By God’s grace, arranged and played by Katie.
Yesterday was “Sanctity of Life” Sunday, set aside to pray for the end of the killing of America’s children through abortion. The day before, thousands of Americans marched in Washington, D.C. for the rights of these unborn children who are not able to speak for themselves. Outside of these special days, men and women work in crisis pregnancy centers to give hope and protection to women and their unborn children so that they will choose life over abortion.
Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, honoring the man who was assassinated because he stood up for the sanctity of African Americans against the evil of racism and segregation. He was willing to die fighting against this evil that manifested as oppression and even cold-blooded murder. Outside of this special day, men and women are still working and hoping for racial reconciliation.
These days back-to-back are powerful reminders to me of Micah 6:8. Even when these days have passed, may we act in justice, not showing partiality or acting out of our own interests. May we truly love kindness, not just as random acts, but as a way of life. May we walk humbly with our God, listening first to His words in Scripture and obeying them.
May we pray Micah 6:8 for our leaders, even as we pray it for ourselves. As we pray those words, may we go and walk in them every day, not just on the special days.
The Scroll and the Lamb
Then I saw in the right hand of him who sat on the throne a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals. And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming in a loud voice,
“Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?”
But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll or even look inside it. I wept and wept because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside. Then one of the elders said to me,
“Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.”
Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing at the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. The Lamb had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. He went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who sat on the throne. And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people. And they sang a new song, saying:
“You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.”
Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they were saying:
“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!”
Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying:
“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!”
The four living creatures said, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshiped.
Revelation, Chapter 5
By God’s grace, arranged and played by Katie.
This past week was Valentine’s Day. Hard to miss, with all the pink, red, balloons, flowers, candy, stuffed animals, fancy dinners… and that was just Facebook. Love was definitely in the air and to be celebrated.
I’ll admit, I did have some awkward moments, a sort of sense of failure really, when I walked past the displays in the stores, realizing that none of the tokens of love would be given to me.
Valentine’s evening, however, brought a greater token of love. I found myself sitting at a table with friends, talking about the meaning of 1 John 4:10:
“This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”
Atoning — to make reparation or supply satisfaction
Sacrifice — the act of offering to a deity something precious; destruction or surrender of something for the sake of something else
Jesus was the precious offering. He supplied reparation, not for his sins, but mine.
“Your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.” Isaiah 6:7
All else, no matter how great and wonderful, are trifles compared to the love of God for me. That verse, like so many, is a token to imprint on my heart the realization of God’s love.
When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.
Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ my God!
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood.
See from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?
Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all… (Isaac Watts)
In the cross, in the cross,
Be my glory ever;
Till my raptured soul shall find
Rest beyond the river. (Frances J. Crosby)
By the grace of God, arranged and played by Katie
“Thanks and praise, for our days, ‘Neath the sun, ‘neath the stars, neath the sky;
As we go, this we know, God is nigh…
While the light fades from sight,
And the stars gleaming rays softly send,
To thy hands we our souls, Lord, commend.”
Lyrics from Taps
Fall break means more time for reading! This week I started Dr. Helen Roseveare’s book ‘Living Sacrifice’. In the preface, Dr. Roseveare expounds on what it means to be “a living sacrifice” (Romans 12) and show love for God (John 14:21). At the end, she writes thoughtfully about what it means to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.
To love the Lord my God with all my heart will involve a spiritual cost. I’ll have to give him my heart, and let Him love through it whom and how He wills, even if this seems at times to break my heart.
To love the Lord my God with all my soul will involve a volitional and emotional cost. I’ll have to give Him my will, my rights to decide and choose, and all my relationships, for Him to guide and control, even when I cannot understand His reasoning.
To love the Lord my God with all my mind will involve an intellectual cost. I mist give Him my mind, my intelligence, my reasoning powers, and trust Him to work through them, even when He may appear to act in contradiction to common sense.
To love the Lord my God with all my strength will involve a physical cost. I must give Him my body to indwell, and through which to speak, whether He chooses by health or sickness, by strength or weakness, and trust Him utterly with the outcome.
The sum of these apparent costs… could be considered as the sacrifice that I am invited to offer Him as the response of my whole being to His love for me in that one “full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world.” (pgs. 27-28
How counter this seems to our culture that places emphasis on seeking personal fulfillment, satisfaction, and joy, whether they be in relationships, jobs, or even the church. This is also contrary to our too highly prized personal autonomy, even where God is concerned.
Dr. Roseveare’s writing prompted me to asked some questions to examine how I view and live out the call to love with Lord my God with all:
1.) How have I loved the Lord my God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength in the past?
2.) How am I loving the Lord my God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength in the present?
3.) In what areas am I unwilling to love the Lord my God with my all? Is God calling me to sacrifice my affections to be obedient to Him?
4.) How do I see others loving the Lord with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength? How can I encourage them in that?
5.) Am I putting my sacrifices in perspective by meditating on the great love of the Lord my God abundantly displayed on the cross and throughout my life? Do I consider it a privilege to share in Christ’s sufferings? Do I consider the sacrifice not worth comparing to the weight of glory waiting for me?
From the archives:
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son…
There are many days set aside on the U.S. calendar as days of remembering. We remember to give thanks in November. We remember our independence. We remember 9/11. We remember to honor our Veterans. We remember our Grandparents. We remember our parents. On our personal calendars, we remember our birthdays and the birthdays of those close to us. We remember anniversaries: of weddings, of first dates, of adoptions, of fires, of tornadoes, of hurricanes, of earthquakes. We remember the days the ones we loved died.
Even though we have these special days set aside to remember, I doubt any of us forgets these events the other days of the year. Every day, I remember that I have a wonderful mom and dad. I remember to give thanks (most days). I remember that I live in a free country. Whenever I see something Grandma would have liked, I remember that Death says I can’t show her anymore. Tears sometimes flow because one of the deepest loves of my life has been taken from me. Joy wipes the tears away because I remember that I will get to see her again.
Today is a day of remembering on the Christian calendar: Good Friday, the day of remember Christ’s death. It is one of those days that we have set aside, although not a day should go by that Christians do not remember what Christ has done for us. Nor is Good Friday the only day that Christians remember Christ’s death. Every time we celebrate communion, we do it in remembrance of Christ’s death and resurrection… and we will continue to do so until he returns.
So, why this day set aside? As with other history-changing and life-changing events, this day is set apart to remember something that we remember the rest of the year as well.
Good Friday services are more solemn than Easter or Christmas services — and even sorrowful — but grief does not reign. I would argue that wonder and thanksgiving reign over sorrow on Good Friday. (Just as there would be no occasion to celebrate Christmas if there were not Good Friday and Easter, if there were no Easter, Good Friday would be the gravest and most hopeless of all holidays… but I’ll talk about that later).
Sorrow is appropriate for Good Friday, just as sorrow is appropriate when we remember our sin, and as sorrow is appropriate when remembering a horrific crime against another person. Good Friday’s sorrow is because we remember that Christ, fully God and fully man, after a lifetime of loving, serving, teaching, patiently guiding, and healing was taken by a mob and endured unimaginable beatings from trained soldiers, was run through trials by political and religious leaders that mocked justice and religion, and was left to die, naked, bleeding, cursed and mocked on an expertly devised, torturous instrument of execution.
That was just the physical aspect.
On the spiritual side, he bore sin… and with that, separation from God — something that I cannot even begin to imagine.
And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour.And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” — Mark 15:33-34
Christ is sinless. The sin He bore was not His. The sin He bore was mine.
That’s where grief meets wonder.
That’s how we can call this Friday “Good”.
For one will scarcely die for a righteous person–though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die– but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. — Romans 5:7-8
Then wonder grows. The mob that took Jesus and crucified him did not do it because Christ was powerless.
For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities–all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. — Colossians 1:16-17
“He’s speaking it all into being: the soldiers, the priests, the thieves, the friends, the mothers, the brothers, the mob, the wooden beams, the spikes, the thorns, the ground beneath him, and the dark clouds gathering above. If he ceases to speak they will all cease to be. But he wills that they remain. So the soldiers live on, and the hammers come crashing down.” Rick Gamache, A Crucifixion Narrative
Wonder then meets with more wonder.
When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. — John 19 :30
…he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. — Hebrews 9:12
Christ’s death is enough to secure my forgiveness before God. Christ’s death did not start a process that I complete by feeling enough remorse over my own sin. I don’t earn forgiveness because I feel enough shame or by inflicting punishment on myself. I’m forgiven only based on the merits of Christ’s death for my sin. The only appeal I can make for forgiveness is God’s own promise that He forgives those who trust in Christ’s work alone.
See how God illustrates this at the exact moment that Christ cried “It is finished” and gave up his spirit in death:
In the temple, at God’s command, there was a curtain – 60 feet high, 30 feet wide, and 4 inches thick – separating the Most Holy Place from the Holy Place. According to the historian Josephus, horses could not tear this curtain apart. God’s presence dwelt in the Most Holy Place. If anyone went in to God’s holy presence, he or she would die because of their unholiness. Even the high priest only went in the Most Holy Place at the appointed time once a year to offer a sacrifice for the people. The unholy could not approach the Holy. The curtain was a reminder of that.
And this curtain was torn from top to bottom at the moment Christ died.
And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. — Mark 15:37-38
For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him. — Hebrews 9:24-28
Now, through Christ’s death, the unholy can dare approach the Holy to seek forgiveness of sin.
Grief does not reign, but there was grief. Christ knew that in talking to his disciples. But He also knew that the grief that reigned in their hearts as they watched him die would be replaced by joy that could never be taken from them.
Jesus knew that they wanted to ask him, so he said to them, “Is this what you are asking yourselves, what I meant by saying, ‘A little while and you will not see me, and again a little while and you will see me’? Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy. When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. — John 16:19-22
And so even while we remember the blood, the suffering, and the horror of Christ’s death — and remember that it was our sins that He bore, and for our sins that He died — we wonder at love that would sacrifice so much for people who are so undeserving. And our hearts rejoice, because we remember that Easter followed. And we persevere in hope because we know that Christ will come again, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.
He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrow, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned — every one — to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. — Isaiah 53:3-6
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. — 1 John 1:9