Sunday, November 25, 2012
“Ahhhh, it’s just a flesh wound.”
(That man is a prize. I see Jesus in him.)
Why does that kind of slow-to-anger, slow-to-blame, quick-to-forgive behavior surprise people? Because it’s not the norm. For the most part, we don't really expect that kind of kindness. But somehow everyone knows they’re supposed to be able to expect it from the people who call themselves “Christian” (which literally means “follower of Christ”). It was what people quickly came to expect from Jesus (the Christ) when he was walking the earth.
In the opening of the eighth chapter of John’s Gospel, you'll find a short story of a woman shamed and blamed - but not by Jesus. The religious scholars and leaders put her on public display at the temple and pointed out to Jesus that according to the law, she should be stoned for adultery. They wanted to know what Jesus had to say about it. I'm assuming they didn’t like to watch him heal the blind one moment and eat dinner with prostitutes and cheats the next. If he was really the Messiah, they wanted to see him punish somebody for making a mess of life. Instead, he called for whoever was perfect to go ahead and throw the first stone. They all walked out and left the rocks in the dust. Only Jesus, the Perfect One, was left. He turned to the woman and asked if any there was anyone left who accused her.
“No one, Master.”
“Neither do I,” said Jesus. “Go on your way. From now on, don’t sin.” (from John 8, quoted from The Message)
Mercy. Grace. Love-without-a-hook. It’s not exactly what all of Jesus' followers are known for - at least, not in the part of the world where I currently live. But it’s what Jesus was known for. It’s exactly how God wants to be known. At the end of 1 John, chapter 4, there is this astounding explanation of who God is, and how we are expected to represent it Him:
God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us.
(quoted from the NIV)
And that’s all there is to it. We love because he first loved us.
Messy, blame-able, skinned-up-and-worse us.
Filthy, blood-on-our-hands, rocks-for-hearts, vicious, just plain ugly…we deserved to be punished.
Instead, Jesus took the punishment and we got the capital-L-Love.
When we blow it, it doesn’t have to be a mortal wound. Jesus took the mortal wound and we get a clean slate.
I had conversations with two different friends recently about people who had been trapped by habits of the sort that destroy families and lives. We talked about how people trip up on something that shouldn’t be fatal, but because they are ashamed and afraid to let anyone know, that scratch becomes a mortal wound. It’s not God’s fault that people are afraid to say they blew it or need help. Jesus didn't do that to them. We did it to each other.
In this world, I want to be like Jesus.
I want to say, Ahh, it’s just a flesh wound.
Get up again. I’ll help you brush off the dust.
Here’s a band-aid.
Let’s keep going. I’ll walk with you.
Ambushed by the God-Who-Loved-First,
Wednesday, October 31, 2012
Calvary...the cross...Jesus – there is this explosive moment in time that changed all of time, past, present and future – for all of eternity.
We were goners.
Then there was Jesus, splitting open the grave and tearing open the curtain and blowing up the divide between us and God.
And now we’re alive and more-than-alive: we’re “a new creation”.
Could it be any clearer? Our old way of life was nailed to the cross with Christ, a decisive end to that sin-miserable life – no longer at sin’s every beck and call! What we believe is this: If we get included in Christ’s sin-conquering death, we also get included in his life-saving resurrection. We know that when Jesus was raised from the dead it was a signal of the end of death-as-the-end. Never again will death have the last word. When Jesus died, he took sin down with him, but alive he brings God down to us. From now on, think of it this way: Sin speaks a dead language that means nothing to you; God speaks your mother tongue, and you hang on every word. You are dead to sin and alive to God. That’s what Jesus did. -Romans 6:6-11 (MSG)
About a year ago, I came across this video online. I thought immediately of what-Jesus-did when I watched it (although that is not what the author intended to call to my mind):
This Is Our Universe, Can You Comprehend It?
I listened and thought, He has it almost right…
“ ...I thought I could never touch it, and yet something of it crosses the void and touches me..."
...we knew we could never touch Him, and yet something of Him - His Son - crosses the void and touches us...
“ ...stars have died so that I can live...”
...the Root of David and bright Morning Star died so that I can live...
I step out of the supernova that is Calvary ... and so do you…
That’s what Jesus did.
Ambushed by God on the cross, in the skies, and on the internet,
Monday, October 29, 2012
They never found how Biddy got through or over or around the miles of fencing that were meant to keep the pastures safe, but they found why. In a ravine, a clustered frightened group of sheep were gathered, still trembling as they had when they had raced for their lives across the open land. Their wild eyes could not see the three [shepherds] approaching them as friends but as something more to fear. At sight of Benj and Andrew and Peter an anguished sound came from the flock - high and plaintive from the mothers, sharp and questioning from the lambs...
With long strides Benj moved in among the flock, talking to them, reaching out his hands on either side to comfort and allay. Biddy had joined the flock, her dark brown fleece instantly discernible among the tawny coats. Somewhere she had found her lamb and was whickering over it, proud and happy. Her quietness and Benj's slow tones spread assurance to the flock and gradually they became calm.
Peter stayed with the sheep while Andrew and Benj went off across the pastureland and over the rounded nobs of hills searching for traces of the invader…
When dusk began to settle down, Andrew and Peter started home. Benj was left sitting on a stone, the gun across his knees, Biddy and her lamb beside him so the flock would not stray. Peter remembered him sitting there - as silent as a tree, as grim as a storm-laden east wind. (excerpted from Mountain Born, by Elizabeth Yates)
I listened to my husband reading and I could see God. I could see God's heart that caused Him to leap to our rescue.
I could hear God’s voice that calms the frightened mothers and babies (and everyone else).
I could look back in my life and see God’s form moving in our midst, bringing us comfort and peace. And I saw that God sits, a storm-front of strength and protection over His loved ones.
There is a God who will - and already has - moved heaven and earth* to come to your rescue.
My God is a storm to my enemy and a peace to me. I love Him for it.
Ambushed at story time with gratitude to the God-Who-Storms-On-My-Behalf,
I love You fervently anddevotedly, O Lord, my Strength.
Saturday, September 22, 2012
I drove along the ocean a few days ago in what I suspect were hurricane-force winds. The river was already beginning to overflow its banks here and there along the highway. I have friends who just got the trees off their roof from two storms ago.
One storm after another has blown through this part of Alaska and high winds, flooding and power outages have taken over the evening news. The weather forecasters say there’s another storm headed our way. I’ve lost count…I think this might be number four-in-a-row?
As I write, there are bright holes in the clouds, but the winds are picking up. The power lines outside the post office were whistling frantically this afternoon. Rainbow ends glow against purple mountains in the distance. Dark clouds like bruises are rolling across the sky, purple and gray and a strange yellow.
We’re between storms.
I’ve felt that way before (and I’m not talking about the weather now) – just barely catching my breath from one storm, and here’s another one rolling in. One of the reasons it means so much that God squeezed Himself into a human body and walked around subject to the law of gravity like the rest of us is that when He talks to us about peace-in-the-midst, we know He knows what He’s talking about.
When Jesus said He was giving us His peace, He knew exactly what a priceless treasure it would be in life on this earth.
Peace I leave with you; My [own] peace I now give and bequeath to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. [Stop allowing yourselves to be agitated and disturbed; and do not permit yourselves to be fearful and intimidated and cowardly and unsettled.]
Jesus said this in the middle of telling His closest friends that He was about to be betrayed, denied (by Peter), and that He would be leaving them. Jesus and His disciples were between storms and Jesus talks to them about…peace. And He could do that because He was at peace.
Peace isn’t necessarily the absence of the storm around me – it’s more about the absence of the storm within me.
When the Amplified Bible explains that Jesus is saying, “Stop allowing yourselves to be agitated and disturbed; and do not permit yourselves to be fearful and intimidated and cowardly and unsettled,” I can feel the arrow hit its mark.
And when the bad news is still ringing in your ears and lightning strikes again, there is Jesus, right in the middle, in and between the storms with you, saying, “My own peace I now give and bequeath to you…” It doesn’t get any better than God’s own peace – the peace that took Jesus to the cross and the grave and beyond.
Monday, August 6, 2012
Honeymoon with God? That’s right. He’s the ultimate romantic. He thought up romance. Throughout the Bible, God describes Himself as a husband, a lover, a pursuer. The whole idea of being “ambushed by God” is really just noticing and celebrating the surprise-love-gifts He gives.
I had a text-message from one of these honeymooners recently. It went like this:
“Awesome, awesome and more awesome…God just stole my heart! I just saw a whale 25 feet from the ferry. How does He know that I love whales? Oh, right – ‘cause He is GOD!”
Right. He’s God. He made you and He knows exactly what will make you catch your breath in wonder and fill you with joy. When He made this Honeymooner (the one on the ferry), He must have said to Himself, “This one will love My whales! They will make her happy, like they make Me happy. When she sees them, she and I will be happy together!”
This is the Love worth living - or dying - for. This is what that strange, homesick feeling that you can't put your finger on is all about. Love is what you were made for, it's the purpose in life, and Love has a name: Jesus.
"Someone or something has romanced us from the beginning with creek-side singers and pastel sunsets, with the austere majesty of snow-capped mountains and the poignant flames of autumn colors telling us of something - or someone - leaving, with a promise to return. These things can, in an unguarded moment, bring us to our knees with longing for this something or someone who is lost; someone or something only our heart recognizes."
(from "The Sacred Romance" by Brent Curtis and John Eldredge)
As for me, He knows He can ambush me with just about anything. Currently, it’s little wisps of baby hair, missing front teeth on a growing boy and a shelf full of just-canned salmon…
...oh, and watching others being love-ambushed!
Tuesday, May 22, 2012
And I love them for it!
Ok, so I'm not referring to what most people think of when they hear the term "gold digger". You might also call these people “treasure hunters”. They’re the type who look for the gold in people, even if it’s hidden deep (really deep!) in there under a veneer of rock, a pile of rubble, or worse. They’ll search it out like a beachcomber with a metal detector and the minute they find something of any value whatsoever, they celebrate the find.
These are the people who look for potential and promise, not polish and perfection. They look past the obvious, past the difficult to spot the diamond in the rough – sometimes way in the rough. These people coax the unseen treasures in others to the surface. They see the artist deep inside the office worker, the teacher no one suspected in the shy one, and the poet who lives unknown in the accountant. They summon those in hiding to come out into the sunlight and reveal truth and beauty and God to us all.
Jesus is the ultimate gold digger. He looked at a rough fisherman with a loose-cannon-of-a-tongue and saw a disciple. He looked at a corrupt tax-collector and saw a righteous man waiting to see the light of day.
In the Gospel of Luke, chapter 7, we read about another diamond-in-the-rough recognized by Jesus when everyone else saw a dirty rock. Jesus was a dinner guest at someone’s house when a shunned woman – “an especially wicked sinner" (Luke 7:37, Amplified Bible) – crashed the party. She washed Jesus' feet with her tears and hair and poured expensive, rare perfume on them. The host of the dinner party thought to himself, “If this man were really a prophet, he’d know what sort of woman this is…” Oh, but Jesus did know. He was the only one there who knew. He immediately saw past the reputation to the gold in her heart and announced to everyone there that she was one who “loved much” and declared her forgiven and at peace.
I want to do that.
I want to recognize the treasure that is easily overlooked and call it to the surface.
After all, God saw the treasure in me.
The "treasures" my six-year-old recently found because he so patiently sifted through piles of gravel and sand the others left behind at a sluice box.
My six-year-old son is a gold digger, and a treasure hunter in every sense. He loves to draw “treasure maps”, hunt for rocks, and find the gold in those “irregular people” many of us just struggle with.
He and I like to hunt for rocks together – we have done this since he took his first steps. One day a couple years ago, he excitedly handed me a rock as we walked the beach. I took the rock, surprised he’d even noticed it. It looked very plain to me – uninteresting. There was no special color or shape to it that I could discern, but he insisted we keep it, so into the bucket it went. When we got home, we began to line up our finds on the porch railing. When I picked up his rock that had so failed to impress me, I turned it over. On the other side, it was a perfect heart. I hadn’t noticed earlier because I hadn’t bothered to turn it over, hadn’t bothered to really look.
How often have I failed to look deeper, past the plain side, past the unattractive parts, to see the treasure in someone? It is there in every single human being - they were each one made in God's image, after all. If I can't see the value there, I'm just not looking hard enough.
For the Lord sees not as a man sees; for man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart. (from Samuel 16:7, Amplified Bible)
Ambushed by the God-who-saw-me-for-real,
Saturday, May 12, 2012
Kind of like a mother.
She spends her years getting the next generation ready to launch into the destiny that God has written. He whispers it to her and she holds it in her heart and in her hands.
Here comes the wind!
There go the seeds!
"...her children stand and bless her..." (from Proverbs 31)
Happy Mother's Day to the mothers - those who are raising children, those who've launched their children, those whose children live in Heaven, and those who've loved the children of others. May you be Ambushed by God on a windy day and see the seedlings take flight!
Monday, April 9, 2012
During all the conversation about the day yesterday, my friend sent me a copy of an old email I’d written. I’d like to repost just some of it:
Can I share some excerpts from this book?God not only wants believers to come closer to him; he wants those who are far away from him to come, too. He said that if you would call to him from wherever you are, from the very farthest point in all creation, he would remove all the distance between you and him. God WANTS you. He is not looking for reasons to disown you, but he is looking for reasons to help you and to bring you closer to himself...
God says, "You can come to me now! The barriers are down! You have been reconciled by the death of my Son!"...
All of our needs are covered in the atonement. With his covering over us, God can see us and accept us...Because people are in bondage to fear, it is important to God that people know that before he made the earth, he planned that they would be covered by his atonement. This is why he had Paul write in Ephesians 1:4, "Long ago, even before he made the world, God chose us to be his very own, through what Christ would do for us; he decided then to make us holy in his eyes, without a single fault - we who stand before him covered with his love....
The reason this is of such high priority with God is that people cannot really serve him without genuine assurance that their position in him is safe. Knowing this is REAL security! God is letting people know that he will not let them go without a struggle...
Wherever Christ and his message have been carried, there has been light. Where he has not gone or where the message has failed to penetrate, there is darkness. He is the center of life! He is the heart! Without Jesus, the very life, the very heartbeat would be gone from everything. Oh, God, may we never be the same because we will see, we will know, we will feel, we will have, we will live, because of what the death of Christ has brought to us. May this be the time in our lives when we take out the contract you made with us, written in the blood of Jesus, look at it, and recognize that something very special took place. It was not merely the snuffing out of this life, and the putting to death of his human mortality!... It was more!...
The second death which faces mankind brings fear, dread and torment to him all of his lifetime. This was the death Jesus took for us...Jesus suffered pains that even the ungodly, those totally separated from God, had never felt, for the ungodly have never felt the pangs that come when the last little flicker of hope is extinguished...While living on this earth, they have never felt the weight, the hopelessness and the horror of feeling the cold side of God as he turned his back on them. Jesus suffered the torment of a damned soul! From his heart he cried out , "Oh, God, why have you forsaken me?" and the cold pangs of eternal damnation, those icy fingers gripped his life, and Jesus suffered the judgment of God. He was totally separated from God at that moment!
Oh, God! Oh, God! Oh, God! Oh, God! I want to bring this truth to people. Build a picture before us right now. Let us see what you have done. Let us see your love for us that was so great that your only begotten Son became our substitute! ... Every lie, every sin against ourselves and others, every murder, all adultery, all immorality, all dishonesty, all cheating, all rebellion, all idolatry, all enmity through witchcraft and satanism; yes, everything we could be charged with is laid on him.
He has become the sin bearer. He has become sin, bearing all the concentrated dregs of the rottenness of billions of people. Visualize him as the bulwark against Satan's attacks. God says, “See him, discern him, because if you don't, you are often weak, you are sickly, and you are subject to the attacks, the let-down and the draining of your spiritual strength. See him, not as something of beauty, but as that sacrifice, with that rottenness upon him, with every murder, every lie, every bit of immorality, every bit of wickedness that could possibly exist, all the stench of homosexuality that caused Sodom to be burned; everything laid upon him there!”
Then as you see him, God wants you to see on that body, YOUR sin, YOUR weakness, YOUR failings, EVERYTHING that you have been worried about! They are there, but they don't have any strength! They are only the ashes of sins that used to be. Just the burned-out cinders! When you see this, sin loses its grip and its power to hurt you. You sins are nothing but ashes, because the blazing stroke of God's wrath and judgment fell on that body. With all the sins laid on him, and all of God's goodness poured into us, we can stand before God, knowing that sin has lost its power over us. ... He has turned sin into cinders. He has blotted out the records...he WANTS us! He is not looking for reasons to destroy us, but to save us.
I know that was a lot to quote. I could quote more, but I'll stop there. I'm beside myself! It's more than we can comprehend! How is it that God is so good? He is so good! He is the standard of all that is good and none of what we call good compares to Him!
As I re-read this now, a year later, I’m still amazed by a Savior who would go to such great lengths to rescue me - and more. He got rid of anything that stood between God and me. And all of it – every barrier – was my own fault! Every selfish choice, every hurtful word, every shred of hatred and deceit and wickedness and every fear in me, Jesus overcame for me. He became the scapegoat for everything that was horrible in me in order to do what I couldn't. He really is better than anything we call good.
So...what – really – is the big deal about Jesus?
He did the greatest thing anyone could ever or will ever do, and what He did will last forever and ever, into your tomorrow and mine and all the tomorrows for always.
He is why we even HAVE tomorrows.
Ambushed by the God-Who-Overcame,
(Thank you, Kathy, for sending me that email to re-read!)
Excerpts from "Angels on Assignment" by Roland Buck, copyright 1979 Roland H. Buck, published by Whitaker House.
Friday, April 6, 2012
But “Good Friday” is the right name. We had nothing good to offer, and our lack of goodness was killing us. Goodness Himself came and did the greatest thing anyone had ever, could ever, would ever do in all of history and throughout all of eternity. He did it for us.
That’s the standard of “good” – Jesus. His perfect sacrifice.
And now we can have goodness, a new life. A good, new life.
One man died for everyone. That puts everyone in the same boat. He included everyone in his death so that everyone could also be included in his life, a resurrection life, a far better life than people ever lived on their own.
Ambushed by God and given a good, new life,
Saturday, March 31, 2012
And I found it in the prayer house.
A church where we're visiting right now has built a small, beautiful prayer house. It’s mostly glass and it’s up on a hill. That’s where I ran when the hail started. I could still hear the storm out there. I could see it all around me. But in there…it was…still. The storm made itself known, but it couldn’t touch me in there.
“But let all those who take refuge and put their trust in You rejoice; let them ever sing and shout for joy, because You make a covering over them and defend them; let those also who love Your name be joyful in You and be in high spirits.”
(Psalm 5:11, Amplified Bible)
Outside the glass walls I could see hawks soaring in the distance, riding the currents on the edge of the storm. Trees waved wildly. Rain fell in sheets.
Inside, there was a fountain quietly murmuring. Storm-sounds drowned it out from time to time, but it was still there, bubbling up and over. I could see it. I could feel the occasional stray drop splash on my skin. It was closer than the storm that was all around me.
That’s what it’s like to find your shelter in God. You most likely can still see the storm, and it may rage so loudly that it is all you can hear for a moment. But if you find your shelter in Him, no storm can really touch you.
“You are a strong tower, where I am safe from my enemies. Let me live with you forever and find protection under your wings, my God.”
(Psalm 61:3-4, Contemporary English Version)
There were others in the prayer house today, too. They found their way there before or during the same storm. We smiled silently at each other, This is a great place to be during a storm.
It's not just any port in a storm - it matters which one you run to.
Rain on window
Say this: "God, you're my refuge. I trust in you and I'm safe!"…
"I'll get you out of any trouble.
I'll give you the best of care if you'll only get to know and trust me.
Call me and I'll answer, be at your side in bad times;
I'll rescue you, then throw you a party.
I'll give you a long life, give you a long drink of salvation!"
Ambushed by God and given refuge in any storm,
Wednesday, March 28, 2012
Oh, the things a mama can learn from a six-year-old boy!
Boy: (Getting excited now) Draw a picture of me and make me a knight! And put a castle behind me and a dragon in front of me. AND GIVE ME A SWORD! And give me some armor!
Many years ago, I visited Corrie ten Boom’s house in Haarlem, Holland, where the Ten Boom family hid Jews from the Nazis during World War II. I remember there was a small plaque there that said, “Jezus, de Overwinnaar” . Translate the Dutch to English and it says “Jesus, the Overwinner” or “Jesus, the Victor”.
He considered that and then went on to line up his knights, their horses, some unmanned horses borrowed from a game, his little brother’s sealife figurines, and a zebra (everyone gets a chance to be a hero!) – all to fight and slay the big, red, fire-breathing dragon (who was already doomed to lose).
Yes, my son, I thought, you are getting ready to slay some dragons.
(And so is your mom. Now…where’s that sword of mine?)
Ambushed by The Overwinner,
*lyrics from a CD of children singing, titled "Greater Things", available on ibethel.org
Oh, there it is! My sword!
A friend read this post and sent me this (she drew it...I love it). Thank you, Rebecca!
For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12, KJV)
Thursday, March 22, 2012
This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It's adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike "What's next, Papa?" God's Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children. And we know we are going to get what's coming to us—an unbelievable inheritance! We go through exactly what Christ goes through. If we go through the hard times with him, then we're certainly going to go through the good times with him!
That's why I don't think there's any comparison between the present hard times and the coming good times. The created world itself can hardly wait for what's coming next. Everything in creation is being more or less held back. God reins it in until both creation and all the creatures are ready and can be released at the same moment into the glorious times ahead. Meanwhile, the joyful anticipation deepens.
All around us we observe a pregnant creation. The difficult times of pain throughout the world are simply birth pangs. But it's not only around us; it's within us. The Spirit of God is arousing us within. We're also feeling the birth pangs. These sterile and barren bodies of ours are yearning for full deliverance. That is why waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting. We, of course, don't see what is enlarging us. But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy.