Saturday, March 31, 2018

Good Friday
“Jesus answered...Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out.” John 12:31

“What sin could be more heinous than rejecting-and then murdering-the Father’s Son, and what grace could be more shocking and personal and real than the Lord willingly submitting himself to suffer our wrath so as to actually meet us in our terrible darkness?”
C.Baxter Kruger, The Shack Revisited

“All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ...that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself...we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”
2Corinthians 5:18-20

“For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son...“
Romans 5:10

God is not and never has been our enemy. In spite of all our failures we are loved. Today is the proof. 

Saturday doesn’t get much press. 
“What’s the buzz, tell me what’s happening”
Jesus Christ Superstar

“But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For this is the reason the gospel was preached even to those who are now dead, so that they might be judged according to human standards in regard to the body, but live according to God in regard to the spirit.”
1Peter 4:6

Perhaps this is what God had in mind when He sent Jonah to Nineveh; when Jeremiah wrote his letter to the captives. Peter says the Gospel was preached; he does not say how. Or when. 

“The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world...”
Psalm 19:1-4

“And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”
John 12:32

Easter Sunday
He Is Risen!

For I know that my Redeemer lives,
and that at the last he will stand upon the earth;
and after my skin has been thus destroyed,
then in my flesh I shall see God
Job 19:25-26

Lift up your heads, O ye gates;
even lift them up, ye everlasting doors;
and the King of glory shall come in.
Who is this King of glory?
The Lord of hosts, he is the King of glory.
Psalm 24:9-10

He will swallow up death in victory;
and the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces;
and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from off all the earth:
for the Lord hath spoken it.
Isaiah 25:8

He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay.
Matthew 28:6

Praise the Lord!
Praise God in his sanctuary;
praise him in his mighty firmament!
Praise him for his mighty deeds;
praise him according to his surpassing greatness!
Praise him with trumpet sound;
praise him with lute and harp!
Praise him with tambourine and dance;
praise him with strings and pipe!
Praise him with clanging cymbals;
praise him with loud clashing cymbals!
Let everything that breathes praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord!
Psalm 150

We remember the cross; we live the resurrection. 

He Is Risen Indeed!

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

God is not our enemy

God is Not Our Enemy

“For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life.” (NRSV) Romans 5:10
“Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died —more than that, who was raised to life —is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?” (NIV) Romans 8:34-35
“For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.” (ESV) Colossians 1:19-20

            The other side of ‘we are loved’ is ‘God is not our enemy’. Paul makes clear in Romans we were reconciled while we were still God’s enemies. We were enemies of God, not the other way around. Paul tells the Corinthians “…God…reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them…”. But neither Paul nor God Himself stops there: “…[God] entrust[ed] the message of reconciliation to uswe are ambassadors for Christ…God…[is] making his appeal through us…be reconciled to God.” 2 Corinthians 5:18-20 ((NRSV, Italics mine). God is not reconciling Himself to us, as though some magic switch needed to be flipped before God could love us again. The estrangement is on our side and God is taking steps-powerful steps-to end it; to prove He is not our enemy.
            Luke puts it this way: “But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.” Luke 6:35-36 (ESV; Italics mine). Who are the ungrateful and the evil? Pretty much everyone. To whom is God reconciling to Himself? Pretty much everyone. Now before you all lose your collective minds and start accusing me of universalism, consider Jesus’ own words:For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. John 3:16-18 (NRSV; Italics mine). The only thing keeping us from God is unbelief.
The late R.C. Sproul once remarked most people believe in God, they just don’t want Him telling them what to do. Or, as John says, “And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed.” John 3:19-20 (NRSV; Italics mine). Paul puts an interesting spin on this idea of hostility to God in Romans 6:13 “No longer present your members to sin as instruments [or weapons; see NRSV text note] of wickedness…”. Stop waging war against God. Stop building up a wall between you and God; wage war against wickedness. Tear down the wall. But consider this-these people who hide from the light, who wage war against God, who build walls of separation, are the very ones Christ died for. Why would God do that if He were our enemy?
            I whole-heartedly disagree with those who portray God as some sort of cosmic judge incapably of loving any of us until we say the right words or repeat some magic incantation. If God only loves and accepts us after conversion why does Paul write “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly…But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us. Romans 5:6-8 (NRSV; Italics mine). Our God does not require blood, He longs for love. The sin issue has been dealt with-let it go. Now is the time to “…present [our]selves to God…as [weapons] of righteousness.” (NRSV) Romans 6:13. Now is the time to be the best humans we can be.
Peace JRG

Thursday, March 1, 2018

You Are Loved

You Are Loved

You are loved. Forget everything you think you know about theology. Forget the doctrine. Focus on these three words. You are loved. YOU are loved. You ARE loved. You are LOVED. Maybe I am loved might be a little better. I am loved. I AM loved. I am LOVED. We’re on solid Biblical footing here. For God so loved the world, He gave…But God demonstrates his own love for us in this…This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us…For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God. God loves you and Jesus loves you. It’s a fact. Not just a sentimental children’s hymn with a catchy tune. A concrete absolute one-hundred percent reliable take it to the bank that’s a fact Jack fact. Yes it is. And you (or me for that matter) will never make any real progress in actual Christian character formation until we can get our heads around it.

What brought all this on was an encounter I had this afternoon with a person in the grip of addiction. This person had come to see me last week, maybe the week before, desperate to get clean. I know a guy so I made the call, hooked her up. I’m not completely sure what happened next but I’m thinking it was something like one step forward three steps back. Anyone who has ever suffered through an addiction will immediately understand. If you haven’t you probably won’t. Anyway today was a one step forward day, albeit rife with concern over when the three steps back would come. All I could think to say was ‘Know you are loved’. ‘You are loved and love never gives up and neither will I’. It was a powerful moment and not something I’m accustomed to. I’m pretty sure I love this person. Not that lusty erotic romantic love that defines so many of our relationships but true Godly love; Agape love. It is a gift from God and seems to be making a difference in both our lives. A faith building love; a love that dares to hope all that good stuff in the Bible about healing and protection might just be true, even for normal everyday people.

So here’s something to think about. What if all healing, wherever and whenever it is found, comes from Jesus. What if it is not dependent on whether or not the one healed is a believer but totally dependent on God? That some are healed and some are not may seem arbitrary or even cruel but we only see one side. God told the prophet Malachi “Bring the full tithe into the storehouse…put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts; see if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you an overflowing blessing.” What if love is the full tithe? Or prayer or "to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?” What if healing is part of the blessing?

We are not just loved. We are made in the Image of God; we bear the Imago Dei even if it is a little more tarnished in some of us. We are what He made us-His craftsmanship, His handiwork, His masterpiece. We are loved and that love is meant to be shared, but we can’t share what we don’t know. We are loved. Believe it. Know it. Share it. We have a lot to discover and a lot to share and a whole lot of people who need healing.

Peace JRG