in-laws, friends, bosses, and so on will change.  They have to call on God to correct their autofills, too.

And it also doesn’t mean that our bank account will be full or our shell (body) will be well.  But it does mean that the inside of you will begin to work right.  You will begin to understand love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, and self-control.  (See Galatians 5:22-23)

As God rewrites the autofills in your life, you can expect everything bad about who you are to change (but you will not reach perfection until He gives you a new body free of the sin nature and you are face to face with Him at last).

Now you will begin to experience the joy of success of the inner self, success made possible through Jesus Christ.

Therefore, God’s chosen ones, holy and loved, put on heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, accepting one another and forgiving one another if anyone has a complaint against another. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must also forgive. Above all, put on love — the perfect bond of unity. And let the peace of the Messiah, to which you were also called in one body, control your hearts. Be thankful. Let the message about the Messiah dwell richly among you, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, and singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.(Colossians 3:12-17, HCSB)

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, we must also follow the Spirit. We must not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. (Galatians 5:22-26, HCSB)

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[1] Idea from Ravi Zacharias

Dwelling place

I don’t want to dwell on my evil and I don’t want to dwell on the evil of another.

I want to dwell in the House of the Lord.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever. (Psalm 23:6, KJV)

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Photograph by Andrea at Hotels Ireland, profile on http://www.flickr.com/people/hotelsireland/

Photograph is under Creative Commons License.

See Copyright Page for Bible translation information.

 

 

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)

Questions after watching The Sobbing Stone

  • Do you believe the crucifixion really happened?
  • Is there a difference between remorse and repentance?  If so, what?
  • What do Judas and the upset science professor have in common?
  • If you were a murderer, would you deny it . . when you already have someone extending you a pardon?
  • At one point, one of the characters asks, Why didn’t Judas repent?  How would you answer that?
  • What do you think are the different ways of coping with regret?
  • How do you cope with regret?
  • Do people refuse to believe in the resurrection more because it is a miracle, or because we are all implicated in the guilt of the crucifixion?
  • If our ideas in science are in conflict with the resurrection, what do you think needs to happen?
  • If the crucifixion and the resurrection really happened, what kind of respect do you believe Jesus is worthy of receiving?
  • Do you believe Jesus is real?  How does your belief, or unbelief, change your life?
  • What do you think stands in the way of people putting their faith in Jesus?
  • Does anything stand in your way of putting your faith in Jesus?  If so, what is it?
  • When the “paranormal specialists” discover the origin of the seeing stone, they encounter Jesus and fall down in worship.  But the scientist who brought them the stone had already seemingly discovered the same information, yet he is unworshipful.  What is the difference?
  • Why does the science professor seem so haunted throughout the movie?
  • Are there benefits of denial?  Are there drawbacks?
  • If Jesus’ crucifixion paid the price for sin, how serious is sin?
  • If we are sinners, how serious is our condition?
  • If we can be forgiven, but we choose not to be because we deny our sin and/or refuse to accept Jesus to take our place, what do you think our punishment should be?
  • The Sobbing Stone is the idea that the sounds of the crucifixion have traveled across time and involve all of us.  If God is outside of time, and He knew Adam would sin before He had even created Him, and He made a way to save Adam’s race, how long do you think He knew the sounds and saw the vision of what the crucifixion would be like?
  • God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit are all radically a part of the crucifixion.  And yet, from the time of pre-creation to the cross, God actively chose to follow through with His rescue plan.  What do you think this says about God’s love, courage, and mercy?

Portfolio

When I think of the word “portfolio” I think of two things: a shiny leather briefcase, and my huge, wide, very large binder packed with artifacts from my college time learning to be an educator.

I took my portfolio very seriously.  I made sure the best projects, eccentrically proofread to be as error-free as possible, were placed meticulously inside the portfolio.

Now I am usually a messy person, but my portfolio was meticulous.  There was something about the ability to graduate, get a job–that kind of thing.  I found that motivating.

I could have tied my portfolio around my wrist at night so that, in the event of a fire, my portfolio would have tagged along behind me.  I might have broken my little twiggy arm in the process, but insurance could have paid for a broken arm.  Insurance could not have paid for my portfolio.  There is no insurance certificate you can bring to job interviews with you that vouches that you used to have a portfolio, and it was really great, but it got destroyed in a fire.

Now, with as much as I valued my portfolio, with as much as I treasured it, with as much as I treated it like something that belonged in an art museum in France (only the best for my portfolio), you would think I would bring it to the biggest interview opportunity of my hopeful career.

I did not.

It wasn’t that I forgot it–although if you were thinking that’s what it was, I don’t blame you.  And if you weren’t, bless you for not knowing me very well.

No, the reason I did not bring my portfolio to my district interview was because I had gotten bad information.  I thought I didn’t need to, that it was irrelevant to the meeting.  I don’t remember who had told me what, but I think it was part their misunderstanding and part my bad inference.

I thought my portfolio was irrelevant to the meeting.

When the interviewers asked me something like, “Did you bring a portfolio?” it was like, one of those moments where you know you’re going to crash into a brick wall and you know you’re the one driving.  I was dumbfounded.  I was astonished.  I felt so, so stupid.

I think I tried to tell them how great my portfolio was, and how I could bring it to them to look at.  I knew exactly how this sounded.

It was pretty depressing, all right.  I was angry and I felt like a fool.  I was a fool.

I got no follow-up calls after that interview.

I had all the information I needed to present myself as a success, and I had left it behind, beyond recovery.

As bad as that was, that was nothing like what it’s going to be for people who stand at the gates of Heaven to meet the Judge and realize they can’t enter because they left their pardon behind.  And realize they are beyond recovery.

I’ve heard it pointed out that a pardon only works if it’s received[1].  A rejected pardon is still good, but does not work for the person who rejected it.

The greatest trick of Satan I know it to convince people to leave their pardon behind.  He tells them that they don’t need it, that it’s irrelevant.

And then we all wake up one day and face the Judge.

“Now listen! Today I am giving you a choice between life and death, between prosperity and disaster.” (The LORD, quoted in Deuteronomy 30:15, NLT)

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[1] This paragraph is credited to Gary Varvel, from his explanation of salvation on the bonus features of The Board DVD.

Photograph by Kelly Teague, profile on http://www.flickr.com/people/span112/

Photograph is under Creative Commons License.

See Copyright Page for Bible translation information.

A reading of the Will like never before

Jesus dies, and then for the reading of the Will, He comes back from the dead to new life and reads His own Will.  His will?  I hereby leave my people with my inheritance:

Me.

–From my pastor, John, this Sunday

Behold, what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knows us not, because it knew him not. (1 John 3:1, AKJV)

Behold what manner of love the Father has given unto us,

Behold what manner of love the Father has given unto us!

That we should be called the Sons of God,

That we should be called the Sons of God!

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“Behold What Manner the Father”, Maranatha Music, (c) 1978, music by Patricia Van Tine

Photograph by Stephane Tougard, profile on http://www.flickr.com/people/unices/

Photograph is under Creative Commons License.

See Copyright Page for Bible translation information.

Ephesians 6:10, Army of God: Strength

Finally, be strengthened by the Lord and by His vast strength. (Ephesians 6:10, HCSB)

Had I understood this verse, I would have understood the entire passage about the armor of God.  But I didn’t, so the passage was nothing more to me than a disappointing analogy.

Before I can even begin to deal with my wholly faulted view of analogies in the Bible, I have to understand Ephesians 6:10.  If I don’t get Ephesians 6:10, I will never understand Ephesians 6:11-17.

I shared earlier that I grew up wanting to be a knight.  I didn’t want to be rescued by a knight, I wanted to be a knight.

One thing I thought was that girls had a bum wrap in the Medieval Ages.  Although I wanted to live back in that time, I sure didn’t want to be a girl.  Who wanted to be a damsel in distress, crying “Help, help!” from the top of some tower and expecting a knight to have all the fun getting there and saving you?  Not me.

I didn’t want to be saved; I wanted to save.  And although I thought this was a girl problem—I didn’t think I would have this problem if I’d been a boy instead—I didn’t realize this is actually a side problem.

There are two sides, and only two sides, in all epic battles I know.  There’s the side that represents good, and there’s the side that represents evil.

Most people—most—want to be on the good side.  Even though we live in a culture infatuated by villains, I think a majority of people would still say they would want to enlist for the good army . . . if for no other reason, then so they would be on the winning side!

If the majority of people want to be on the good side, doesn’t it make sense that Heaven’s going to be pretty full, and Hell pretty empty?  Can’t we all go out, do some good, win some battles, and step up to God on the day of Judgment to be knighted?

There is a big step I’m missing here.

Enrollment.

I can think of two big pieces to enrollment: qualification and willingness.

  • I can be very willing to be in the army, but if I’m not qualified, it doesn’t matter one iota.

For example, if I really want to serve in the U.S. military, and I’m a well-known terrorist . . . would the enrollment officers be wise to let me in?  Would they be mean to refuse?

The Bible tells us we are all sinners.  That’s like being a terrorist against God.  All of us have a past of evil.  Every time we put something or someone before God, the Bible tells us we sin.  We can say that’s not fair, but would we accuse our military of unfairness for banning terrorists?

God isn’t going to choose terrorists to populate His army.  We can fuss and fight about it, but the fact remains: He has every right to base His decision on our past.

If we want to go out and fight, there’s only one place with open enrollment for terrorists: Satan’s army.  And so, no matter how willing we might be to get into God’s army, our credentials will always land us on the other side.

Now here’s the incredible part: God had a special ops[1] plan to save us from ourselves.

God couldn’t make it easier to understand: He sent Jesus to die for our sins as terrorists, so that we could be free to enroll in His army.

But here’s the second part:

  • I can be qualified to be in the army, but if I’m not willing, I will not get in.

Jesus perfectly qualifies us to join the army of God.  But if we aren’t willing, we won’t get in.  There are two parts to willingness that I can think of from my own life: acceptance and surrender.

It does not benefit me for Christ to die for me if I do not accept His sacrifice.  I’ll say it again: I do not benefit from Christ’s sacrifice, if I do not accept what He’s done.  Rather, I am infinitely more condemned by this worst choice I make.

We were all in the execution line.  Every one of us was a terrorist belonging to Satan.  But Christ stepped in front of us, and He took our sin on His shoulders.

That is the point of the cross.

Far more than simply taking a bullet, He suffered the death of a terrorist, for us.  He paid for everything.

But if we stay in the execution line, His sacrifice is not for us.  His sacrifice is in no way diminished, but our choice voids our benefit from it.  This is the ultimate horror: not only to eternally die as a traitor, but to do so when you didn’t have to.

Going back to my vision of knights as a child, remember how I said I wanted to save and not be saved?  This is one of Satan’s all-time go-to defense tactics to keep his recruits standing in his line: pride.

I wanted to do the saving.  I wanted to get the glory.  I wanted to follow God my way on my own, and I wanted to get credit for bringing others along with me.  What I didn’t realize is that the only place we can lead people through our own works is behind enemy lines.

No one would put a terrorist on a bomb (dismantling) squad, but we become indignant when God doesn’t accept us just the way we are, and pick us for rescue missions.  I had all kinds of great plans for how I could serve God and become famous and glorious.  I had all kinds of great ideas for how I could win battles against the enemy.

The problem is, what enemy did I have in mind?  God tells us in no uncertain terms that we either serve Him or Satan.  There’s no “anti-war” ground and no place for people who don’t like to fight.  We are all waging war in every single act we do, and if we aren’t on God’s side, we can be sure we’re against Him.

Salvation through Christ goes beyond acceptance, though.  Salvation is the biggest internal battle any sinner will ever have, and it goes straight to the heart.  To be saved, we must surrender.

For many years, salvation to me was words that said over and over again, “I want you to save me,” to a Christ I didn’t want to follow.

It doesn’t work like that.

What if I call the U.S. military today and say, “Hey, guys, I really like what you’re doing.  I want to be in the military.  I won’t do push-ups or any of that hard core workout stuff, and you can’t ask me to quit my job, of course.  I’m afraid of planes, and I get seasick on ships.  Even if I take Dramamine, my homesickness won’t go away, so travel is basically a no go.  I have a psychological disagreement with standing in a straight line, and besides, it hurts my legs.  I’m ok if I can bring a folding chair along to drills, though.

“I’ve got to have a Jeep if we’re going on hikes, and I need to know the names of the caterers you hire for these events.  I need Tuesdays off, and of course all weekends.  I’m okay with sharing a room with one other person, but no bunk beds, please.  I get depressed if I get up before 7 a.m. and I need transportation to the nearest Starbucks.  I can’t make my bed like you guys expect, but I am willing to pay someone else who can do it for me.  Can my cat come along, and how many flat screen TV’s are in each barrack?  Do you have a microwave for popcorn, and will you buy me ice cream when I get my feelings hurt?  Oh, and how do I sign up?  Am I in?”

Our soldiers are able to protect our country because they surrender to authority.  There is absolutely no other way to keep a nation standing.  When we think of surrender, we think sometimes of “giving up”, but the surrender a soldier demonstrates is anything but.  A soldier surrenders to instant gratification, to selfishness, to personal glory, to mistrust, to fear, and to cowardice.  A soldier is able to give up even his or her own life because (s)he has surrendered doubt and put faith in the commander.  This is how concentration camps are emptied, hostages are freed, civilians are protected, and wars are won.  This surrender is anything but giving up.  This surrender is about giving all.

We are qualified by Christ to walk away from our old life as an enemy of God and walk into a new life of fighting for Him.  When we are willing to receive Jesus into our life, we realize that He is the knight in shining armor, not us.  We accept Him as our Hero, and we surrender to Him as our Commander.

Then—and only then—do we understand Ephesians 6:10.  Our battle is not won by our skill or strategy or courage, but by the strength of a God who holds Himself on a cross to die for the sins of the world.

Finally, be strengthened by the Lord and by His vast strength. (Ephesians 6:10, HCSB)

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1st Photograph, Statue of a knight, by Zakwitnij!pl Ejdzej & Iric, profile on http://www.flickr.com/people/zakwitnij/

2nd Photograph, Knight’s helmet, by Jennifer Boyer, profile on http://www.flickr.com/people/jenniferboyer/

3rd Photograph, Slaying knight, by Thomas Waldek, profile on http://www.flickr.com/people/rawtrigger/

4th Photograph, Fighting knight, by Ed Alkema, profile on http://www.flickr.com/people/nl/

Photographs are under Creative Commons License.

See Copyright Page for Bible translation information.

[1] This comes from Dr. Charles Ware’s sermon, Special Ops for the Savior.