Friday, March 25, 2016

It’s Friday …  But Sunday’s Coming!

It is a dark Friday. Yes I know that we call it Good Friday, and it is truly good. But we must never forget that for three hours a darkness descended over the earth as the Father hid his face from the Son, and the justice of God with respect to the sins of the world — from Adam, to us, and continuing in our children — found satisfaction in the self donation of Christ. Because he became an outcast we are welcomed. He was excluded, we are embraced.

But … If we only contemplate Jesus experiencing terrible suffering on the cross, there is a danger that we might even feel sorry for him. Jesus does not want our pity. He wants our worship, adoration, and celebration as the rightfully installed King of the universe! Contemplating the resurrection and glorification of Jesus helps us recognize him for who he really is. (Adrian Warnock, Raised with Christ: How the Resurrection Changes Everything

I can’t wait to worship, adore, and celebrate this Sunday. Easter. THE First Day of the Week. The day that we weekly celebrate the reversal of death, the renewal of all things, the resurrection!

Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. (1 Corinthians 15:20-22 ESV)

It’s Friday, but Sunday’s coming ...

Friday, March 18, 2016

Not Dead, but Living Unto Thee.

God of the living, in whose eyes
Unveiled thy whole creation lies,
All souls are thine; we must not say
That those are dead who pass away,
From this our world of flesh set free;
We know them living unto thee.

Released from earthly toil and strife,
With thee is hidden still their life;
Thine are their thoughts, their works, their powers,
All thine, and yet most truly ours,
For well we know, where'er they be,
Our dead are living unto thee.

Not spilt like water on the ground,
Not wrapped in dreamless sleep profound,
Not wandering in unknown despair
Beyond thy voice, thine arm, thy care;
Not left to lie like fallen tree;
Not dead, but living unto thee.

Thy word is true, thy will is just;
To thee we leave them, Lord, in trust;
And bless thee for the love which gave
Thy Son to fill a human grave,
That none might fear that world to see
Where all are living unto thee.

O Breather into man of breath,
O Holder of the keys of death,
O Giver of the life within,
Save us from death, the death of sin;
That body, soul, and spirit be
Forever living unto thee!

John Ellerton

Friday, March 11, 2016

Spring Ahead

I hope this is not pre-mature, but the signs of spring are in the air. This Sunday we will set our clocks forward one hour. The temperature is starting to nose its way north. And with the rise in temperature comes a rise in spring cleaning projects. All the staleness and stuffiness of winter is chased, as we open the windows and get out the buckets of Mr. Clean.

This season of Lent is similar. It is an opportunity to “open the windows” of our hearts and let the fresh breezes of the Gospel blow through, chasing away the staleness and stuffiness that inevitably collects. I love the psalmist in Psalm 139 where he says, “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” (vv. 23, 24). This is a spring cleaning type prayer, an honest invitation to allow God to “clean house” in our soul.

Thanks be to God that because of his graciousness we can pray this prayer in the confidence that God meets us in his grace, despite the ugliness that we inevitably find while cleaning. Now, it is important to note that spring cleaning repentance is not to be confused with penance. Penance is an approach to God wherein we come with our spiritual tails between our legs hoping that we can show enough sorrow for our sin or generate enough change in our lives that God will love us. This is in contrast to the Lenten, spring cleaning repentance which is something that we are invited to because God has declared his love to his people in Christ. The cross is a real, completed event. The tomb stands empty and we are full of hope, not in ourselves, never in ourselves; but in that finished work of our sweet Savior, Jesus. There is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Rom 8:1). So get down on your knees, throw open the heart-windows, and let the Spirit breezes blow through!

Friday, March 4, 2016

I Appeal to Caeser

But Festus, wishing to do the Jews a favor, said to Paul, “Do you wish to go up to Jerusalem and there be tried on these charges before me?” But Paul said, “I am standing before Caesar’s tribunal, where I ought to be tried. To the Jews I have done no wrong, as you yourself know very well. If then I am a wrongdoer and have committed anything for which I deserve to die, I do not seek to escape death. But if there is nothing to their charges against me, no one can give me up to them. I appeal to Caesar.” Then Festus, when he had conferred with his council, answered, “To Caesar you have appealed; to Caesar you shall go.” (Acts 25:9-12)
The above text comes in the larger context of the final episode of Paul’s life, which will eventually see him go to Rome, shipwreck, etc… In the immediate context, there are a group of religious leaders who want to take Paul’s life, which is why Festus’ offer of going to Jerusalem holds no appeal for Paul. Paul is in a bad spot. He is hard pressed by adversaries (the Jews) actively seeking to take his life and he is passively being defrauded of justice by the establishment (Festus) who should be standing up for him, but who is too concerned for his own political skin. Understanding this context it is quite shocking that Paul appeals to Caesar! Why would he seek the help of government that is failing, and failing him?
Perhaps you see why this is on my mind. We are in the wake of a “Super Tuesday” in which America has spoken. Most people I have talked to are not happy with either result, Democrat or Republican. This past week inquiries into what it takes to move to Canada literally crashed the Canadian website. Facebook is filled with hand-wringing (anxiety-driven, the sky is falling predictions), finger-pointing (both liberal and conservative moralists who have all the answers and like to say “I told you so”) and a good dose of those laughing so as not to cry. What is a Christian to do in the midst of failing systems?

Let me offer you 3 principles, learning from folks like Paul. 
  • First, remember who you are. A Father who loves you, a Son who died for you, and a Spirit who lives in you. Paul heard very clearly from the Lord that he was a “chosen instrument” (Acts 9:15). God’s choosing gave him confidence in the face of adversity. He knew that God was in control of the situation and that God was watching out for him. We too are “the called, the beloved, the kept” (Jude 1). As systems fail around us, we must never lose sight of this truth. “If God is for us, who can stand against us?” (Rom. 8:31)

  • Second, remember, you are following your Older Brother. Paul says in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” The greatest participator in an unjust system, with the most egregiously unjust outcome was our precious Older Brother. Denied justice, stripped, beaten and crucified like a common criminal, our Lord, not a victim, gave himself for us. He is our example, but even more than that, he is the one who empowers us. You have been crucified with him, divine justice is satisfied. Hell has no claim on you. You are truly untouchable. So, united to Him, go forward.

  • Third, stay engaged. Paul appeals to Caesar. Incredible. The Roman government was a mess. Justice was failing Paul at the moment. But he does not pull out. Perhaps he recalls the words that his companion and writer friend Luke recorded in Luke’s Gospel chapter 21. There Jesus said that his followers would indeed be brought before kings and tribunals. Life would be hard for them and they would be persecuted for Christ’s name. But he went on to add, “this will be your opportunity to bear witness. (v. 13)” Rather than move to Canada, let us look to move into profitable, gospel-centered conversations in the places where God has us. Rather than engage in making mockery of the process and the people, let us look for ways to speak the truth in love. Pray for our processes. Pray for our candidates. Move beyond political tribalism and scour your Bible to discover the principles of the kingdom that should be emphasized. You may feel as if you are up against a brick wall. You may even fear for your life. But remembering principles #1 and 2, stay engaged!