WHOSE Blood Bought Me?

 

Four years ago I first posted this, and on this Palm Sunday I feel the need to repost what I wrote then. This first came to me in the teachers’ workroom at school, then exploded in me again the following Sunday, when the enormity of what God did for us in the atoning sacrifice of Jesus rose like a  fountain of passionate love in my heart. It’s still true, and though my heart fell to fear of man and grief of loss a month after I first embraced this enormous truth, the GOD of grace, mercy, compassion, and love has walked with me steadfastly even as I slipped along the journey that led me here and, in some ways continues through a dark valley toward God’s goodness. I know a fraction of the price GOD paid for me, and in truth he never needed to send me any greater other proof of his love, for  nothing more could possibly measure up to this undying incomprehensible gift. Yet out of love, he shows me his love so tenderly and powerfully. I pray it speaks to your heart today.

How I treasure those brief flashes of deep, gut insight that hit me much less frequently than I long forDo you know what I mean: times when you feel for a Nano-second that you’ve touched a deep truth about God, and you wish with everything in you that it would engulf you so you could immerse yourself in its power? Frustratingly, those moments never linger long enough.

The latest one that grazed my consciousness on Palm Sunday, March 24th, 2013, entered the orbit of my subconscious during the week before as I searched YouTube for some exciting video and information about relative sizes of objects in space for the third grade class I assist in. Some facts about VY Canis Majoris absolutely astounded me: a red hypergiant, it’s one of the largest stars we know of, with a diameter of 1,227,000,000 miles (that’s billion, if you don’t want to count the place value yourself), or 1,975,000,000 kilometers. Take a look and be astounded:

 

To give you a better sense of that immensity, if VY Canis Majoris was at the center of our solar system, its surface would extend at least beyond the orbit of Jupiter, and perhaps as far as the orbit of Saturn. What grabbed my attention in the video was the comment that if you could fly in a jet at 900 miles per hour, it would take you over 1,000 years to fly around the star! It’s so distant that the light of VY Canis Majoris takes 3,9000 years to reach us.

I sat in bed at 5 a.m. that Sunday and tried to cold-start praise to the King of Kings as Holy Week began.  A realization rose slightly above the horizon of my consciousness: WHOSE blood bought me? WHOSE blood?  Yes, Jesus’ blood – that rolls of my tongue almost tritely sometimes – but WHAT blood is his? WHOSE BLOOD?

“And God said, ’Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night,’ . . . And it was so. God made two great lights . . . .  He also made the stars. . . . “  Genesis 1:14-16

“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? . . . On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?”  Job 38:4, 7

“He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name.” Psalm 147:4

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God . . .. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.” John1: 1, 3

“I, Jesus, . . . am the Root, and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.” Revelation 22:16

The “gestalt” of the immensity of VY Canis Major created by Jesus himself fused with these Bible verses and blazed into a whole much bigger than the sum of its parts. The Blood that bled for every speck of sin in my life coursed through the veins of the ONE whose voice spoke the inferno of VY Canis Majoris  and every blazing star, asteroid, comet, planet, and moon into existence. THAT blood! The most precious fluid and outrageous gift in the universe because it was the Blood of the ONE who imagined life, then spoke blood itself into being, and who bound the vastness of HIMSELF within the confines of a completely human body to spill HIS BLOOD instead of requiring mine. Let that sink into your heart for a minute …

For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant. blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!….For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made with human hands that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence. Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. Otherwise Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But he has appeared once for all at the culmination of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.         Hebrews 9: 13-15, 24-28 NIV

princeofpeace13JesusChrist with crown of thorns

And HE, THE GOD OF CREATION, PURE RIGHTEOUSNESS, PURE HOLINESS, PURE MAJESTY, PURE LOVE willingly gave it for me. I – like every oneof us – was  bound for Hell until I saw and reached out for God’s merciful gift of love, Jesus.

Oh, I wanted to grasp the enormity of that love in every cell of my body and neuron of my understanding!  Like a meteorite, infinite love tore through the atmosphere of my finite comprehension. Why in the world do I think I’m not loved? Why do we think we have to, or ever could, earn that love? And engulfed by that love, why in the universe am I ever afraid?

“His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns . . . and his name is the Word of God…. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS!” Revelation 19:12,13,16

Even now I feel like I’m writing an ionic plasma breath of truth with hands and understanding of concrete, but O God, let me burn with that reality one day! Brand my heart with it now: I AM YOURS! YOU SOUGHT AND BOUGHT ME  WITH THE COSTLIEST TREASURE IN ALL TIME AND UNIVERSE, YOUR OWN SON JESUS!

I  worship you, LORD Jesus! You alone are worthy of true worship, and in this I lift up my love and thanks and wonder:

Therefore, so, because of this incredible gift God gave us through Jesus:

But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying,“This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, declares the Lord:I will put my laws on their hearts, and write them on their minds,” then he adds, “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”  Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin. Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrews 10: 12-18

A “…BUT…” to pray: LORD GOD, ABBA, Father, I may think I understand what you did in sending Jesus to pay for my sins and bring  into loving righteous relationship with you, BUT LORD, my heart longs to feel this powerful, transforming reality.  I AM a sinner, saved by your grace and unmerited mercy alone, and I do feel sorrow that my sins put Jesus on the Cross, evenas I feel joy that his Blood erased them all forever, completely. Holy Spirit, pour this truth of the priceless gift poured out for me into my spirit and into every fiber of my heart and being today, by your grace __________________________________ (And God smiles and replies, “I was hoping and waiting for you to ask me for this… it’s yours!) Holy Spirit, LORD Jesus, here I am thirsting to receive your priceless reality into all of me. In Jesus’ name, AMEN!  Holy Spirit, speak:  I’m eagerly listening ________________________________________________________

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There Is Only One

 

img_1348My dad made me this silver cross inset with my birthstone – for a reason!

I still vividly remember the day I was checking out at the grocery store and the checker asked me about the cross necklace I was wearing, “Is that just jewelry, or are you really a Christian?”  His piercing questions has stayed with me for nearly four decades, because it’s the question that eventually comes to each of us who call ourselves followers of Jesus: is it just a name we wear, or do we really give the authority and purpose of our life over to the purposes of Jesus, the One Lord and Savior, and God’s Kingdom. If people don’t ask us that question here, God certainly will one day.

I’ve been a daughter, sister, student, wife, mother, teacher, speaker, writer, call center answerer, reservations agent, bank receptionist, Cub Scout Den Leader, and playground argument-controller, but in all these things, the One Thing that is true about me is that I call Jesus, Y’shua, both the Savior and Lord of my life.Whether I’m praying with that checker who asked me his question about my necklace to see if I would actually pray with him,  or mediating the ongoing arguments between Isaac and Sheila on the playground, or speaking to women in classes at church (where it’s easy), or finding recycled junk for Cub Scout crafts, or at the Zoo showing visiting kids from schools how amazingly interwoven and inter-dependent and precisely fit for their niches the world’s creatures are, or encouraging a learning-disabled boy in his conquest of fractions, or tucking my sons into bed at night, or holding my tongue when my husband tries to pick a fight and loving him anyway, the over-arching question to me every minute of every day is, “Is that just a facade you wear, or is Jesus truly Lord of your life, ALL of your life?”

That is, in truth, the one question that will eventually matter to each one of us. I’ve long believed that, if Jesus isn’t everything to me, then he’s nothing at all to me. All of history, all of life comes down to what I/we believe and accept as vital in our own lives  about the Cross of Calvary and the One who was nailed to it to pay for the sins of all mankind.

Who is Jesus?

 “For he (God) has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves (Jesus),  in whom we have redemption,the forgiveness of sins. The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of[a] your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel.” Colossians 1:13-23 NIV

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) “So what?” you ask. ” What does that matter?”

“The wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)  “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By him we also have access by faith into this grace in which we now stand, and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.” (Romans 5:1-2) “There is no no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set me free from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 8:1-2)

Why does that matter? Why does Jesus matter? I’ve never flat-out stated this in any of my posts before, but there is a literal Hell- existence apart from, without the Presence of God, which will be pure torment –  and there is a literal Heaven – eternally forever vibrantly alive in the glorious, joyfully loving Presence of God. You WILL be in one existence or the other after your body dies, because God made the spirit within you to live forever. You have only two possible destinations, and there is only ONE WAY to be united in love with God forever: through the freely given blood of Jesus poured out paying the penalty for your sin (which “earns” you Hell) on the Cross. So I ask you:

1) Are you a sinner, incapable in and of yourself to be so totally holy and pure and sinless at all times that you DESERVE on your own merits to have a living relationship with the Omnipotent, Omniscient, Transcendent, Immutable, Holy, Pure, Righteous and Just and Merciful Creator of all things?  I KNOW I’m not, and I answered that question Jesus put to me on February 20, 1972: “You know I died for the world, but do you know I died for YOU?” In the decades since I’ve seen even more clearly and potently why I needed and need everyday a Savior whose purity and righteousness and mercy covers every dumb, stupid, selfish,thoughtless or angry thing I have ever or will ever do, think, or  say. THAT alone, Jesus’ Blood on the cross and His resurrection from the grave is THE ONLY WAY to a living, vibrant, everlasting relationship with God Almighty forever, adopted as His child, back in the relationship He intended all of mankind to have with Him when He created life. (and no, the pronoun “he” doesn’t bother me a bit or sound sexist at all, ladies. My earthly father was a “he”  and I have no trouble believing that God created both he-s and she-s out of the totality of His nature)

2) Can you get over yourself enough to accept and gladly cling to the ONE perfect substitutionary sacrifice to cover ALL of your sins? Can you deal with the fact that there is nothing you can do,  absolutely nothing, to “make” yourself acceptable to a purely Holy God? That is SO hard for us “You can do it – pull yourself up by your bootstraps and get it done” Americans, and I’d venture to guess, for every person on the planet who would LIKE to be acceptable completely to God on her or his own merits.

3) Can you believe that yes, God loves you passionately even in your imperfections and sin, loves you enough to offer Himself through Jesus as the ONE open door into relationship and fellowship with Him? Can you humble yourself and swallow your pride enough to gladly receive a freely given gift you couldn’t possible afford to “buy” for yourself?

4) If you responded “yes” to questions 1-3, can you accept that living in relationship with God through Jesus changes, must change if you truly mean to be God’s child, the way you relate to people  and possessions and position in life?

Someone dear to me said to me, “Jesus dying on the cross never meant to me what it means to you, and  I knew it would come back one day to ‘bite me.'” If Jesus is nothing and no one more than merely a historical figure, then that statement might make sense. Everyone agrees that Plato, Socrates, Julius Caesar, and Thomas Edison actually lived, and Plato, and Socrates wrote some interesting philosophy, Julius Caesar left  journals of his conquests, and we can read notes of Edison’s experiments with electricity, which did make a profound change in our daily lives.  But if you only believe that jesus existed as an historical figure and said some things worth considering, then you have no idea who Jesus was and is.

Neither Plato, Socrates, Caesar nor Edison have the power and the authority to  bring you into a genuine, living, joyfully connected in love and life-transforming relationship with the Author and Creator of the universe. Jesus dying on the cross is the One most singularly meaningful, vital, pivotal point of human history, and if it means only something in theory or a fact of history of little personal importance to you, then I wonder if it means anything at all to you, or more pointedly, if Jesus means nothing to you. If you went forward at an altar call at a church or crusade because intellectually it sounded like a good thing to do, something like buying flood insurance if you live near a river, then you entirely missed the most vital, crucial question of your life: do you know that, on your own merits, you can never be “a pretty good person” enough to genuinely know, encounter, be in relationship with THE perfectly holy Good who intentionally made you out of elements common to all matter but with an eternal spirit waiting to know Him as the Father who loves and longs for you?

Peter explained to Cornelius, the Roman centurion in Caesarea who was a God-seeking man, “Jesus…commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” Acts 10:42-44 NIV

And  Paul proclaimed, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” Acts 4: 12 NIV

What does “saved” mean? It means entering into an eternal relationship with Everlasting God, the verdict on all the dumb, thoughtless, hurtful, selfish, cruel, mindless things you’ve ever done that do keep you apart from the perfectly sinless God rendered “NOT guilty” only, solely, completely because the sinless Jesus paid the penalty for ALL of the sin of ALL mankind, if only we individually recognize our desperate, yes desperate, need and personal inadequacy and receive that astounding free gift of love. Only one God, only one Jesus, his exact representation in a human body, only ONE WAY to relationship with God through Jesus.

Every message I’ve ever spoken, every post and book I’ve ever written, every conversation with someone (strangers included) that culminated in a prayer, every turkey sandwich I’ve taken to the homeless, every child I’ve helped to master fractions or spelling, every preschooler I’ve hugged, every hello and thanks and calling a clerk by name, everything I’ve done somehow reflects, positively  or negatively,  my relationship to Jesus and how I answer the question of his importance to me. Oh, for sure some days I’ve blown it, and blown it big-time; that’s precisely why I NEED Jesus. But my aim, my goal, my fervent hope is that I can be a vessel through whom God can move in love, validation, hope, occasionally confrontation in love,  acceptance, encouragement, and God’s truth lifted, lived, and illuminated in Jesus. Amen,  amen to the One Thing that matters.

Who is Jesus to you? How do you answer that one question? How will you live out your answer if it truly changes everything for you?

everlasting love_t_nv_2

A “…BUT…” to pray (even if you’ve prayed this before): Almighty God, loving

Father, I see how truly impossible it is for me to ever be “good enough” or do enough to earn or merit making my own way into relationship with you, but you created me for that kind of relationship. I see that something is very wrong, out of order with your original design for me even if I’ve “followed the rules” for the most part and even if I’m a “pretty good person.” Even if all that is true of me, I’m not without sin, flaw, beyond angry remarks or hurtful thoughts, like when I _______________________________. BUT when I come to you through Jesus’ death on the cross, you don’t see me through my sin; you see me through Jesus’ love, so God, right now I’m saying ______________________________________________________________ , accepting the gift of Jesus not as my “flood insurance” but as the one who loves me incredibly enough to die for me, the only one who could do this, now not just my salvation but the Lord and King and rightful guide of my life, and I say a glad thank you, God, thank you, Jesus, thank you that you _________________________ so now I know I can ____________________________! In Jesus’ name, hallelujah, and Holy Spirit, speak to me now and be alive within me forever ___________________________________________.

As Simple as it Gets

As Simple as it Gets

I couldn’t find the bunnies, flowers or rainbows in my circumstances. I was so crushed yesterday, and I recognized my deepest grief is the contradiction between what I know and read of God from the Word – nothing shall be impossible for God – and what I see in the free will He allows us all to walk in, often to the wounding and discouragement of others. What I heard for 18 months was a grand and hideous silence and contradiction. This morning it even hurt too much to let God’s word in and listen to any of my favorite Bible teachers. That contradiction slapped in my face again was more than I could bear.

“When your words came to me, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight, for I bear your name, O LORD God Almighty. . . . Why is my pain unending and my wound grievous and incurable? Will you be to me like a deceptive (intermittent) brook, like a spring that fails?” Jeremiah 15:16, 18 NIV

So, the question to me on my morning dog walk was simply which side of this razor’s edge I’m going to fall on. Do I believe my circumstances reveal the character of God, or do I believe somehow, against all the grief within me, that God’s character gives meaning to my circumstances? I want with every fiber of my being for God to change my circumstances, BUT . . .

I love, I hope, I’m crushed – I rise in love, I hope, I’m crushed – I crawl back up to my feet in love . . . . I genuinely understand why sometimes people feel death would be easier than this life. BUT . . . it all comes down to the cross, and the cruelty I see Jesus bore for me. He was taunted, and their taunts were true. He COULD have called down legions of angels and taken himself off the cross, but the end of Jesus’ pain would have begun eternal torment for all the rest of us. Real, raw honesty here today, I have come close to despairing of life, just two months before God brought the faint dawn of a new hope into my life. I don’t doubt for a minute that there is someone who will read this and identify exactly with my feelings. Keep reading!

It all comes down to the cross. For love, Jesus emptied himself of all his majesty and rights as Deity and took our betrayal and rejection of him, even my imploring questions now. He loved, he hoped, he was crushed, he rose up in love. What could it have meant to Jesus to be stripped – willingly, but stripped nonetheless – from all that incomprehensible union with pure joy and love and Oneness with the Father? Whatever it meant, it meant winning me.

No, I’m not at all equating myself and my suffering with Jesus. It’s just that now I begin to understand the ferocious depth of his love for me. He IS love. I don’t BEGIN to grasp how much, but I desperately want to soak myself in him.

Words water down the impact of this truth.

Aaugh . . . as much as this still – hurts isn’t strong enough a word – grinds me to dust emotionally, I will not let my circumstances and the horrifying choices someone else is making inform me about the nature and love of my Jesus. Whatever meaning comes out of this in the end, it will be the meaning LOVE incarnate gives to me.

“Come under my wing,” God whispers, and we cry out, “Rescue me from my enemies, O LORD, for I hide myself in you “ Psalm 143:9

“Shelter Me” by Tab Benoit

The earth can shake the sky come down*

The mountains all fall to the ground

But I will fear none of these things

Shelter me lord underneath your wings

Dark waters rise and thunder pounds

The wheels of war are going round

And all the walls are crumbling

Shelter me lord underneath your wings

Shelter me lord underneath your wings

Hide me underneath your wings

Hide me deep inside your heart

In your refuge – cover me

The world can shake

But lord I’m making you my hiding place

You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance. I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you. Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you. Many are the woes of the wicked, but the Lord’s unfailing love surrounds the one who trusts in him. Rejoice in the Lord and be glad, you righteous; sing, all you who are upright in heart! Psalm 32:7-11 NIV

In the shelter of your presence you hide them from all human intrigues; you keep them safe in your dwelling from accusing tongues. Psalm 31: 20 NIV

Why, my soul, are you downcast?Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God. Psalm 43:5 NIV

Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him,  and he began to teach them. He said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5: 1-10 NIV

For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; ‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’ ‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.'” Revelation 7:17 NIV

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose . Romans 8:28 . . . . If God is for us, who can be against us? Romans 8: 31 NIV He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also graciously give us all things? Romans 8:32 NIV. . . For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither height nor depth , . . . nor anything can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus, Romans 8:38-39 NIV

A “,,,BUT…” to pray: Sometimes God, and it might be right now, it feels like the whole world is against me because ____________________________________________________________________________. I tried to _________________________________ but __________________________________. BUT God, help me remember hat YOU are greater than the world, and if YOU are for me, then you must have a plan to bring something good out of _________________________________________________________________. Show me where you are, Father, and Jesus, help me truly feel in my deepest heart how much you love me. I never asked you about your feelings on the cross. Jesus, what did you feel? Can my love for you bring you joy? It CAN! Then I trust you enough o give you ______________________________________________________ and let you work something good from ___________________________________________________. I have to “hand it to you,” so I will, by a choice of faith. What do you want to tell me today? Amen in Jesus’ name, and Holy Spirit, I’m listening ________________________________________________________________________________________

Grace – Freedom FOR Responsibility

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If we’re honest, probably most of us long for the job, or the time, or the money to allow us to be free FROM responsibility. That’s part of the appeal of retirement and financial independence: no accountability to anyone but ourselves, for nothing but pleasurable purposes. Fun! Me time! Freedom!

How long, I wonder, would that lifestyle provide meaning and satisfactions to us? If today I could go anywhere I wanted, do anything I wanted to do, eat whatever I wanted, buy whatever I wanted, would I feel validated as a person? Isn’t that what that kind of “freedom” means when we examine our motives in wanting it?

If what I truly long for is validation, a sense that my life matters and has meaning … then I look to the Cross of Jesus, the sacrifice that set us free from the law, keeping an interminable set of rules, constantly failing in some point and feeling the sting of knowing we didn’t “measure up.” Performance: we look for it in cars, from each other on the job, and sadly from each other in relationship. “I will love you IF you …. WHEN you…BECAUSE you ….”

Grace turns that kind of thinking radically on its head, where it belongs, swept away from our lives, thoughts, actions, and relationships because of the immeasurable grace God gives us daily in the death of His son Jesus on the cross in our places.

“What do you mean, God, I can’t do anything to EARN your grace? What do you mean that I can’t possibly measure up? That means I have to ADMIT that I can’t measure up, and that makes me invalidated, worthless … doesn’t it?”

NO, it means exactly the opposite; each of us has immeasurable value to God, just because he WANT us in relationship with Him. How in the universe can that be? Because He is love, period.

But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness is given through faith in[a] Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. Romans 3: 21-24 NIV

For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2: 19-20 NIV

Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom,  because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment. James 2: 12-13 NIV

Responding to that merciful love means I want to show it, return some measure of my limited love to that limitless love. I WANT to give! Love is the illogic that stands logic on its ugly head and liberates everyone who embraces it to FREELY give, to take on responsibility with a joyful, willing heart.

Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give. Matthew 10: 8 NIV

My neighbor was living on rice and beans, and I had the ability to buy a package of chicken at 50% off the usual price. Was I legally responsible for my neighbor? No, but out of love, could I say she was loved in a tangible way? Yes, freely.

 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. 1 John 3: 16-18 NIV

At a fund-raising yard sale at my church, a woman admired a red two-piece suit I had for sale. She couldn’t afford the yard sale price. Did I OWE it to her to give it to her? NO, but did God’s GRACE, God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense, give me freedom to give away something I could give to bless the heart of someone else? Yes, and to joyfully put the $5.00 in the mission fund myself! Wow, she was going to feel beautiful in that suit!

I hurt someone’s feelings. But God, they hurt me, too. If I apologize – no, if I say the dreaded three words “I was WRONG” – won’t that diminish my value? Won’t that make ME wrong, mean I failed and I lose my worth? NO – grace gives me the freedom to admit I was wrong, knowing the person I hurt is immeasurably valued by God AND so am I! He wants right relationships for our mutual good.

Freedom to BE responsible, freedom FOR responsibility toward God and toward others.

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. Romans 8: 1-5 NIV

 In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.

What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means! Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.

I am using an example from everyday life because of your human limitations. Just as you used to offer yourselves as slaves to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer yourselves as slaves to righteousness leading to holiness. When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. Romans 6: 11-22 NIV

Purify my heart, my longings, my desires, Jesus! Set me free from selfishness and self-absorption to live freely and give freely. As the song says, I am free to love, I am free to dance, I am free to live for YOU, I am free!

A “…BUT…” to move: Oh, God, your mercy for me, your unmerited favor you lavished on me through the gift of your Son Jesus given freely for me to bring me into family relationship with you as your child and friend gives me the heart to be glad to return Your love in serving. I admit I’ve lived for myself and my own pleasures in ________________________________ and frankly, that never gave me the value and worth that living freely IN your love to GIVE your love GIVES to me. I want real freedom! Show me who needs your love today as I ________________________ and give me the courage of love to _________________________________. In the name of the awesome lover of my soul, Jesus, AMEN!

WHOSE Blood Bought Me?

I’m reposting this from four years ago, on another Palm Sunday, because I need the reminder and you may, too, so that we don’t take Jesus’ sacrifice and this Holy Week for granted or make it less than the monumental move of God’s incomprehensibly great mercy, grace and untiring love that it was and will always be. That Almighty God not only puts up with us, but gave Himself bring us back into living relationship with him through the costliest offering ever made makes me fall on my face again, just as I did in  the teachers’ workroom where I came upon Vy Canis Majoris and it threw me to the floor,  and then in my living room where this thought exploded in me four years ago and put me on my face in totally sold out wonder and gratitude.  I admit fear of man threw me off track a month after this, but I come again to look to the ONE who’s kept me in the last four years despite my stumbling. THAT is the unmerited merciful GRACE OF GOD!

How I treasure those brief flashes of deep, gut insight that hit me much less frequently than I long forDo you know what I mean: times when you feel for a Nano-second that you’ve touched a deep truth about God, and you wish with everything in you that it would engulf you so you could immerse yourself in its power? Frustratingly, those moments never linger long enough.

The latest one that grazed my consciousness on Palm Sunday, March 24th, entered the orbit of my subconscious during the week before as I searched YouTube for some exciting video and information about relative sizes of objects in space for the third grade class I assist in. Some facts about VY Canis Majoris absolutely astounded me: a red hypergiant, it’s one of the largest stars we know of, with a diameter of 1,227,000,000 miles (that’s billion, if you don’t want to count the place value yourself), or 1,975,000,000 kilometers.

To give you a better sense of that immensity, if VY Canis Majoris was at the center of our solar system, its surface would extend at least beyond the orbit of Jupiter, and perhaps as far as the orbit of Saturn. What grabbed my attention in the video was the comment that if you could fly in a jet at 900 miles per hour, it would take you over 1,000 years to fly around the star! It’s so distant that the light of VY Canis Majoris takes 3,9000 years to reach us.

I sat in bed at 5 a.m. that Sunday and tried to cold-start praise to the King of Kings as Holy Week began.  A realization rose slightly above the horizon of my consciousness: WHOSE blood bought me? WHOSE blood?  Yes, Jesus’ blood – that rolls of my tongue almost tritely sometimes – but WHAT blood is his?

“And God said, ’Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night,’ . . . And it was so. God made two great lights . . . .  He also made the stars. . . . “  Genesis 1:14-16

“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? . . . On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?”  Job 38:4, 7

“He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name.” Psalm 147:4

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God . . .. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.” John1: 1, 3

“I, Jesus, . . . am the Root, and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.” Revelation 22:16

The “gestalt” of VY Canis Major fused with these Bible verses and blazed into a whole much bigger than the sum of its parts. The Blood that bled for every speck of sin in my life coursed through the veins of THE ONE whose voice spoke the inferno of VY Canis Majoris into existence. THAT blood! The most precious fluid and outrageous gift in the universe because it was the Blood of the ONE who imagined, then spoke blood itself into being and who bound the vastness of himself within the confines of a completely human body to spill HIS blood instead of requiring mine.

And HE, PURE LOVE, PURE RIGHTEOUSNESS, PURE HOLINESS, PURE LORD OF ALL CREATION,  willingly gave it for me.

Oh, I wanted to grasp the enormity of that love in every cell of my body and neuron of my understanding!  Like a meteorite, infinite love tore through the atmosphere of my finite comprehension. Why in the world do I think I’m not loved? Why do we think we have to, or ever could, earn that love? And engulfed by that love, why in the universe am I ever afraid?

“His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns . . . and his name is the Word of God…. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS!” Revelation 19:12,13,16

Even now I feel like I’m writing an ionic plasma breath of truth with hands and understanding of concrete, but O God, let me burn with that reality one day! Brand my heart with it now: I AM YOURS! YOU SOUGHT ME AND BOUGHT ME! 

I WORSHIP, ADORE, PRAISE AND LOVE YOU!

A “…BUT…” to pray: Oh FAther God, Everlasting  Love, Jesus my LORD, I’ve believed you died for me to pay for my sins, but today I’masking YOU to help me feel the enormity of this truth in my heart, in my spirit, in the core of my being. I need you, ABBA Father, to invade my intellectual understanding with the visceral fact that I NEEDED to be saved or I’d be bound for Hell,  because in and of myself I have no righteousness AT ALL to stand before HOLY GOD, the Refiner and Fire who created the infernoes of the stars. And yet YOU LOVE ME! Invade, penetrate,  speak through my spirit into my heart, Holy Spirit. Here are my words of worship inviting you in __________________________________ In Jesus’ name, amen! (And the AlmightyGod your Father smiles and replies, “I’ve been waiting for you to ask me this….. I’m glad you did!) _____________________________________

 

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Fire in the Ashes

Rose Jackson © 8/3/2009

Some journeys take you to unexpected discoveries in familiar places. Walking through the most difficult time of my life through the smoking ruins of a destroyed relationship, I find Jesus waiting to meet me. . Recently my friend Sharon’s daughter, Charity, told me she wanted to take me on a journey through “the Father’s house,” a spiritual journey into Jesus that had given her a breakthrough in a challenging time in her own life. Hungry to experience God’s presence more deeply, I sat with her in Sharon’s bedroom and lifted my sanctified imagination to the Holy Spirit’s voice.

“Please, God, I don’t want to conjure this out of my own imagination,” I silently cried out. Long ago I had sat beside my then boyfriend in a “spiritual” Sunday evening church service, the hair standing up on my arms, my spirit filled with the suspicion that the “spirit guide” the pastor was listening to absolutely was NOT Jesus. I wanted nothing to do with that kind of experience ever again! But I know Sharon’s and Charity’s heart and faith, and my own as well, so this day I could sit in confidence believing that Jesus guarded my thoughts and nothing of the Enemy could enter. So I set off in my mind’s eye up a long driveway. We talked about what we were “seeing,” and my friend described a beautiful mansion in vivid detail. I was having some trouble, my analytical brain questioning whether what I was sensing was me or the Lord, but I pressed on in faith, believing God truly did want to speak something to my heart. Crossing polished hardwood floors, walking into large rooms whose vague details disappeared as I tried to focus on them, I just wasn’t getting anything. The idea is to “walk” through God’s house to find Jesus. My friend’s words were awash in love and amazement as she narrated her journey.

Hmmm . . . . No such experience for me. Why was I getting nowhere? After much mental wandering, I decided to follow the tug on my heart to go “out back,” and I pushed open a worn screen door and smelled my Grandmother’s apple tree. As my friend saw glorious flowers and a beautiful river filled with gems, I sat on the old wooden tree swing and felt someone pushing me. Ah, could I dare to believe this was Jesus? So natural, so common, so familiar, so ordinary . . . so wonderful! What I was experiencing wasn’t at all like the things Charity had seen in her own walk, wasn’t like the things her friend who’d first shared the journey with her had seen on her own walk, wasn’t like the splendor my friend was seeing now. So simple. So free.

Now Jesus and I sat in the grass on the edge of my Grandmother’s garden, and I smelled dill and rich, warm earth. “What does Jesus want to give you?” Charity asked.

“That’s a good question!” I thought. Nothing was coming into my vision as my hands dug beside Jesus’ hands in Grandma’s deep brown, moist soil. Ha! My hand playfully put a smudge of black dirt on Jesus’ left cheek, and I sensed -or maybe dared to believe – it pleased him. This wasn’t the grand spiritual adventure, the overwhelming breaking in of the Holy Spirit that I had hoped to receive. This wasn’t Acts 2 in the upper room. This was sitting on the grass with my hands in dirt, my hands beside another set of hands, feeling completely at peace and joyfully loved. This was awfully ordinary for a powerful spiritual encounter.

“Jesus wants to give you something. What is it? Ask him,” Charity gently encouraged. Vaguely I sensed something like a gold brooch in an extended hand, sensed rather than saw, and I got the impression the gold setting held an opal. He was holding it against my chest. “Ask him what it means,” Charity offered.

“Uumm . . . . ,” I was determined NOT to attach any meaning that wasn’t absolutely of God onto this experience. The still small voice of God was so quiet, more a trickle of understanding seeping into my mind. Sharon wasn’t sure what opals looked like. I know many precious stones are mentioned in Revelation 21 where John describes the foundations of the walls of the New Jerusalem, but I wasn’t at all sure opals were among those stones. “Opals – really pure, beautiful opals – are fiery,” I recounted. “Maybe – maybe Jesus is saying, ‘Don’t let the fire go out in your heart.’ Or maybe, ‘I won’t let the fire go out.’”

Tears erupted from my eyes. My heart is under siege – has been for the past six years. This wasn’t the encounter I wanted with the splendor of God, but a sweet communion with the passionately loving heart of Jesus, and if he wanted to run under me on my Grandma’s swing and wear a smudge of dirt from my hand, that was more than fine by me. He was telling me there was no place he’d rather be than here in my heart.

Wow! Sharon and Charity may have been a bit puzzled and underwhelmed, but I was overcome. I remembered I have a small opal pin at home. I checked both my jewelry box and my concordance as soon as I got home. Yep, there was the pin with four small opals, though the tiny white stones in it aren’t very fiery, and nope, opals aren’t mentioned in the Bible. Did that mean my experience had come solely out of my own imagination? I left a message asking about the significance of opals with a friend who’d spoken a year or so ago about gems in scripture to ask her about opals. When she returned my call, Amy said nope, it was a mystery to her, too. The Bible doesn’t mention opals. She did go on to explain some information she’d found on opals, and my heart soared as God’s assurance settled deeply in. This information wasn’t in any of the geology books we had at home:

Opals are semiprecious stones treasured for their fire and light. Very fragile, opals deteriorate in heat and cold. They contain water, but lose water easily in dry air and become brittle, so opals need to be worn next to flesh so the oils from the body can seal in their moisture. To clean an opal, you must wash it in pure water. Left to dry, an opal will crack and lose its brilliance and beauty.

There it was, God’s word to me: my heart is like an opal, and just as fragile. He washed and cleansed my heart in pure water, the Living Water of Jesus. My heart is meant to be – God WANTS me to be – filled with Jesus, my heart pressed close to his so it doesn’t dry out and lose its fire, brilliance, and beauty. There is absolutely nothing common or ordinary in that truth!

In this dry, hope-sucking valley of the shadow of death that I walked through where the Enemy is working to destroy my heart (are you walking that valley too?), God wants above all else for my heart (yours, too!) to be whole, beautiful, and filled with his fire, pressed against his chest in a place of safety, sustaining, and love. No one els’ed experience of the love of Jesus needs to be yours. he loves you too much to let you be less than the person He created you to be. Yes, Jesus is the only way to
eternal life, the only one whose blood was costly enough to buy you back from the hand of Satan, but the road He has to lead you to himself may be more like the screen door out to green grass than ivory columns and marble floors. Don’t let anyone impose the counterfeit forms of religious obligation on you when what God wants to do with all the you you are and in all the you He created is conform YOU to a reflection of the  likeness and love of Jesus.

I clasped my opal pin on the chain of a necklace I haven’t worn in over 30 years. The pendant on the chain is a gold-colored, jagged-edged half circle inscribed with these words from Song of Songs 2:16: “I am my Beloved’s.” Surprisingly, when the opal pin hangs on the chain, it looks like a cross . . . .

A ” . . . BUT . . . ” to pray: Oh, Abba Father God, my heart feels crushed, ground into the dust, broken, BUT your word says, “All beautiful you are, my darling; there is no flaw in you.” (SOS 4:7) and you promise I can count on your love and power as “(I) wait in hope for the LORD; he is (my) help and (my) shield. In him (my) heart rejoices, for (I) trust in his holy name. May your unfailing love rest upon (me), O LORD, even as (I) put my hope in you.” (Psalm 33:20-22) Restore the lustre, beauty, fire, and water to my heart even in the driest place with the Living Water of your love, Jesus. Thank you that my heart is precious to you and you hold my heart close to yours! You created me with all of this in me ________________________________________________, the good and the flawed, the simple and the complex, the  humble and the royal reflection of you in my talents to ________________________________________________________  and my desires to ________________________________________________________, my limitations of ________________________________________ that are the possibilities for you to ___________________________________________ out of your strengthened power to bless _______________________’s life and to bless the world by you doing ___________________________________________ in me and out of me anyway!  Open the screen door for me,Jesus, to hear you say ____________________________________________________________________________ to me today. ” . . . BUT . . . ” Abba, Father, Beloved, my heart is weighed down with ________________________ BUT I know you desire to restore my heart, so I give you ______________________________________________ and I receive your _________________________________________________. Take me to that place where your heart resides in me. Amen!