Friday, April 16, 2010

LOST Souls Changed

Aright...I'll admit it...I am one of the millions who have been sucked into the TV show, "LOST." It actually all started on a mission trip where the missionaries my daughter and I were staying with had the first season on, series on DVD are hazardous to your sleep patterns!

During the latest episode last Tuesday night, we heard one of the main characters, Jack, a doctor, verbalize what we've all been able to see this season...he's changed. I guess the change started some time ago, but we've never heard it so clearly stated.

Jack, as a doctor, had been the Leader among the plane crash victims on the island for some time. He was sort of a shepherd/warrior for the survivors (huh, come to think of it, his name IS Jack SHEPHERD!). Jack has always been the "man of science" on the show, not really the man of faith. But over time, faith has begun to form in his soul...mainly because he has come to realize that his compulsivity of control has not delivered the results he's so desperately desired.

So, we've seen Jack give up control for the most part this season. We've seen him learn to rest and avoid his compulsive tendency to try to fix everything and everyone. And in Tuesday's episode he actually verbalizes to Hugo that he's learned how to let go of his need to control and fix situations. You can tell Jack is different...he seems so much more at peace.

Now, why all these words on a glorified Soap Opera? Well, in all honesty, a lot of us are LOST souls like Jack. There are MANY of us who live under the illusion that we are actually in control. We obsessively and compulsively try to fix things as well as seek to control our circumstances so as to achieve a pain-free life. Some people stay LOST their entire lives. They never learn the reality that, try as we might, we are NOT in control.

The Christ-follower must learn, sooner or later, that God is the only Person Who is in control in this Universe. He is the Creator and Sustainer of everything. He is the Warrior/SHEPHERD in the Universe and only He can be trusted with everything that concerns us.

Don't get me wrong...I'm being far from simplistic here...and I'm certainly not condoning fatalism. You see, there ARE folk out there, perhaps even reading this, who use God's Existence as an excuse for laziness and irresponsibility (hey, I can only deal with one issue at a time, OK?). The fact is, God is absolutely sovereign and we are completely responsible. It's called mystery...and those who are able to navigate through the tension of this mystery live the most fulfilled and satisfied and peaceful lives.

God is absolutely sovereign...He is the Orchestra Conductor of all the music of our lives...He is the Great Author of our Stories, but sometimes we don't understand where the Story is going. We ARE called to LIVE: we are NOT lifeless sticks floating down some current in a river with nothing to do; so, we must learn when to move and when to wait. We must learn when to rest and when to strive. It's not always easy...which is why an intimate walk with God through reading and applying the Scriptures is so vital. It's also why living in community with others who know both us and God well is so helpful...I mean, after all, You Don't Know What You Don't Know...but often times, others DO know what WE don't!

If you've not done so through the Psalms. Notice how many times we are called to "Wait" for the LORD! Let me help you out here a bit: Ps 25:3,5,21; Ps 27:14 (actually the Psalm I was reading this morning that got this whole BLOG thing started today!); Ps 31:24; Ps 37:7,9,34; Ps 38:15; Ps 52:9; Ps 62:5; Ps 130:5.

Go those portions of the won't take long...

Now, ask yourself...are you an "old Jack," obsessively and compulsively trying to control your own life, and the lives of others (i.e. your spouse, your children...) to maintain some semblance of order and comfort that is actually driving you (and others!) to near neuroses? Or, are you learning, by God's grace and through His Spirit, by prayer and faith, Scripture and Community, to give up control and starting, even if they are "baby steps," to "wait for the LORD?"

It's a pretty clear choice yourself: a fallen, finite human being with limited resources; OR, trust your Father in Heaven Who is infinite in wisdom, love, goodness, mercy and righteousness and possesses unlimited power and resources. What's it gonna be?

And of course, it's a daily battle...none of us succeed all the time...or even most of the time. That's why we need Christ so desperately.

The temptation is always there to re-take control. During the episode Tuesday night, Hugo responds to Jack and says, "How do you know that you giving up control isn't going to lead to all of us being killed?" Hmmmm.

As soon as you start to wrestle with resting and trusting, there will always be someone or something to start the obsessive/compulsive desire to control to spin up to speed again.

Resist it, firm in your faith...and Wait for the Lord!

By the way...were you able to tell that I MYSELF am a Recovering Control Freak??

Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Final Four and The Christian Life

2010 was one of the best "March Madness's" ever! For those of you who don't follow college hoops, the NCAA Tourny this year was filled with upsets and underdogs...and little Butler (David) almost defeated Big Duke (Goliath)...a last second shot from half-court almost went in to give Butler the victory...but it was not to be... HOWEVER, the defeat was definitely NOT due to lack of hustle on Butler's part.

I have played and coached basketball for most of my life...some games you win and some games you lose. But nothing ticks a coach off more than his/her team being "out-hustled." There's just no excuse for lack of effort; anything less than all-out effort is unacceptable! It's no less true in the Christian life.

Sure, the Christian life is by grace from start to finish. Of course the unconditional love and favor of God is our motivation...but grace is also transforming power. Grace is what enables us and empowers us to show hustle! An understanding and apprehension of grace that doesn't lead to "hustle" is very immature.

It kills me when I see the world "out-hustling" the Church...and sometimes because of a MIS-understanding and erroneous application of grace!

Paul tells us in Ephesians 2:10 that grace (Ephesians 2:8-9) leads to walking in good works, hustling in deeds of mercy and love, that God has actually prepared in advance for us to do!

Paul tells us in Titus 2:11-3:8 that grace trains us to hustle in our battle with ungodliness and trains us to hustle in our aim for godliness!

God, as the Ultimate Coach, even calls us to hustle to add all kinds of effort to our faith in grace: 2 Peter 1:3-11.

I saw a piece on the TODAY Show this morning about the founder of TOMS shoes. A young entrepreneur came up with the idea of giving away one pair of shoes for every pair he sold. The original name of the shoes was to be TOMORROWS, but it wouldn't fit on the back of the shoe! For any pair of shoes TOMS sells today, the promise is that a pair of shoes will be given to people, especially children, unable to live a normal life because they lack shoes. There are children around the world, for example, that can't go to school unless they wear shoes; they were shoeless, but now TOMS has delivered shoes and children are going to school!

That is hustle! Church...where's our hustle?!

How could the "world" possibly EVER out-hustle the Church for great ideas on how to help the poor, shoe the shoeless, feed the hungry, show mercy to the sick? (By the way, I'm not saying the founder of TOMS is not a Christ-follower...fact is I know nothing about his faith or lack thereof). But there is no question that there are people who DO, in fact, often out-hustle the Church in carrying out Kingdom principles even though faith in Christ is lacking in their personal lives.

So often it seems the Church is just a step slower than the world in creating ways to make a sustained difference for life on this planet...and sometimes it's all because the Church uses grace as excuse for poor effort. Don't get me wrong...this isn't a jealousy thing...I am thrilled when anyone of any creed makes a positive difference in the world.

On the one hand, unbelievers are still "Image-bearers" of God, so we ought not to be surprised that even non-Christians show hustle and make a difference in the world. On the other hand, God may sometimes "plant" difference-making ideas in unbeliever's minds to challenge the Church...

Are we getting out-hustled?

How can YOU make a difference in the world today?

What's the first choice that has to be made for it to happen? Do it!


Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Prayer, Preaching and Preachers

I can be really thick-headed...really. Just ask my wife. On second thought, please don't ask my wife...or my children. Just take it on faith...I can be really thick-headed. Today's blog is going to be a bit different...I'm going to get really transparent about my job. I think it's important for a "lay person" to get into the head and heart of a preacher from time to here goes...

One of the things I've been so slow to really learn is that preaching is a work of God before it is a work of man. I LOVE my job. I LOVE preaching. Don't get me wrong...preaching, like any vocation, has been deeply impacted by the Fall of humanity into sin. The curse on ALL work revealed in Genesis 3:17-18 applies as equally as anywhere to the preacher...

"Cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for the sweat of your face you shall eat bread..."

What that means is that every vocation will face great weeds constantly growing in a garden or animals that constantly come to eat what is planted, the workplace will be an environment of continual frustration...things will go wrong; things will break; MURPHY will always be present with all of his LAWS at the office!

And it applies to preaching. I get a kick out of folk who think, "What's a preacher do anyway? He only works a few hours on Sunday morning, right?!" Uh...yeah...sure. Yikes, hope that didn't sound too defensive! Oh well, I DID say I was going to be transparent.

Let me make one thing very clear...I'm not writing this for pity...I'm writing this for PRAYER! Every vocation needs to be bathed in prayer...and perhaps no vocation needs to be more bathed in prayer than preaching.

Preaching will fall on deaf ears and hard hearts and no sustained spiritual transformation will occur in listeners' lives unless preaching is a work of God before it is a work of man. And THAT is exactly where I get so thick-headed. Like everything else in my life, I've always "believed" and acted from a world-view or paradigm that says "hard work" is the difference maker in all we attempt in life. Fact is, I LOVE the hard work connected to my vocation.

I've never given birth...obviously...but I've been with my bride during all three of our children's births...ladies, please don't be offended by this, but the best illustration I can give to help you understand what sermon preparation is like every week is giving birth. Before I knew anything about giving birth, I thought the child actually being finally delivered was the pain of childbirth. It didn't take long to realize how wrong I is the LABOR PAINS OF childbirth that are so painful. Sermon prep is the LABOR of on Sunday morning is really a piece of cake.

But here's the deal: the delivery will give birth to the wind unless God is in the House! God must LIVE and BREATHE in the message, in the messenger, and in those who receive the message.

I could be the greatest student in the world; I could find the most riveting illustrations available; I could make the Word of God come alive in relevance to your daily life; I could preach with passion and energy and conviction...but if God's Spirit does not come upon me with an anointing that only He can supernaturally grant...and if God's Spirit does not fall upon the listeners with a similar supernatural anointing...people might be impressed; they might be emotionally moved; they might leave with a desire to work on some behavioral change...but they will not be brought into life-changing contact with the Living God.

So...pray for your preacher. Pray every day for the anointing of God's Spirit to fall on him. Pray every day for your own heart to be prepared for the Word of God proclaimed in the church. Pray every day for the Spirit of God to fall upon the congregation. It's the only way life transformation will occur. The Christian life is supernatural...

And by the way...all this is more relevant to your own vocation, whether home-maker or "butcher or baker or candle-stick maker," than you realize. The Fall has affected every vocation...weeds, thorns, thistles grow wherever we work, whatever we do. So pray for the work of the Spirit to be upon your vocation, your daily work as well.

One more thing...and this is key...and this is controversial (not to me, but to others)--none of this is very relevant if you are not attending a church where the preacher actually believes the Bible is the very word of God! If you are going to a church where the preacher thinks the Bible is just a human book, is filled with error, and he only uses it to tell stories that lead to some moralistic platitude at the end...leave that's a waste of your time.

I try to be a gracious man...but a preacher who doesn't believe the Bible is God's word is the greatest oxymoron of human existence.

So remember...pray for your preacher!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Events of Holy Week Part 8--Resurrection Sunday

What can you say about Easter Sunday that hasn't already been is quite simply the event that has changed history...His event has had a greater impact upon this planet than the is the entire, sole foundation of the Christian faith...remove it, take it away, and the entire Christian World-view falls to the ground.

I can never quite "get" people who say, "Well, even if it's not true, living a Christian life is the best life one can live while on earth." Paul says, "That's crazy!"...well, he didn't REALLY say it like that...but he did say that if Christ be not raised than we,we Christians, we believers, we Christ-followers, of ALL people on the planet, are MOST to be PITIED!

Paul was an absolute realist about the resurrection...if it happened, then Jesus was who He said He was...God in the Flesh...the Messiah, the ONLY Savior of the World and the King of Kings and Lord of Lords and the One worthy of our whole, even more, the One who Commands that we love Him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and live our lives for His glory and His honor alone! BUT...if the resurrection didn't occur, Jesus was a fraud and his disciples, worse.

But in fact, Christ HAS been raised from the dead. People have tried to disprove it for 2000 years.

Just a few thoughts here: why would a small group of people who were part of the most religious people on the planet (Jews), suddenly change their day of worship from Saturday to Sunday? These were a people that took God's Law as unchanging...yet all over the world Christian Churches (Christianity began among the Jews, remember) meet on Sunday...the only explanation...Jesus was raised on the First Day of the Week.

Secondly, we know that ALL the disciples met a martyr's death (well, except for John...he was boiled in oil and then exiled on the island of Patmos). Do you honestly think that these man (and many others, would die for something they KNEW to be a lie? There have been many attempts at foisting a lie upon others, and it always unravels (think of Watergate...there was every reason in the world for those involved to maintain the lie to protect themselves, the President, the nation and to stay out of jail...yet eventually they cracked and the lie was exposed and the truth came out!).

There is nothing like it in all of and women dying for something they knew to be a lie? The early church was persecuted and people were paraded to violent deaths proclaiming that Jesus, in fact, was raised from the dead.

Then there is the fact that no one ever produced the Body of Jesus. That's all that had to be done...just produce the Body...and to think the disciples stole it? The cowardly bunch? And again, if they did, they all died for a lie? It takes more "blind faith" to NOT believe the resurrection occurred!

There are so many reasons to believe that Easter is based on's no myth. It happened in time and space. There are scores of books that spend more time than I have...if you REALLY have questions...check them out.

The Resurrection of Christ from the dead is one of the most historically defensible events ever...but it's not just that is historically and truly true that is important...its what it means for us.

The resurrection of Christ from the dead means that God has accepted the finished work of Christ as being completely sufficient to remove the stain and guilt of our sin. It means that those who hope in Christ are adopted and sons and daughters of God, being given the same exact standing and status before the Holy God of the universe that Jesus Himself's what the Bible means when it says we are justified by grace through faith in the promises of God in the Gospel...justified...God treats us, declares us to be a justified people..."just-as-if-I'd" never sinned and "just-as-if-I'd" done everything He ever commanded with absolute perfection...the resurrection says that God accepts Christ's work as absolutely sufficient.

U2's song, Window in the Skies, is all about how God cut a hole, a window, in the skies, that His love might fall upon the planet through Christ...and that humanity might see into heaven...and eventually live there. The words of the song talk all about the resurrection of Christ and our response to it. Bono's response to such love and grace is to "rhapsodize," to sing. What is YOUR response?

Many of the words are so critical to Easter I have to include them as well as a video...

Bono begins by singing, “The shackles are undone, the bullet’s quit the gun.” He is singing of the amazing truth that through grace the shackles of slavery to sin and death have been undone. So have the shackles of self-condemnation and self-absorption!

"The bullet's quit the gun." The punishment at the Hand of a Just Judge has been taken away by a Substitute…thus, the bullets are taken away…for those in Christ, wrath is shooting blanks! We are led away from the firing squad to live throughout all eternity in complete safety and security before God!

Then, “the heat that’s in the sun (hear “Son”) will keep us when there’s none…when the coldness of the world and the freeze of a broken planet come upon us, there’s the Son filled with the warmth of His love!

“The Rule has been disproved.” The rule of law that says unless you are perfect, you will die, both physically and spiritually has been disproved...disarmed. The rule of law is more like the rule of karma—you get what you deserve. Grace disproves the rule of The Law which condemns us to judgment. Grace in Christ grants us what we don’t deserve...favor where we deserve rejection.

“The Stone, it has been moved.” On the first Easter, the Stone was rolled away, revealing that the Crucified Lord had been raised from the dead! So, as a result of the hope of the resurrection…

“The grave is now a groove.” The grave, for the believer, is simply a seemless groove into a God-filled eternity…no more crying, no more pain, no more sorrow, now more sin. Death has been defeated! No more need to fear death.

“All debts are removed.” The debt we owe an infinitely holy and just God because of our failure has been paid in full by the One who came to live the life we couldn’t live and die the death we couldn’t die…

“Oh can’t you see what LOVE has done?...Love left a window in the skies.” There is NOW a way we can look into the heavens and SEE our Creator! We can look in upon God and He looks down upon us in Christ with favor, delight and care!

"I've got no shame," Bono sings out, because the finished work of Christ on the cross has removed shame for the believer.

Bono has been struck by a Love that undoes shackles and overcomes "karma" through grace. Bono sings confidently of the Love that left an undeniable witness...a "stone" that has been removed, leaving nothing but an Empty Grave. Bono sings joyfully of the Love that removes all debts, brings hate to its knees and enables him to "rhapsodize," the entire reason Bono gives for his singing is as a response of love to the Love that made a Window in the Skies...oh, and one more thing...notice how many times Bono raises his hands in praise...might be a good thing for us to do today as well...

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Events of Holy Week Part 7--Silent Saturday

Silence is hard for me. It's awkward. I'm one of those guys who always seeks to fill those empty moments with something...anything...often to my own regret. Silence in conversations with others in one thing...sensing nothing but silence from above is another thing altogether.

Imagine what the disciples were thinking on this Jewish Sabbath: "What were we thinking? What have we done with the past three years of our lives? What are we going to do now? Do I still remember how to fish?"

There are only a couple of things we know about this day. In Luke 23:56 we read that "they rested according to the commandment." Yeah right. I'm sure the actually DID "rest" according to the Law...that is, they did no work...but how much "rest of the heart" did they experience?

It's ironic, actually. The entire history of the Jewish Sabbath actually pointed to Easter Weekend...the whole point of God's people resting from actual work one day a week was a symbol of the Gospel Truth that Christ would do ALL the work required for us to be made right with God so that we could rest from our own works/efforts/performances that seek to merit God's acceptance, blessing, love and favor. How little the disciples understood that this Silent Saturday, this Sabbath between Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday was the inauguration of the truest celebration of the Sabbath in all of history!

Another application of their obedience to the commandment to rest on this Sabbath has to do with how we normally react when things get out of control. So often in Scripture we are told to "WAIT" for the Lord; so often we are commanded to "stand still and watch the salvation of God." Yet is in the tightest spots that call for the greatest trust that we tend to rely upon human effort, human ingenuity and natural resources to get us out of the predicament. To rest and wait for the Lord and His supernatural resources is the hardest calling of the Christian...especially when the refrain of the world is "Don't just sit there, do something." I'm not lessening the call to human responsibility (trust me, I can be one of the most self-disciplined, self-reliant, self-sufficient people on the planet--I say that to my own shame, not to boast)...I'm simply emphasizing the call to rest in the Lord and wait for Him to work when things are tough.

The other element of Silent Saturday referenced in Scripture is found in Matthew 27:62-66--the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate and told him that while alive, Jesus had told His disciples repeatedly that He would rise from the dead after three days. So, they persuaded Pilate to make the tomb secure with a Roman seal and to have a guard of soldiers stationed at the tomb.

The world will try all they can to stop the truth of the Gospel from getting out...all to no avail. I'm often disappointed by how often I hear Christ-followers speaking to one another with such despair and panic in their voices over what is happening in the atheists are getting more organized or how Christians are having more liberties threatened...didn't Jesus say "the gates of hell will not prevail against the church?" "If God is for us who can be against us?" "We are more than conquerors." The world can no more slow down the progress of the gospel than a silly Roman seal and several Roman soldiers could prevent Christ from rising from the dead! Come on, Church, show some faith!

But let's not minimize how hard of a day this must have been for the disciples...confused...afraid...disillusioned...despairing... depressed...they must have felt a little "stuck." They were unsure what to do. They had met Jesus and He had changed everything...they couldn't go back. But He was gone. Dead. What would it mean to try to go forward...they were stuck...stuck in a moment.

We all get stuck from time to time...stuck in fear; stuck in despair; stuck in depression; stuck in confusion...Silent Saturday is a good day to pull out a U2 fave..."Stuck in a Moment"...and remember, as Bono sings, "that if you're way should falter, it's just a's just a's just a's just a moment...and this time shall pass..."

(by the way, this was U2 at Croke Park in Dublin on July 24, 2009 and, yep, I was at this very performance!)

Friday, April 2, 2010

Events of Holy Week Part 6--Good Friday

Good Friday? Hmmm. What a strange name for a day of such horror...what can be good about a day that is known for the greatest travesty of true justice in all of history? How can it be good that an innocent Man be found guilty through false testimony and rail-roaded to a verdict of guilty?

The answer is this: it's Good Friday because of the good that Man accomplished on behalf of His people! It's Good Friday because the "punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed (Read Isaiah 53 today sometime).

I've already shared the timeline...a timeline which, of course, is known precisely. In Mark 15:25 we learn that Christ was placed upon the cross at 9am local time (Jerusalem time). Jerusalem is 8 hours ahead of the Central Time Christ was actually placed upon the cross at 1am Friday morning, central time. Then we know from Luke 23:44-48 that darkness covered the land from noon until 3pm local time (4am-7am central time). The 7am hour in Birmingham, Alabama is approaching as I type these words...the minutes almost feel more holy...the approaching change of the hour takes on new significance.

The real wonder of the Christian faith is that it is entirely rooted in time and in space. You could hop on a plane and in a matter of hours visit spots where the very events recorded in the Gospels occurred. If you were there by 3pm Jerusalem time, you could spend a quiet moment reflecting that at that precise hour Jesus yielded His Spirit and said, "It is finished."

What was finished? Redemption! Salvation! It's called Good Friday because though it is true that "we ALL like sheep have gone astray...and EACH of us have turned to our own is ALSO true that the LORD has laid on HIM the iniquity of us all (Isaiah 53:6).

Think about that...and you'll know afresh why it's called GOOD Friday. There IS a Creator...One to Whom we ARE accountable. Why do we feel guilt? Much of the time because we KNOW we ARE guilty!

Where did the conscience come from? Is it some cosmic joke...something that just appeared after billions of years of evolution? Did the impersonal universe plus time plus chance suddenly thrust the "human animal" outside of the helpful realities of his/her own existence? Did we suddenly evolve a conscience so that we have a sense of right and wrong that is merely illusionary? Did we suddenly evolve a thirst for meaning and significance that is unfulfillable because we are really just a cosmic accident?

I love talking to the unchurched...and the de-churched...I love to make people think...why do we deal with guilt...and shame...and self-condemnation...why? Because we know deeply within our own souls that we don't even live up to our OWN standards...let alone the standards of a Holy Creator God. Sin is may not be popular to say...but that doesn't change the reality. Sin is real. Guilt is real. Judgment is real. Hell is real. Christ is Coming Back.

Good Friday is the day on which all those realities were faced...and a particular day on which WE are forced to grapple with what we believe about eternal realities.

So...what are YOU going to do about Good Friday? It's not "good" automatically? All the benefits of the day are not just magically applied to every person on the planet.

It's Decision Time folks.

Who are you ultimately looking to in order to deal with the reality of your guilt, shame and self-condemnation? It's a black or white question...EITHER you are ultimately looking to yourself and your own efforts to build some kind of record of righteousness that you hope will win God's approval and merit His forgiveness OR you are choosing to trust in and rest in and hope in the obedient life Christ lived and the substitutionary death He died to GIVE you forgiveness as a matter of free matter what you've matter where you've been.

But Good Friday isn't a day that merely offers people "Fire Insurance (from hell)" from above...trusting Christ is an all or nothing proposition...He calls for all of you (and me)...all the time...for the rest of your life. There is nothing half-hearted about following this God-Man who hung on a cross...there is no turning to Jesus as Savior and refusing to bow the knee to Him as Lord.

Listen...none of us who follow Christ, follow Him perfectly...that's the WHOLE point of Good Friday! It is NOT my capacity to "make Christ Lord/Master/Boss" of my life that gives me God's approval...that favor, blessing and forgiveness was purchased by Christ and Christ alone...however, grace that saves a person ALWAYS changes a person.


I'll never forget my "first" was 1980...the first time Easter got was just a few months prior that I gave my life to trust and follow Christ...and nothing has been the same since. Maybe this year can be YOUR first Easter. Trust Him.

Maybe some of us have had our FIRST Easter years ago...but have lost our "first Love." What a time to renew your recommit your surrender offer every nook and cranny of your heart to Christ...don't expect perfection, simply trust and surrender is CHRIST who makes us new and renews us daily.

Huh...I just looked at the clock on my is exactly 7am! Guess I'm finished. far as a U2 clip...I wish I had their song "White as Snow" from their latest album, "No Line on the Horizon." It could possibly be the most blatent Christ-centered song they've ever performed. I can't find a place where they've performed it in front of here are the lyrics...

(however, there is a home-made video of the song on You Tube if you're interested--just copy and paste in your browser)

Where I came from there were no hills at all
The land was flat, the highways straight and wide
My brother and I would drive for hours
Like years instead of days
Our faces as pale as the dirty snow

Once I knew there was a love divine
Then came a time I thought it knew me not
Who can forgive forgiveness where forgiveness is not
Only the Lamb as white as snow

And the water, it was icy
As it washed over me
And the moon shone above me

Now this dry ground it bears no fruit at all
Only poppies laugh under the crescent moon
The road refuses strangers
The land the seeds we sow
Where might we find the Lamb as white as snow

As boys we would go hunting in the woods
To sleep the night shooting out the stars
Now the wolves are every passing stranger
Every face we cannot know
If only a heart could be as white as snow
If only a heart could be as white as snow

Of course, what Bono is trying to get us to think about is obvious...if only? If ONLY? Ha! It CAN be!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Events of Holy Week Part 5--Holy Thursday/Maundy Thursday

(Be sure and check out the rest of the series - which I started on Palm Sunday).

When our children were small we'd love to read them the book entitled Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day...a day when everything went wrong in one young boy named Alexander's day. Well, Thursday and the dark hours of early Friday of Holy Week could be called PETER and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.

Certainly Good Friday was roughest on Jesus as He endured so much suffering, pain and eventually death on the cross...but for Peter, things were pretty bad.

First of all, during the Last Supper, in front of all his friends, Jesus tells Peter that he will deny Him 3 times (Luke 22:34). Ouch!

Then, after the Last Supper, Jesus goes to the Garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives to pray...He specifically asks Peter and James and John to pray for Him. In Mark 14:37 Jesus specifically asks Peter..."Are you asleep? Could you not watch for one hour?" Ouch...again!

Next, when Judas comes with the crowd to betray Jesus, Peter (John 18:10) takes up a sword and cuts off one of the servants' ears...and then Jesus has to rebuke Peter, again, in essence, telling him that he is setting his sights on the things of men and not the things of God...the very rebuke Christ gave to Peter when he tried to rebuke Jesus after He told them He was going to die (Matthew 16:23).

Finally, and of course this is really more very early Friday than part of Thursday, but it fits with the flow of the worst 24 hours of Peter's life, he does in fact end up denying Christ 3 times...eventually even calling curses upon himself if it would be possible that he is lying about not knowing Jesus...then, of course, the cock crows...and think about it...every day for the rest of his life, Peter was awakened wherever he was by the crowing of the'd YOU like to be reminded every day of your worst failure?!

You'll recall that in Matthew 16, Peter before anyone else gets to it, confesses the truth that Jesus is God; that He is Messiah; that He is the Son of the Living God. And when Peter makes that confession, Jesus says upon that confession He will build His church...Jesus did NOT mean that upon PETER He would build the church...Peter is NOT the first POPE! But Jesus does say He will give the leaders of those who make the confession of Christ as Savior and Lord "the keys of the Kingdom."

Imagine what a failure Peter thought he was after the events of late Thursday/early Friday! Could he ever be restored? And here's where the different between regret and repentance show up so clearly. Judas failed too...but he was only filled with regret...remorse without hope. Peter failed, but was filled with repentance...honest acknowledgement of failure, but filled with a hope of forgiveness, love and restoration. When you fail, are filled with regret...or repentance.

U2 sings a song called "The First Time." For the first time, I feel love. Bono goes through all three Persons of the Trinity. Now I know some of you will freak out because Bono refers to the Holy Spirit in feminine terms (as does William Young in The Shack). But the fact is, there are times in Scripture when God allows Himself to be described in terms of a loving mother, though certainly it is ultimately orthodox to refer to the Holy Spirit as He...don't let Bono's poetic license freak you out so you miss the beauty of the song.

Imagine Peter, thinking about his confession of Christ as God, remembering the promise of receiving the keys of the Kingdom...and then considering all that in light of the horrible, no good, very bad day he has today...imagine his doubts, his struggles to feel hope and love and forgiveness...imagine...Peter, the apostle, going through the same things we go through when we fail.

Listen VERY carefully to this Song...the Holy Spirit helps, Jesus is a Brother when we're in need and though we are so often running away, He runs after us. The Father has a mansion with many rooms (Gospel of John), He has a rich man's cloak (Parable of the Prodigal Son--Luke 15)...and Peter feels as though he has left through the back door of the mansion and thrown away the key...he is broken...

...but Jesus raises from the dead and specifically shows up and restores He will us if we live in repentance and not merely regret.

If you can't understand EACH and EVERY word of the song...look up the do NOT want to miss this one.

There's always hope!