Monday, February 16, 2015

Ash Wednesday Isn't For Brownie Points It's For Freedom

This week across the globe people will commemorate death.  On Ash Wednesday folks will begin celebrating Lent.  Many will have the sign of the cross made on their forehead with ash.  This is to identify with death, specifically as related to the verse in Genesis, “By the sweat of your face you will eat bread till you return to the ground, because from it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”  Lent is forty days of preparation for Passion.  Oh that we lived in the fullness of that Sunday and not in the shadow of that Friday.

People get stuck on Lent.  They focus on the giving up.  Somehow it gets to be all about them and what they’re giving up---that’s been my impression anyway, “Hey, if I give up Twinkies God will love me more!  Brownie points for Twinkies, yay!”  This is my first year doing Lent.  The wife and I are giving up minor food-stuffs in hopes that we will be more focused on Christ and Resurrection Sunday.  Not for Brownie points, just as a spiritual nudge to think about what matters.

What matters isn’t the diminutive deprivation (we’re not giving up coffee).  It’s more about who matters than what matters.  We choose to focus on Christ, His sacrifice and the resurrection which bought us complete freedom to live in the fullness of whom we are designed to be.  That is the fullness of that life-giving Sunday.  The words that changed Martin Luther, “Therefore, having been justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,” that is what matters.  It’s free.  No Brownie points to earn God’s favor; Christ died, Christ paid, Christ rose for us.  It’s that simple.

“For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and in Christ you have been brought to fullness,” says Paul.  We have fullness.  Or as MercyMe sings it, “You are holy, righteous and redeemed.”   We fast for that.  On Easter, we feast for that.  We break fast, celebrate and enter into that fullness that Christ bought for us that Sunday when He rose from the dead.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

When He Has Tried Me I Shall Come Forth As Gold

“Behold, I go forward but He is not there,And backward, but I cannot perceive Him;When He acts on the left, I cannot behold Him;He turns on the right, I cannot see Him.“But He knows the way I take;When He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold.”

Here’s the lie; “If you develop an image of success, health, abundance, joy, peace, happiness, nothing on earth will be able to hold those things from you.”  That’s a quote from Joel Osteen.  Here’s truth---from the Apostle Peter, “Do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing…”  The Biblical truth grounds me; lies like that from Osteen hurls me into spiraling chaos.

Job persevered because he knew that his suffering had purpose.  The knowledge that a sovereign God ordained his pain allowed for hope and final victory.  What if Job was an Osteen follower?  Not that it has to be Osteen; the lie has always been the same; God wants you happy, God wants you rich, God wants you pain-free and all your desires maximized.  Can’t you hear Satan whispering the same message through the ages?

Personally I’d be dead or on psych meds if I thought my personal trials were meaningless.  I've fallen into that thought process before and it leads to either self-destructive behavior (porn and women in my case) or depression bordering on a clinical not-gonna-get-outta-bed level. 

Perseverance, proven character and hope are brought about through trials.  That is the consistent truth spoken throughout the sixty-six books of the bible.  Pain has purpose.  “Suffering provides the gym equipment on which my faith can be exercised,” says Joni Eareckson Tada.  In her book Pain and Providence she writes, “God uses chronic pain and weakness, along with other afflictions, as his chisel for sculpting our lives. Felt weakness deepens dependency on Christ for strength each day. The weaker we feel, the harder we lean. And the harder we lean, the stronger we grow spiritually, even while our bodies waste away.”

I don’t understand how people persevere apart from belief in a sovereign, loving God.  How does the recovering alcoholic keep at it if he’s only trusting in a ‘higher power?’  If that higher power isn't Christ; didn't bleed for him, then what?  If there’s no guarantee that ALL things are working for his good; then what?

In the context of a life lived in God; pain has purpose.  So I can say through everything, “When He hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.”