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Father forgive us

Father forgive us. Too much we don’t know what we are doing.

Forgive us for putting politics above people.

Forgive us for bashing our politicians, government officials, police officers, the media, the really odd relative, and our neighbor close by.

Forgive us when we pass by the homeless person, looking the other way lest we make eye contact.

Forgive us when we are impatient with other drivers who do the unexpected or drive too slow or cut us off in traffic.

Forgive us when we react angrily rather than thinking first and responding appropriately.

Forgive us when we lash out at the ones we love most because we feel safest with them.

Forgive us for wanting things so much that we push people aside.

Forgive us for our pride, thinking we can manage on our own, that we don’t need anyone else, that we can do life by ourselves.

Forgive us for passing judgment on another’s heart when only You can see what’s really there.

Forgive us for holding on to hurts and grudges so long that they become heavy burdens we carry and bars that imprison us.

Forgive us when we wound others out of our own woundedness.

Forgive us for turning to idols of wealth, fame, addictions, and even people when our first devotion belongs to You.

Forgive us when we take for granted all Your good gifts and do not give You thanks all circumstances.

Forgive us for our hatred and our prejudice, failing to remember that you made each of us precious in Your sight and we are equally loved by You.

Forgive us for disregarding the unborn, the elderly, the disabled, the less than perfect.

Forgive us for turning our eyes away from You, for making any and everything our first love, giving away our devotion and worship.

Forgive us for not loving each other the way we love ourselves.

Forgive us . . .

Hanging on the cross, His life blood dripping on the ground, Jesus’ accusers and His executioners railed against Him. His friends were gone, running scared. The miracles and love He gave freely were forgotten by the crowds.

The blameless One was dying like the two criminals on either side of Him. He took all our shame and guilt and transgression, every misdeed and violation and offence. He bore it all Himself.

So He lifted His eyes toward heaven and said,

Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.

Sunday grace

I’m a small girl, swinging my legs back and forth under the pew at the big church. My mother and father are on either side of me.  Familiar faces surround me.  The organ plays strong and the piano accompanies as the leader at the front sings,

I surrender all.  I surrender all.  All to Jesus I surrender, I surrender all.

And my tender child-heart surrendered what I knew of myself to Jesus. I didn’t understand theology and complicated doctrines. I only understood that Jesus loved me, for the Bible told me so.

I grew older.  My feet touched the floor as I sat up straight and listened to the sermon.  Again, I heard the invitation, “Surrender.  All.”  I left my comfortable place on the pew and went forward to kneel at the altar.  I wept and surrendered.  I thought it was my all.

It seems I’ve surrendered a lot to the Father’s entreating, and each time I think it is everything.

It is the gentle way of our Lord to call for another surrender and another as He reveals my heart to me and says, “Do you love me more than these?”

I don’t always understand the ways of the Spirit.  He is mysterious.  He is patient and persistent.  He is full of grace.  He is tenacious and unrelenting, unwilling to let me stay the way I am when there is so much more.  There is abundant life in Him, fullness of joy, and He wants that for me.  He invites to me to come further still into the place of His perfect will. That requires my surrender.

I want that too. The full-to-overflowing life where I abide in Jesus and His words abide in me and communion is sweet. The place where He walks with me and talks with me and tells me I am His own. Ah, the joys we’ll share.

But sometimes this alludes me. I am caught up with the cares of life, busy schedules, lots to do and time feels fleeting. I think I have to do it all and that it all depends on me, and what would happen if I lost control?

I hear it once more, the call to surrender.
Turn loose.
Quiet frantic thoughts.
Fear not.
Follow Me.
Be still.
Rest.

Once more, I bow to His will and relinquish.

I consider the life Jesus lived in complete submission to the Father’s will. The way to the cross would be horrendous, yet He walked it with purpose and acceptance. He yielded, even as He took His final breath, “Father, into Your hands I comment my spirit.” 

And so today, I surrender again.  I surrender all that is in my hand and all my hand reaches for, all my heart’s longings, all my hopes and dreams, my today and my tomorrow.  I surrender all.

Tomorrow I will do it again.

Sunday grace

It is a day for palm waving and shouts of joy. The crowds gather with prophesied words, “Hosannah, blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.” Praises roar as excitement builds to fever pitch.

The hope of Israel comes riding into Jerusalem on a donkey, humbly yet with the air of royalty. This man is different, unlike others before. He holds crowds sway with His words of authority. He speaks and dead men live again, the lame walk and the blind see.

He confounds the wise with His stories and calls out the motives of the powerful. He walks on water and calms the wind like a restless child.

He keeps company with an unlikely and rowdy bunch, parties with publicans and tax collectors, and has intimate conversations with outcasts.

As he rides into the city amid proclamations of Messiah, knowing that their honor will be short lived, He sees the heart of the matter. He perceives the thoughts and intentions of those giving Him praise now.

While the parade proceeds, hundreds, perhaps thousands, of year-old sheep are being chosen and affirmed Passover lambs. One lamb for each family, it is marked for death in just a few days. As households gather for their annual celebration meal of roasted lamb, bitter herbs and unleavened bread, they will tell the story of their deliverance from Egypt and hope for another Deliverer.

Do the people fully comprehend that here He comes, riding on a donkey? This One was proclaimed Lamb of God by John at the river Jordan. He is the One Abraham prophesied, “God Himself will provide the lamb.” On this Sunday, designated now as Palm Sunday, He is marked for death in just a few days. Crowds will gather at the foot of the cross as His blood pours out for whosoever will.

He is Jesus, the Lamb who takes away the sins of the world. He has come to set us free.

Sunday grace.

And it was dark

It was a dark night.

For Judas who walked away from the Passover, into his own passion for something other than he’d been offered, who left the Light of the world at the table of communion, it was dark.

For Pilate who came face to face with Truth and didn’t recognize Him, who asked the questions but could not grasp the answers, who washed his hands of the only One who could cleanse his heart, it was dark.

For the Jewish leaders and authorities who refused to believe and accept the one sent from God the Father, who were determined to go their own way, work their own agenda, it was dark.

For the eleven disciples and others who loved Him, who saw Jesus arrested, convicted and crucified, who did not understand the plan of God, it was the darkest of nights.

Jesus came to bring light, but for a while it seemed the light had been extinguished forever. Those who hoped He was their promised Messiah were left in their own prison of darkness.

Judgment must come.  Sentence would be passed and punishment meted out.  The prince of the world would be cast out.  Darkness veiled the earth for a time.

Those who will not believe, who choose to worship something other than the Christ,  remain in the darkness still.

Resurrection day will come at break of dawn.  The Light of the world will arise and shine once again. His glory will be revealed throughout the world.

 

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Those who accept the Son and the Father who sent Him, will walk in the light of day.

And we will never be afraid of the dark again.

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Revised and reposted from March 2016

The hidden things

Jesus unceasingly taught the disciples during their three years together. At every opportunity, He was teaching, sometimes in plain language and sometimes in parables. Whether they were listening, and more importantly whether they were understanding, is something altogether different.

It seemed there were some lessons that needed to be repeated. Like loving one another and the first shall be last and the one who leads shall be servant to all.

Sometimes they seemed to grasp the message and sometimes not. Perhaps they didn’t always want to. Perhaps they wished Jesus to be who they wanted Him to be,  made in their image, to accomplish their goals and desires.

I’ve been there.

Toward the end of the Gospels, I read how Jesus told them what was ahead, how His earthly life was coming to a close, that He would be lifted up on a cross. They didn’t get it.

Jesus took the Twelve aside and told them, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled. He will be delivered over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him and spit on him; they will flog him and kill him. On the third day he will rise again.”

The disciples did not understand any of this. Its meaning was hidden from them, and they did not know what he was talking about. — Luke 18:31-34

Sometimes the messages in life are hidden from us.

I think of people I care about who are dealing with such hard things, disease, brokenness, troubled marriages, wayward children, death. And we don’t understand. I wonder what good can come from trials that crush us. I have walked in those uncomfortable, even painful shoes myself, where there are more questions than answers.

The reasons are hidden from us for a season.

I would like to know why two pregnancies ended too early. I would like to know why my mother died when I was in my 30’s. I would like to know why many health issues have wrecked havoc on us. I would like to know why my heart has ached from longing that felt physically disabling. I would like to know why some of my prayers seem to go unanswered.

I would like to know why. But I don’t. And so my faith reaches for the unseen, reaches beyond the veil of this life into the spiritual realm. It stretches me to strain for what is invisible, the substance of what I hope for, the evidence of things not seen.

After Jesus’ death and then His resurrection, God’s heavenly purpose finally begin to be clear. But the disciples suffered agonizing despair for the days of mock trials, crucifixion, and a dead body in the tomb.

On the other side of resurrection day, the Son rose and light shined and the minds that had been shrouded by darkness began to comprehend. The disciples lives were changed forever. In fact, the world was changed forever.

One day my faith will be sight. All things will be clear. The face of my Savior will be glory like I cannot even imagine. And it will all be worth it

The uncertainty will be certain. All sickness will be healed. Every broken heart will be mended. Strained relationships will vanish in the beauty of God’s presence.

And I will understand that the tapestry of life includes dark threads as well as golden ones.

I may not get all the answers I hunger for here while I trod this earth, but there are reasons and there is a purpose. It is God who sovereignly rules and reigns and will cause all things to work together for good, according to His divine plan.

One day I will know as I am known. When I see Christ, it will be worth it. In the meantime, I will trust Him who knows all the hidden things now and forever.

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Sunday grace

Easter is not just one Sunday in spring

As we approach the day the Christian community calls Easter, it would behoove us to remember how we got to this place.

The Day of Resurrection is a celebration of life.  Jesus’ life.   And the offer of life to whosoever will receive it.  This is an astounding invitation.  And a completely unequaled exchange.

His life for mine.

My debt paid by Him who had none.

His righteousness becoming my righteousness.

His inheritance shared with me.

His death bringing me, the broken, sinful one, a new lease on life.

Abundant life.  Eternal life.

Present grace and future glory.

All because of a cross, a grave, an empty tomb, and a Love that would rather die than live without me.

Miraculous. Merciful. Grace.

Amazing.

Sunday grace.

love cross

Sunday grace

Love.

God is love.  Not that God loves, an action, but that love is His essence.  He embodies love.

When He moves, creates, judges, offers grace, it is Him being true to His nature.

Love.

When we move, create, judge it is more often out of selfish interest.  Our concern for ourselves motivates us too much.

When we give grace, we imitate the God who is love.

Give grace today.  Give grace to those who look different, who think differently, who act in a way different from us.

Give grace to those who offend and hurt us with their words and actions.  God will judge rightly.

Give grace to yourself when you mess up for the umpteenth time.  Accept the grace given by God, the forgiveness He offers that covers a multitude of sins.  Don’t keep carrying that dead weight around.

The cross testifies to the love of God, the essence of God, that He loves us so much He was willing to die and take our punishment rather than live without us.

Oh the wonder of love.  The wonder of God.

Sunday grace.

grace

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The journey to the cross – the collision

Day 39 of 40 days to Resurrection day

Today’s suggestion:

Read about Jesus’ crucifixion: Matthew 27:27-66, Mark 15:21-47, Luke 23:26-56, John 19:17-42

the cross

Today I defer to Oswald Chambers whose words about the cross of Christ stagger me.  His depth and wisdom about the event that impacted all of eternity are enough today.

Stand in awe at the price God paid for the redemption of your soul.

The Collision of God and Sin

Who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree.”  1 Peter 2:24

The Cross of Jesus is the revelation of God’s judgment on sin.  Never tolerate the idea of martyrdom about the Cross of Jesus Christ.  The Cross was a superb triumph in which the foundations of hell were shaken.  There is nothing more certain in Time or Eternity than what Jesus Christ did on the Cross.  He switched the whole of the human race back into a right relationship with God.  He made Redemption the basis of human life, that is, He made a way for every son of man to get into communion with God.

The Cross did not happen to Jesus:  He came on purpose for it.  He is “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.”  The whole meaning of the Incarnation is the Cross.  Beware of separating God manifest in the flesh from the Son becoming sin.  The Incarnation was for the purpose of Redemption.  God became incarnate for the purpose of putting away sin; not for the purpose of Self-realization.  The Cross is the centre of Time and of Eternity, the answer to the enigmas of both.

The Cross is not the cross of a man but the Cross of God, and the Cross of God can never be realized in human experience.  The Cross is the exhibition of the nature of God, the gateway whereby any individual of the human race can enter into union with God.  When we get to the Cross, we do not go through it; we abide in the life to which the Cross is the gateway.

The centre of salvation is the Cross of Jesus, and the reason it is so easy to obtain salvation is because it cost God so much.  The Cross is the point where God and sinful man merge with a crash and the way to life is opened—but the crash is on the heart of God.

— My Utmost for His Highest, April 6th

The journey to the cross – He is the One!

Day 34 of 40 days to Resurrection day

Today’s suggestion:

Read about Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem.

(Matthew 21:1-13, Mark 11:1-19,  Luke 19:28-48, John 12:1-19)

Jesus on donkeyEntering Jerusalem by Harry Anderson (1906-1996)

The story is familiar.  I’ve heard it since I was a tot in Sunday school.  The flannel graph figure of Jesus sitting on a donkey moves along through the streets of Jerusalem while people wave palm branches and lay down their outer cloaks.  They are shouting “Hosanna” and “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.” He accepts their praise, even welcomes it and says the rocks will cry out if the people are silenced.

It is His day.

All four Gospel writers narrow their lenses on the last days of Jesus’ earthly life.  They spend chapters talking about a week of activities.  There is consistency in their view of what occurred yet they each have their own slant, their own perspective.  It’s as if they want us to sit up and pay attention.  As if they shout “This is important!”

But why is it important, other than the fact that it fulfills yet another prophecy about Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah?.  Zechariah said the king would come riding on a donkey.  He would be righteous, victorious and humble.  Jesus was all of that and more.

There is something else.

Hundreds of years before, Moses had instructed the people to talk a lamb.  On the tenth day of the first month of a new year.  Set it apart.  Examine it for imperfections.  Keep it until the fourteenth day.  Then kill it.  It is the Passover lamb.

Jesus made His grand entrance into Jerusalem on the tenth day of the month.  He was about to make all things new.  He would give all those who believe a new beginning.  And so He was set apart.  Examined for imperfections.  Presented to the people on the 10th day as the sacrificial Lamb.  And on the fourteenth day of the month, just days later, He was killed.

God’s Passover Lamb.

He is the One we have been waiting for.  Give Him praise.  Shout Hosanna.  Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!

There is a Redeemer

Day 16 of 40 days to Resurrection day

Today’s suggestion:

Read Exodus 7 – 10 about God demonstrating His power in Egypt.

Moses_CharltonHestonCharlton Heston as Moses in the movie ‘The Ten Commandments”

“Let my people go,” Moses said to the mighty ruler of Egypt.  But Pharaoh would not.  The more plagues God sent through the hands and the rod of Moses and Aaron, the harder Pharaoh’s heart became.

Nevertheless, God had a promise to keep.  He was in covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. And God does not break His promise.

The story of Israel’s exodus from Egypt highlights God’s power like no other place in the Old Testament. No wonder the man Moses is so revered by the Jewish people.  He was the mouth of the Almighty and the hand of Jehovah to bring the most amazing miracles into being. The great land of Egypt began to crumble as one plague after another fell on man, beast, and field.  Pharaoh’s servants finally urged him to send the Hebrews away because Egypt was devastated.

Yet . . . in the land of Goshen where the Hebrews were living there was a distinction.  After the third plague, Goshen and God’s people appear to be exempt from all the other horrendous acts of judgment.

Their Redeemer was nigh.  And God was declaring Himself out loud.

To Pharaoh and his countryman, He showed Himself as the all-powerful Lord over all.  The many deities they served were silent and powerless before Him.

To the Israelites, He showed Himself as Yahweh, I Am, the self-existent One who needs no other.  He alone would be their Savior and Deliverer.  He would prove that His word is faithful.

The events in Exodus draw a picture of what would come.  The shadow becomes clearer as we view it through the lens of the New Testament.

God said He would redeem His people from slavery and set them free.  With great acts of judgment and a mighty outstretched arm He revealed Himself and chose to take them to be His people.

Thousands of years later, the Redeemer came in flesh as a helpless babe.  He was the God-man who took the judgement and wrath for our sake.  He did it so we could be the Father’s children.

Only this time His outstretched arm was on a cross.

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Revised and re-posted from March 2014.