We are gathered in. The Lord himself has spied out the land, tasted of its plenty and declared the promises fulfilled. He has declared the year of the Lord. We huddle in the upper room of heaven gripped in fear. Fear that leads to wisdom that frees us from ourselves, fear that leads us here, to worship for it is the fear of awe.
We are gathered in and the scarlet cord hangs form our window. The house that belongs to the Lord shall stand, even as the wall of humanity falls in destruction. We shall be passed over as you march from the river to the sea and subdue it all. It is finished. Even now we feast at the banquet set amidst our enemies. Let our joy be an example, may your spirit be theirs; those at home now lost in their worldly pursuits, may they know this elation secured by Christ, that they too might stand with us and look upon you in Spirit and truth. We are gathered in. Hear us. Not because we are righteous, but because of your son, the Christ, the Emperor of the cosmos, who gave this right to us, to ask in his name…
Adam stood outside the Garden, with God, in the valley of death; ashamed and defeated. God cursed the ground on Adam’s behalf, increased the pain of labor for Eve and spilled the blood of a substitute to make a covering for His wayward and fallen children. In the midst of the first evil, God promised a son to restore the lost and broken relationship that God had enjoyed with man.
In the pain of that moment, betrayed, accused and hated by His own children whom He had given the world, God knew something profound. That all the sons of Adam and Eve would be unable to bear the burden, were too weak and broken to fight back against the dragon. God knew that the Son that was promised would be ravaged and that the battle would cost that Son his life. And God knew, God promised in that moment, at the very beginning, with the tears of betrayal fresh on His cheeks, that the Son whose blood would be spilled for mankind, would be His own Son; His only Son. Continue reading “God Vowed to Walk There With Them”
For six days we have labored in the fields. Our flesh is heavy and our toil weighs upon us. The sullenness of our failed intentions, our sour words, our blind eyes and our grumblings threaten to choke our melodies and strangle our battle hymns. Our instruments are out of harmony. Our weapons have grown dull. Our armor is battered.
But lo, there is a fell voice, soft on the wind; calling us to a drink of water without end; a victory banquet set amidst our struggles, surrounded on every side by the enemy. Here, at the set time we ascend to your inner sanctum by the mighty power of your spirit. We are not trembling at the foot of your mountain, afraid of your voice, begging for an intermediary. Yet, we cannot boast of this. We are the dregs of society made warrior-servants. We are the pathetic fools given the wisdom of God spoken. We are lame beggars overseeing the household of the Lord of hosts. We are the priesthood of the plebs. Gird our loins, sharpen our swords, tune our instruments for we shall not tarry long, but only rest awhile to gather from you new strength to resume with fervor and obedience the work of your kingdom. Glorious father we beg of you, hear our prayers…
Joshua 5:10-12 “While the people of Israel were encamped at Gilgal, they kept the Passover on the fourteenth day of the month in the evening on the plains of Jericho. And the day after the Passover, on that very day, they ate of the produce of the land, unleavened cakes and parched grain. And the manna ceased the day after they ate of the produce of the land. And there was no longer manna for the people of Israel, but they ate of the fruit of the land of Canaan that year.”
God provided Manna for Israel in the desert and as soon as Israel crossed into the Promised Land, the Manna ceased and the produce of the Land fed the Children of the Lord. The link between the two; God’s provision of the Manna and God’s provision of the vineyards, wells and abundance of the conquered tribes was supposed to be obvious. God provided Israel with both. Israel was never meant to forget who provided the daily bread, whether it fell out of the sky or was planted, grown, sifted, mixed with yeast and baked.
The Triune God is a God of abundance, a God of Giving. Psalm 23:1 says “the Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.” The second half of the verse is the natural outcome of the first half. Because God is our Shepherd, we shall not want.
The promise of God’s table is a promise of provision. Who among you is starving? Start with this basic necessity and move up and out and see all that God has given you.
Start at the bottom, not the top, and work through God’s abundant provision and grace visible in your life today.
Another thing is how boring, mundane and unremarkable daily bread seems when we buy it from Albertsons. We were born in a land of milk and honey and we forget all the labor others expend through God’s providence for our daily sustenance.
We would be impressed by the miracle of Manna, but there are fewer specific items to be thankful for when the bread falls out of the sky. Bread from the store requires a far greater reach. God provides your job to acquire money, the car, the store, the plastic bag, the twist tie, the rain, the farmer, the harvest, the baker and an infrastructure which allows for massive ovens and transportation. So why are we less grateful when God displays a wider reach, a deeper authority, a greater giving?
This is the common grace which we all so abundantly enjoy just to get some bread, everyday.
The word Extravagant means to exceed the limits of reason or necessity.
That is the kind of love Jesus exhibits. Jesus didn’t need a throne; he had one already. Jesus didn’t need men. Who needs broken clay jars? Jesus has authority over everything; in Him everything that is, was made. God made man in His own image and Jesus is jealous enough for even the image of God, that He could not allow the dishonor of the fall to stand. He wanted God’s creation to fulfill its creation purpose; to live in harmony worshiping God.
So Jesus took on flesh; the infinite took on the limits of creation. The king became a carpenter’s son. He slept in open boats and ate meals. He argued with self-righteous hypocrites and endured the confused bombastic yapping of His apostles.
The Maker let His creation slap him, tear His beard out and nail iron into His flesh. Iron, which was made in and through Jesus, Jesus allowed to be driven through the flesh He didn’t need, to die a death we caused, to win us back to a Father we rejected.
This is a love that exceeds the limits of reason and necessity.
“Fairy Tales are more than true; not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be defeated.” – G.K Chesterton
If God were to give you a series of blank canvases and instruct you to fill them with images of how you see the world in light of his blessings, what would you paint? How? Would you plan it out? Would you learn how to draw so your trees were trees?
What if He told you these panels would hang in your house in heaven? Your walls will not adorn Rembrandts or Van Gogh’s, but your own works. What kind of care would you take?
To teach us God trains us with Grace as it says in Titus 2:11-12. How does God do this?
Ecclesiastes 7:2-4 “It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, for by sadness of face the heart is made glad. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.”
The house of mirth is a house of amusement. Think theme park or a Budweiser commercial. Now there is nothing wicked about a theme park, but if you lived there, how would ever face the more difficult and trying aspects of life?Mere amusement does not cause us to reflect on our condition as fallen men. Sorrow causes us to closely examine our lives. If your heart dwells in the house of mourning you remember who you were in Adam and who you are in Christ. Continue reading “The Wise man’s heart”
Gabriel is not stealing praise from God by singling out Mary for a commendation uttered to only one woman in all of human history, by saying, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you” (Luke 1:28). He affirms her by (1) greeting her (a simple practice overlooked in many homes to the detriment of many relationships); (2) describing her as favored—she has earned nothing, can boast in nothing, and has passively received this bestowal, yet it is an honor to be savored, to be sure; and (3) declaring that the Lord is with her, for her, proactive on her behalf. Again, Mary is distinguished from all other women as being “favored,” and yet ultimately God gets the honor, for he is the one doing the favoring, the gracing, the bestowing.
I used to write and write and write poems. 5 a week. Sometimes I would write for 6 hours a day. I loved to draw attention to the overlooked, everyday things of life. The magical things. The deep things in the foreground of our daily lives that we just don’t see because we’re usually so busy.
Then I was converted, over a two year period, from the age of 23-25. At the time I was baptized, I had a fellowship with Jack Straw Productions and was well on my way to a promising career as a poet. But as the months passed me by and I began to read Spurgeon instead of Rousseau and Tolkien instead of Patchen, I found that something was different. I couldn’t escape how vainglorious my work had always been. I read it with new eyes and found that it was humanistic, shallow and self-centered.
I continued to write after my conversion, but I couldn’t help it from becoming sermonic. I would pull out my pocket notebook and pen and pour drivel all over the pristine page. Though I was clothed in the white of the lamb, my words were full of kitsch christian platitudes. Continue reading “Emerging from the Wordsmithy”
“Your heart can become a prayer factory because, like Jesus, you are completely dependent. You needed God ten minutes ago; you need him now. Instead of hunting for the perfect spiritual state to lift you above the chaos, pray in the chaos. As your heart or your circumstances generate problems, keep generating prayer. You will find that the chaos lessens.
We see this pattern in Paul’s advice to the Philippians about anxiety.
Philippians 4:6-7 ESV. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
…When you stop trying to control your life and instead allow your anxieties and problems to bring you to God in prayer, you shift from worry to watching. You watch God weave his patterns in the story of your life. Instead of trying to be out front, designing your life, you realize you are inside God’s drama. As you wait, you begin to see him work, and your life begins to sparkle with wonder. You are learning to trust again.”