Dealing with sin

No excuses for me, God.  Only Your mercy and grace.

But God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst sinners. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in him and receive eternal life. (1 Timothy 1:16, NLT)

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God’s love is beyond the realm of human sanity.

Jesus went into the synagogue again and noticed a man with a deformed hand. Since it was the Sabbath, Jesus’ enemies watched him closely. If he healed the man’s hand, they planned to accuse him of working on the Sabbath.

Jesus said to the man with the deformed hand, “Come and stand in front of everyone.” Then he turned to his critics and asked, “Does the law permit good deeds on the Sabbath, or is it a day for doing evil? Is this a day to save life or to destroy it?” But they wouldn’t answer him.

He looked around at them angrily and was deeply saddened by their hard hearts. Then he said to the man, “Hold out your hand.” So the man held out his hand, and it was restored! At once the Pharisees went away and met with the supporters of Herod to plot how to kill Jesus.

Jesus went out to the lake with his disciples, and a large crowd followed him. They came from all over Galilee, Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, from east of the Jordan River, and even from as far north as Tyre and Sidon. The news about his miracles had spread far and wide, and vast numbers of people came to see him.

Jesus instructed his disciples to have a boat ready so the crowd would not crush him. He had healed many people that day, so all the sick people eagerly pushed forward to touch him. And whenever those possessed by evil spirits caught sight of him, the spirits would throw them to the ground in front of him shrieking, “You are the Son of God!” But Jesus sternly commanded the spirits not to reveal who he was.

Afterward Jesus went up on a mountain and called out the ones he wanted to go with him. And they came to him. Then he appointed twelve of them and called them his apostles. They were to accompany him, and he would send them out to preach, giving them authority to cast out demons. These are the twelve he chose:

Simon (whom he named Peter),

James and John (the sons of Zebedee, but Jesus nicknamed them “Sons of Thunder”),

Andrew,

Philip,

Bartholomew,

Matthew,

Thomas,

James (son of Alphaeus),

Thaddaeus,

Simon (the zealot),

Judas Iscariot (who later betrayed him).

One time Jesus entered a house, and the crowds began to gather again. Soon he and his disciples couldn’t even find time to eat. When his family heard what was happening, they tried to take him away. “He’s out of his mind,” they said. (Mark 3:1-21, NLT)

It’s one of the most illogical leaps in thinking recorded in the Bible.

What on earth does the family mean?

“He’s out of his mind,” they said.

So far, Jesus has healed a man with a useless hand–and that’s just the start to this chapter.

This is before newspapers, before internet–and neither is necessary.  Ordinary people are traveling to see Jesus and coming back healed of all their illnesses.  There is no publicity the media can hype up that can even raise its voice to a whisper compared to the popularity of a real miracle, much less dozens and dozens of real miracles.

Jesus is healing.  He is healing–and the sick, the curious, and the most wildly afflicted are pouring out of the towns and villages to meet Him.

He chooses twelve followers to help Him bring salvation and healing to their nation.  And He has gone to a house to eat (and probably lodge for the night), and He has become so famous for healing that He is crowded by people on all sides.  Word of mouth alone of a true Healer sets the nation ablaze with curiosity and longing.  Jesus is so crowded with such great need that He doesn’t even eat.

And what does His family say?

“He’s out of his mind”

No joy that Jesus is healing the sick.  No delight that His words are dethroning demons from human souls.

No congratulations that Jesus opened a crippled hand.  No jubilee that the man who had been confined to one-handed work or begging could now take up fishing or carpentry or farming.

No awe that Jesus keeps choosing to heal even when He’s hungry, even when He’s exhausted, even when He knows that every release of power from His hand draws the bitter plotting of the pharisees.

Only,

they tried to take him away (from Mark 3:21)

and

“He’s out of his mind” (from Mark 3:21)

It’s what was recorded of His family’s thinking: they were ready to take Him back home whether He wanted to go or not, and they thought He had become irrational.

Why?  Why did they think He was out of His mind?  Why did they think they needed to intervene, to interrupt His healing hand?  What caused them to suppose the love of God was insanity?

Is it this: that when we come in contact with the love of God, when we come in contact with real love–that is, the love of God, because it’s the only source of real love–when we come in contact with undiluted, uncontaminated, unending, unconstrained love–that it is so never-ending, so unignorable, so shocking, so unearthly, so faithful, so selfless, so marvelous–

–that we confuse it for insanity?

What then would Mary . . what then would His half-brothers . . what then would His half-sisters say . . when His love came to carrying a wooden beam across His back, a cross that symbolized the weight of our sin He carried in His flesh?  What then when it came time to see the depth of His love?

God’s love is beyond the realm of human sanity.

But rather than accuse Him of wrongdoing or insanity for loving us so much, let us instead fall on our knees.  For there is no love like the love of God.

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. (1 John 4:9, NIV)

Published in: on May 26, 2012 at 10:09 pm  Leave a Comment  
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My soul

If at any point in my life I forget God, if at any point I abandon Him to throw my life to any other thing, I have lost not only my life (to be ripped to pieces by trivial things) . . but I have sold my eternal nature to the most alluring bidder.

In all sin, each one, I lose my soul–forever.

This is the fall.  It is not so far removed as ages past when the first woman reached out and picked the forbidden fruit off the tree.  It is right now, as my hand reaches for the same phantom delight that will bring me only Hell.

I thank God that I am not the safe-keeper of my soul.  I thank God that I have given my soul to Him.  For I do not trust that for a moment of my day I could last the temptation to hand away for all eternity that which would bring me a second of horrific satisfaction.

Thank God, for I have handed my soul to Him.

How I did it was oafish and sinful–until the moment my hands held up my soul.  Really, I had just begun to lift it, and, though I would have fallen on my face and broken my own soul in a million pieces were it by my own efforts or special words, in that instant, God reached down.  He took my soul from me in love that breathes life into dust.

And though I have asked many stupid things of God, I have never once asked Him to give me back my soul.

Keep my soul forever, Jesus.  What grace is in You to take it from me, worthless as it was, and pour the greatest of treasure of all on it, Your blood! 

Keep my soul forever, Jesus. What love You have to give Your breath–the breath of God–to resuscitate my soul–the soul of the worst sinner!

Keep my soul forever, Jesus.  What is the measure of Your forgiveness, that You have seen inside my soul and cleaned without a word to my enemies about its damning filth and without the shove of Your hands for me to leave Your Presence!

Keep my soul forever, Jesus.  I love you.

As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God. (Psalm 42:1b, GW)

Galatians 5:22-23–Fruit of the Spirit

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23a, NIV)

Before I can even begin to examine the fruit of the Spirit . . . I have to ask myself something.  What is the fruit of the Spirit?

On the level of my mind, I could probably tell you an answer that would sound like I knew what I was talking about.  But the truth is, until God just brought this question to my heart as I was reading this verse a few minutes ago . . . I’d never really thought about what the fruit of the Spirit is.

Surely, in all the times I have (speed) read this verse, in all the times I have sang a song about it, I have never really thought about what the fruit of the Spirit means.

“Fruit” is a concept I understood when I was five.  I’ve never really thought about it before, but kids seem to naturally know the difference between fruits and vegetables.  I’m not talking about the technical categories, like where a cucumber or a tomato fits in, but I mean a kid’s idea of fruit: something that tastes sweet.

I immediately knew what was fruit as a kid.  Fruit is easy to tell apart from vegetables, because vegetables don’t taste sweet (in my kid, nonscientific categories).  And there is something beautiful about fruit that vegetables just don’t have.  I have had some aversion to eating vegetables in my life, but I never have a reluctance towards fruit.  Fruit is the all-natural dessert of God’s earth.

A few years ago, when I was trying to figure out what food allergies I had, a naturopath suggested I go on a toxicity diet.  The diet was almost a total fast from everything but a protein shake for a week.  And for about a month, my diet was highly restricted.  At the time, I was having so much problems with food allergies that I didn’t really care.

But I did have a big problem.  The protein shake was almost intolerable to me.  I absolutely hate things with bad taste (I think I’m pretty normal there).  I also have a big problem drinking things that have chalky texture (again, I think I’m in the consensus of the population).  I didn’t know how I was going to get those drinks down.

But there was one thing that made it tolerable.  One thing.

Fruit juice.

Cranberries are one of the strongest fruits I know, and I would mix the shake with cranberry juice.  Holding my nose, I could get the shake down, because the gross glop of the shake would be permeated by the tartness and Cardinal-red flavor of the juice.

Now that I’m thinking about it, when I had to fast from different kinds of foods for allergy testing, the most difficult food was hands-down fruit.  I craved fruit juice when I didn’t have it.  My blood sugar never seemed content with just protein.  I longed for the sweetness and instant energy given from fruit.

I never thought about the fruit of the Spirit as a fulfillment of the essential craving we have in our lives for holiness.  And I never thought of the fruit of the Spirit as a testimony to the unsaved of the sweetness only Christ brings.

Another memory comes to mind . . . a more important one.

My first barium test and my second barium test.  Before I figured out my food allergies, I had to take barium tests as doctors tried to figure out what was going on inside me.

The first barium test I took, I absolutely thought I could not get the barium down.  I remember tears streaming down my face because I was trying so hard to get the shake down without throwing it up. I could only get a little bit down.  The doctor ordered a less-concentrated barium for me, and I still could hardly swallow it.  I remember feeling like I had been asked to swallow liquid rocks.  I didn’t think the test would ever be over, and, to make matters worse, the doctor demonstrated no compassion.

The second time I had to go in for a barium test, I was in dread.  Dread!  I walked up to the counter and, as though the nurses could somehow help, I poured my heart about about the dreadfulness of barium, and my near inability to drink it down.

One of the nurses said, “. . . Have you tried cranberry juice?”

What?  This was a choice?

The nurse poured cranberry juice into the barium, and my experience was transformed from one of gagging, crying, and ghastly fear into one of grace, happiness, and thankfulness!  That nurse probably had no idea the gift she had given me, but that barium was changed from something I could never have gotten down to a drink of the overpowering aroma and promise of cranberries.

This is exactly what Christ offers us on the cross.  Christ drank the cup of suffering (for example, see Mark 14:36) so that we wouldn’t have to.  No matter what bad times we go through, we never have to contemplate suicide because all our agony can be overpowered by the sweetness of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.

Christ promises an eternity of hope to everyone who receives His blood covering over our sins.  And that promise for an eternity of hope starts the moment we open our lives to Him.  He is a sweetness in our lives that nothing–no death, no grief, no suffering–can overpower.

The Lord’s supper.  A drink of grapes that stands for the sweetness of the blood and the bitterness of the spilling of it.  The blood of Christ Jesus.

What is the fruit of the Spirit?

The fruit of the Spirit is what we grow in our hearts after He grafts us into the tree of Life, the tree of Christ Jesus.

Only when we live beneath the shadow of cross can we offer others the true sweetness of this life . . . Christ Jesus.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23a, NIV)

Published in: on November 15, 2011 at 6:07 am  Leave a Comment  
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