Gethsemane again

This morning as I spread jelly on a bagel, I heard stinging words that were hurled at me over a piece of toast years ago. Rather than launch me into anger,  those words – thank you, Jesus –  brought me back to a truth I realized many years ago, though it isn’t written into the Gospels. I’m not even sure this truth hit me at Easter, but when it  hit me, I fell to the floor in worship.

Think, Christian, of your Redeemer and Savior King kneeling in the dirt beneath the olive trees that night. Think of the lies, challenges to his identity, insults and slurs hurled against him by the “religious” power structure – just listen, and remember:

The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 4and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” 6They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.But  Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. 7When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. 9At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11“No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” John 8: 3-11 NIV

The Pharisees and Sadducees came up, and testing Jesus, they asked Him to show them a sign from heaven. But He replied to them, “When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’ “And in the morning, ‘There will be a storm today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ Do you know how to discern the appearance of the sky, but cannot discern the signs of the times? “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign; and a sign will not be given it, except the sign of Jonah.” And He left them and went away. Matthew 16: 1-4 NIV

Some Pharisees came to Jesus, testing Him and asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason at all?” And He answered and said, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning MADE THEM MALE AND FEMALE, and said, ‘FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH’?
“So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.” They said to Him, “Why then did Moses command to GIVE HER A CERTIFICATE OF DIVORCE AND SEND her AWAY?” He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way. “And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.” Matthew 19: 3-9

Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words. 16 They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. “Teacher,” they said, “we know that you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren’t swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are. 17 Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar or not?”

18 But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, “You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? 19 Show me the coin used for paying the tax.” They brought him a denarius, 20 and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?”

21 “Caesar’s,” they replied.

Then he said to them, “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”

22 When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away.

23 That same day the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him with a question. 24 “Teacher,” they said, “Moses told us that if a man dies without having children, his brother must marry the widow and raise up offspring for him.25 Now there were seven brothers among us. The first one married and died, and since he had no children, he left his wife to his brother. 26 The same thing happened to the second and third brother, right on down to the seventh. 27 Finally, the woman died. 28 Now then, at the resurrection, whose wife will she be of the seven, since all of them were married to her?”

29 Jesus replied, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God. 30 At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven. 31 But about the resurrection of the dead—have you not read what God said to you, 32 ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.”

33 When the crowds heard this, they were astonished at his teaching.

34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together.35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

41 While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, 42 “What do you think about the Messiah? Whose son is he?”

“The son of David,” they replied.

43 He said to them, “How is it then that David, speaking by the Spirit, calls him ‘Lord’? For he says,

44 “‘The Lord said to my Lord:
    “Sit at my right hand
until I put your enemies
    under your feet.”’[e]

45 If then David calls him ‘Lord,’ how can he be his son?” 46 No one could say a word in reply, and from that day on no one dared to ask him any more questions. Matthew 22: 15-46 NIV

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.32 He will be delivered over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him and spit on him; 33 they will flog him and kill him. On the third day he will rise again.”34 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 NIV

When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. 24“He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” 25For “you were like sheep going astray,” but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. 1 Peter 2: 23-25 NIV

Scripture enough, truth enough to remind us that throughout his ministry, Jesus was continually challenged, “traps”laid out to trip him up by the “religious” leaders who saw him as a  threat to their power base. Baseless,  senseless, unreasonable, self-centered, irrational, and yes, flat-out evil. These are the very ones Jesus came to save, to spill his blood for and redeem IF ONLY they  would recognize their sins and need of his atoning Blood, IF ONLY they would turn in true repentance and reverence to him, turn in true gratitude at least, if not in awe and wonder at such selfless, sacrificial, dauntless, courageous, relentless, passionate  love. What, if not this kind of love, would cause the ONE who knew HE WAS THE SACRIFICIAL LAMB OF GOD to cry out FOR the people he would suffer and die for:

37 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. 38 Look, your house is left to you desolate. 39 For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’” Matthew 23: 37-39 NIV

So what thought came to me about  the thoughts of Jesus as he knelt there in Gethsemane? HE SAW YOU! HE SAW ME! HE KNEW OUR LOVE, HEARD OUR PRAYERS, HEARD OUR SONGS OF THANKS AND PRAISE! That’s what helped Jesus stay  the course and walk through the insults, the agony, the weight of OUR sin falling on HIM: that  we would see the truth,  embrace it  with joy and run to HIS forgiving, gracrious, merciful, true love!

And what was his grief? THAT SO MANY  WOULD NEVER SEE, NEVER RECOGNIZE, NEVER KNOW, NEVER UNDERSTAND, NEVER COME TO HIS LOVE FOR THEM! Oh, I feel that  same anguish! 

That’s the sole,  singular reason I write this blog: to tesitfy to GOD’S LOVE IN CHRIST JESUS in fervent hope that some  who don’tknow HIMmay readthis, see and  hear Him,and come to HIS passionate love for them. And so that those of us, you who read this and know HIM, may be encouraged to run with the great GOOD NEWS THAT JESUS SAVES! Don’t hide your lamp under a  bushel! Don’t say someone else will do it! Don’tsay it isn’t your  calling, because IT IS YOUR CALLING! However you are grace-gifted, it is your calling! MAKE  JESUS KNOWN! MAKE  HIS LOVE AND TRUTH FAMOUS! DON’T STOP TILL THE WHOLE WORLD HEARS – even your neighbor, even your brother-in-law, even your boss, even that person who hurls insults at you.

This is why about 25 of us ordinary  women gather every Monday morning to fervently sing and declare Scripture and passionately

pray for three hours for ALL THE WORLD TO KNOW THE AMAZING GRACE AND  SAVING  LOVE  OF GOD IN JESUS, OUR REDEEMER, SAVIOR, FRIEND, GOD AND KING!  Here’s  an ordinary  guy singing what we ordinary  girls  sing. Oh ordinary person, come to and lift up  your EXTRAORDINARY SAVIOR AND GOD!

Today, pray your own honest “…BUT GOD…” Lord, Jesus, Savior, I confess I’ve held back and not shared your love when I could, and I don’t know  why it scares me, unless I fear the rejection of people more than the approval of God. I’ve kept quiet, BUT NOW AS YOU HELP ME I WILL_______________________________________________________________, and Holy Spirit,  speak LOUD and CLEAR to me, in Jesus’ name, AMEN!

 

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Grace for Greatness

Praise-God-christianity-30399917-450-227I could have pretended when the lizard ran across the trail in front of me. I was walking with a man, and I could have clutched his shoulder, turned my head into his chest and squealed, “Oh, “_______” (he shall remain nameless), a LIZARD! I’m so scared! Throw a rock at it! make it go away!” And after he did, I’d look up into his eyes, bat mine, and in a higher register than I use to speak with my female friends, I’d swooningly say, “Oh “_________,” you’re so brave and strong!” And if he took the bait … I’d be calling that man to a level lower than his true courage, integrity, and valor. Pardon me saying this, but PUKE! In spiritual terms, that translates to “abomination.”

I’ve seen it, girlfriends. I’ve listened as you did it, and even if you are truly afraid of lizards, do you think falsely building up a man’s esteem calls him to greatness? It may salve his insecurity, but Jesus wants more for him and from him than a false hero status. God wants him to live in  greatness. Guys, give that woman a second and third look and then tell her that her husband doesn’t appreciate al she is? God wants her to live in greatness.

Gentlemen, I’m addressing this to you, and ladies, to you as well.  Today is Pentecost Sunday, 50 days after Passover and the Resurrection, when God’s Spirit fell on Jesus’ disciples and followers in the Upper room. They were, we can imagine, staying there in Jerusalem not just in response to Jesus’ instructions, but also in some sense of confusion and fear, not knowing what would come next or where they would go, or how they could go on about life as usual after having walked with the Son of God, so real and present in that room with him after his resurrection, so many days and weeks absent now.

The lizard ran across the trail in front of me, and instead of shrieking – gosh it was just a small striped lizard, terrified of my big feet clumping down the trail close on its tail – I gave a very fake shriek, feigned terror (after having told him I like lizards) and then in all seriousness said, “________,” if you want to show me how courageous you really are, if you want to make this Christian girl swoon, load a “mortar round” of prayer and lob it at the Devil for me! THAT is courage! THAT is a true hero! God’s Grace to propel into greatness!

And I wasn’t  kidding.  This guy has fasted for me and prayed for me, and if I truly care about him as a friend and brother in Christ, my job is to call forth the greatness in him, the greatest greatness he can live. I can’t encourage him in sin, no matter how tempting it might be to lead him into a false sense of superhuman stature just to get his affection. Math teacher in me, I’d be degrading him to the “Lowest Common (cultural) Denominator”. Oh, gag, how insulting I would be if I even thought of encouraging a brother to sin, and how denigrating I would be if I didn’t believe in the greatness Jesus has instilled in him through the Holy Spirit to call him to courageous action, to the “Greatest UN-common Denominator” of the best, truest, and most courageous life God has for him, conforming to the likeness of Jesus as a Blood-bought child of God. “My agenda” for him means nothing’; God’s agenda for him means everything. GUCD!

I acknowledge here that I did do something for my former husband that allowed him to think the sin he was in, by his own words, “Wasn’t so bad, and if that’s the worst of (my) sins, well, God made me this way.”  Oh, vile lie of the Devil!  Did I think I was being submissive to enable him to sin without consequences or speaking to him that HE was worth more than that?   Was my compliance being an obedient wife, or was it allowing him to stay in a level far below the true courage, integrity,  honork, dignity, purity and valor God intended that man to live in and live out? I don’t take responsibility for his sin, but I am responsible for how I responded to it. Oh, if I’d had the courage to trust God enough to speak up out of loving truth and called him to righteousness in his choices.  God would’ve  taken care of me no matter what his response was, as long as my motives were for his best, for his true grace-given greatness.

As I relate to others now years later, I recognize that I cannot call forth less than the greatest from my bothers and sisters.  When I consider the price God paid for her, for him, when I think of the treasure that person is to God’s heart, how can I use, manipulate, or hold her or him to less than the most meaningful, vital, alive, on-fire life from all God’s Spirit has poured into them, to live in and live out of them?

“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears,we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.

Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.

Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. The one who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God. This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister.”  1 John 3:1-10 NIV

I love the old hymn “How Deep the Father’s Love For Us.” Knowing the price God paid in watching His beloved suffer whipping and then the indignity and agony of the cross, how can we think God means for grace to do anything less than call us to greatness, true greatness? Ought we to do less, ought we to lower our expectations of each other and give flattery instead of encouragement to greatness? Why would I want to allow someone I love to live in anything less than the grace and greatness God gifted her or him with when she or he made Jesus Lord? If Jesus is his Lord, her Lord, then he is a son of the King of Kings, and she is a daughter of the Lord of All, grace gifted through Jesus to rise in strength, courage, compassion, valor, dignity, kindness, purity and truth to live a life and leave a legacy of greatness .

How deep the Father’s love for us
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure

My stand cost me dearly, because I couldn’t let a loved one live out less than the greatness God his Father  called him to. Others – “friends” and colleagues spoke into his life to encourage him to conform to the standards of the world and live far below the integrity God wanted him to live in and live out.  Was that true love?

Today I want, and I pray you may consider, to call the people you love in your life to the truest greatness they can live in and live out. a measure of our love is the measure of grace-gifted greatness we call forth in and from eachother.Behold what manner of love the Father has given to us, that we  should be called the sons and daughters of God.

Two songs to share with you: the first is the why and how, and the second is what we can become as we encourage each other to greatness.

How deep the Father’s love for us
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure

I will not boast in anything

No gifts, no power, no wisdom

But I will boast in Jesus Christ

His death and resurrection

Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom

So then, what does this measure ask of us? All I want to do is be a soul on fire for the love and purity of God and call it forth in the hearts of others! So, my sisters, my friends, my brothers, lob a grenade of prayer at the enemy in the lives of those you love today! Selah! Amen!

My “…BUt…” to move: God, I’ve settled for less than courage in my own life. I’ve even tantalized others to live in so much less than the greatness of Your grace in them to flatter them and make them like me or to “get” something from them, BUT today I purpose to,and ask you to help me to call ____________ to the best in ________________________________________ that you long for him/her!