We need to go out to the outskirts where there is suffering, bloodshed, blindness that longs for sight, and prisoners in thrall to many evil masters. It is not in soul-searching or constant introspection that we encounter the Lord.
Tag Archives: Christ
Nothing is as sobering as seeing your sin and weakness and then marveling at the consuming beauty of grace. God has used a book over the past few weeks to do both in my life. I have had to put it down several times because the pain was too great and the worship so strong. Wrestling With an Angel is about a father’s experience with his special needs son and God. The subtitle of the book tells it all: A story of love, disability, and the lessons of grace.
It surprised me that it hit so hard. The chapters are short but the connection to what it means to be a fallen parent regardless of the child God has entrusted you to raise is sharp. I strongly recommend this for all parents. It will help you see your journey in a whole new light. Parenting is never for the faint of heart and some hearts grow through unimaginable pain. Here is an extended excerpt to provide a taste.
The alarm goes off inside my head usually a few moments before the clock on my nightstand sets in motion the events of the morning. It is amazing how the mind and body can sync to a schooled stimulus response, almost to the minute, each and every day.
It’s 5:58 a.m. and I have two minutes before my morning routine begins.
I watch the clock and wait for the alarm. It’s not a desire for more sleep that holds me in place. Nor is it the comfort of my blanket on this crisp, cold, dark morning. I take refuge in my bed for these few peaceful moments to think about my life.
I reflect on my weakness and inability to meet the demands that have been placed on me through the circumstances of my journey. I wonder why God’s plan for my life includes so much frustration and hurt. Then I question why God even has a plan for me at all as I contemplate my sin, self- centeredness, pride, and constant sense of failure.
Suffering seems to be the tool He uses to draw me close. But the very affliction of my soul and the anxious weariness of my heart, things that should force me to run to the light, often drive me furiously into the darkness.
I know He loves me and cares for me but sometimes I cannot understand this strange affection. What kind of love is it that brings so much pain into my life – especially from a sovereign being who has the power to make all things right. And so, by nature,I resist the One who ultimately has designed all these difficult conditions for my good and for His glory.
It’s 5:59 a.m. I want to turn off the alarm, go back to sleep, and wake up in a different place and time. I want to wake up a better man or in different circumstances, something other than what’s right here, right now. I am exhausted already, simply by anticipating the next twenty minutes. Guilt begins to disguise itself as conviction, and so I pray.
Father, forgive me for my sins – cleanse me from all unrighteousness. Make the cross of your Son visible for me this morning as I approach this day. Show me your greatness in the smallness of my life. Lord, I am helpless against what is before me this morning, and I do not know what to do. But my eyes are on you. Please wake my son gently and peacefully. Create in him a good mood and a cooperative spirit. Give him an understanding of your love. Give me an understanding of Your love. Ease his frustration and help me to get him out of bed, cleaned, dressed, and off to school. Create in me the heart of a father, that I might be the man my son needs me to be. Make me like Jesus. None of this will be possible unless you intervene in my life and my family this morning. Lord, before my feet touch the floor, give me strength and grace – especially grace. I am desperate for your grace…
The shrill tone of the alarm clock pierces my thoughts and brings an impromptu amen to my prayer. A bit startled, my heart begins to beat faster, pumping much-needed blood into my reluctant extremities, a slight injection of adrenaline to assure the job gets done.
“The primary purpose of the church is to give a ravishing vision of who Jesus Christ is.”
Holiness is the most attractive quality, the more intense experience we ever get of sheer life – authentic, firsthand living, not life looked at and enjoyed from a distance. We find ourselves in on the operations of God himself, not talking about them or reading about them. But at the very moment we find ourselves in on more than ourselves, we realize we also might very well lose ourselves. We cannot domesticate the holy. Moses didn’t take a photograph of the burning bush to take home and show his wife and children. Isaiah’s singing angels were not accompanied by a Handel oratorio, which he then purchased on a CD for later listening at his leisure. John didn’t reduce his vision of Jesus into charts which he used to entertain religious consumers with titillating views on the future.
Holiness is a furnace that transforms the men and women who get too close to it. Holy, holy, holy is not Christian needlepoint – it is the banner of a revolution, the revolution.
Why do we dare to “take it all in” when our hearts are ready to epode with grief? Why do we sing when we mourn? Why do we adorn graves with flowers? Because we know that death can only be recognized by the living, sorrow can only be shared by those who grieve, and there is no shame in dying. Death may look like failure to those who worship life. The grave may appear as a dark reminder for those who seek repose in the busyness of daily demands. But, for those of us who have died with Christ Jesus, if his death teaches us anything it’s this: what looks like failure is really victory; what appears to be loss is actually gain; what seems to be shameful is the place where honor is found; and what sounds like the mourning is true worship. Believers call it a “sacrifice of praise,” for only those who are crucified with Christ can thank God for each, a fragrant aroma.
Yesterday, during the worship service as we celebrated Jesus’ birth and looked forward toward his arrival, the absurdity of it all hit me. It is absurd that Jesus came as a baby. Babies can’t do anything. They are completely dependent on others. They are helpless. They get sick. They need to be fed and changed. They are needy. They are powerless over their world.
As I pondered how absurd Jesus’ arrival was, I began to think through Bible stories I know and how absurd they are. God created people knowing they would rebel. He called a nation to follow Him and all they did was make a mockery of His name. He used a harlot to deliver the spies of Israel. He used a bitter prophet to call a godless nation into repentance. Even Jesus using twelve people to change the world and then the most competent one betraying Him. And it goes on and on. It is just absurd.
But then it hit me. It is absurd that God would show me complete acceptance based on Christ and not my own effort. It is absurd to love your enemies. It is absurd to forgive those who wrong you. It is absurd to trust God rather than our own efforts. It is absurd to live by faith.
Those who have placed their faith in Christ are called to live an absurd life. It is absurd to a lost and dying world. It is absurd to logic and strategic thinking. Many things in relationships are absurd. A person who has first experienced the emotion of love does absurd things…and it is wonderful!
The challenge is to live the absurdity of this wonder out on a daily basis.
Evil is not minimized, but it is put in its place, bracketed between Christ and prayer. There is a detail listing of evil and a courageous facing of evil, but no explanation of it. Nowhere in the Bible is there any attempt to answer the question, “Why does a good God permit evil?” Evil is a fact. The Bible spends a good deal of space insisting that certain facts are evil, and not minor blemishes on the surface of existence. But the Bible does not provide an explanation of evil – rather, it defines a context: all evil takes place in an historical arena bounded by Christ and prayer. Evil is not explained but surrounded. The Revelation summarizes the context: admit evil and do not fear it – for “he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4); endure evil, for you are already triumphant over it – “ I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven” (Luke 10:18). The Revelation expands the apostolic and dominical words into visions. By putting evil in its place and enumerating it accurately in the precise part of the story where it belongs, it is seen as finite episode and not a total triumph.
Rather, I would argue that the connection between history and Christianity is essential. Because the Incarnation was nothing less than the entry of God Himself into the stream of human history, it affirms the reality and value of the lived human experience. The Second Person of the Trinity affects our salvation not as an abstraction, but as a human life. In becoming a son, a friend, a teacher, in speaking our language and mourning our dead, God affirmed the temporal and social reality of our being. In entering our history at a specific time, in continuity with a meaningful past, and proclaiming a future of consummation, Christ repudiated the classical understanding of cyclical and ultimately meaningless history and codified the Jewish understanding of history as the story of God and His people, a story with a beginning and an end. Christianity has temporarily in its essence.
Read the rest of the blog here: Why Christian History Matters