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Seeking Peace Along a Hard Road

Blessed Father, we desire to break bread with You, to walk with You & enjoy Your company. Make our hearts burn within us as we meet with You, unfolding Your Word in our hearts. Help us to see, hear & gain wisdom. Prepare us for the difficulties & joys of the day, so we may rely on You & give You glory no matter what may come. We seek You out for these blessings of faith & for the sake of Your glory being shown through us.
We pray this in Jesus’ Name, amen.

Luke 24: 13-35
13 That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14 and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15 While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. 16 But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17 And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. 18 Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” 19 And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20 and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. 21 But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. 22 Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, 23 and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. 24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.” 25 And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

28 So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, 29 but they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them. 30 When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. 31 And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. 32 They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” 33 And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, 34 saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” 35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread.

I long for these moments & experiences. As Christians, we long for the Lord’s presence, we desire to walk with Him, listen to Him & experience what these two experienced along the road to Emmaus. There is no greater joy than to be able to give our whole selves over to the will & mystery of the Lord, to be bundled up in His arms & to close out every sound but the sweetness of His voice. Swift & powerful, His tongue comforts & convicts, He cuts to the root of our sin & draws us up into the highest heaven. It is almost indescribable. But we long for these moments. We want every weekend worship gathering to be a place where we meet with Him like this, every moment spent in the Word like this, every encounter with a stranger, friend or family member like this when we share our faith with them.

But we must also be reminded of these two on the road. They were consumed, troubled & sad. They had expectations, desires for redemption & they wanted to see God’s hand move in a mighty & powerful way. And it took Jesus’ presence to bring them comfort. His Words, His presence, His laughter, teaching & prayer to open their eyes to what God had done & was continuing to do.

If we would feel His presence, then we must draw near & listen. We must hear what He says, and leave behind what fills our mind, giving it all over to Him in these moments where we need to draw near. While Jesus spoke, they were silent. They listened. They didn’t interrupt every third word, they weren’t engrossed in another activity. Their focus was undivided & therefore laser focused on everything He had to say. It was time spent just with Jesus. Unrushed, untouched, unadulterated. Just them & just Him.

If we want to feel the comforting presence of Jesus, then we need to give Him our attention. We need to listen & remove distractions. If we are broken & hurting inside, if life’s events are too much to handle & understand, then we need to trust Him with those moments & draw near to Him & Him alone.

Praise God for His Holy Spirit who can & does walk with us, even within us, through these moments of our day-to-day life. What a precious gift to know He is with us, moving, present & speaking to us. We simply need to seek Him out for peace & be still, trusting in His footsteps along the way.

Father, we bless Your holy Name! We praise the movement of Your Word in our hearts!
Teach us to listen & be still. remind us of Your presence & may we feel that sweet stillness in our spirits as we draw near to You along life’s road. Again, we pray in Jesus’ Name, amen.

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Sifted & Strengthened

Father, thank You for understanding our weaknesses & loving us enough to expose them to us. Thank You for revealing the depths of our need for You & uncovering our insecurities. Your love for us is infinite & Your mercies are new every morning. Jesus, You have been our Advocate in a way that no one else ever could be. Our flesh is weak, but Holy Spirit, You bring strength to our bones & stamina to our hearts. Please embolden us for today & sustain us until tomorrow within Your peace. We lack nothing with You & remain impoverished without You. We praise You for Your great grace, O God. Carry us through our season of need & be glorified in the process. We are Yours.
This we acknowledge in Jesus’ Name, amen.

Luke 22:31-38
31 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, 32 but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” 33 Peter said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.” 34 Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me.”

35 And he said to them, “When I sent you out with no moneybag or knapsack or sandals, did you lack anything?” They said, “Nothing.” 36 He said to them, “But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one. 37 For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors.’ For what is written about me has its fulfillment.” 38 And they said, “Look, Lord, here are two swords.” And he said to them, “It is enough.”

I think we all know what it feels like to be sifted. Shaken & tossed, who we are at the core is exposed & we feel like we have been left bare to the world. Any covering we may have had is removed & we are left open & we feel vulnerable. I’m sure Peter felt exposed when Jesus spoke about this, his own fears & weaknesses laid bare before his friends. It probably hurt, I guarantee it did. I imagine that Peter’s face went ashen when Jesus spoke to him about this & even when he tried to defend his love for Christ, Jesus revealed how quickly his denial would come.

We all have aspirations for ourselves within our faith.We have an image of our own devotion & strength for Jesus, & this ‘best case scenario’ of our faith-life is rarely reality when the pressure is one & it’s time to speak up or take steps of real faith. We tell ourselves stories, we are creative in justifying what we do & how we live. But when it comes down to it, we will deny, just like Peter did, that we have the capacity for such a quick falling away. But the proof is in the pudding, & belief is tested by pressure. We revert quickly to who we actually are when those moments come & Jesus wanted Peter to be prepared & to hear a word of grace before it came for him.

No one want to be left feeling inadequate, especially for the One who conquered death & sin & saved us from facing the wrath of God. But it wasn’t our strength that sent Jesus through His Passion & it wasn’t our righteousness that allowed Him to serve as our perfect sacrifice. We brought nothing to the table in this regard, we were continue to be inadequate when it comes to strength & saving ourselves. But Jesus is sufficient. Jesus is more than enough for us all. So when Peter was told about his coming failure & when you & I see our own moments of stumbling coming along, we can be reminded that it ids Jesus who brought grace & it is God’s Holy Spirit that fills us with the grace we need & provides us with strength for every obstacle.

Satan will always be our accuser, until the day he is defeated with a word & God’s judgment comes for all of us. He desires to ruin us & break God’s heart in the process. Jesus said it best, that he comes to steal, kill & destroy. But Jesus came so that we might have life & have it abundantly. When the enemy tries to attack or to remind us of past failures, we need to remember that Jesus has already opened the doorway to forgiveness with His own blood & that the devil holds no authority over us & his accusations fall flat. When we receive Jesus as Savior & Lord, our names are covered by His Name. Our identities are found in Him, not in our past, not in our mistakes & not in our weaknesses.

All glory & honor & praise go to Him for His great grace & love. He calls us to walk daily in those rhythms, not the old discord that used to define us, but in new rhythms of His grace & His love. We may still stumble, but He has already stooped to serve & help us stand again. May we be bold for Him & trust in the depths of His strength & His awesome forgiveness. He alone is worthy & makes us worthy in Himself. Thank God for that today.

Love Brings Discipline

Father, it is right that You would discipline us in your love. It is right that You would discipline us according to Your laws & statutes. Father, it is good & right that You would press us toward holiness & righteousness, selflessness & servitude. Thank You for loving us enough to stop us in our tracks and to bring us to correction in You through the blood of Jesus Christ. Give us wisdom so we can see, a heart of humility so we can listen. Thank You for treating us as sons & daughters. Amen.

Hebrews 12:1-11
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?

“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
    nor be weary when reproved by him.
For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
    and chastises every son whom he receives.”

It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

I have done things I should never have done. I have said things I never should have said. I have had thoughts that should never be entertained. I have harbored attitudes that I never should have allowed to foster in my heart. I am guilty. I am self-condemned.

I am so thankful for discipline. When I was a child, a toddler, my parents loved me enough to discipline me if I was doing something stupid. They had to discipline me not to run out in the road, not to stick things in electrical outlets, not to touch a hot stove. I am thankful that they loved me enough to discipline my actions. When I got older, I had to learn other disciplines so I could stay healthy and alive. I can remember being in Washington D.C. and on multiple, multiple occasions, one of my parents had to grab me by the collar to stop me from walking into traffic because I was too busy looking at everything around me to notice what was right in front of me. That lesson they began teaching me as a toddler they had to reinforce when I was 12 & 13 years old. I am still here today because someone loved me enough to discipline me, to correct me and to help me change my behavior, even though that meant I needed discipline over the long haul in the same areas.

Somewhere around age 18 (=+/- a few years) in America, we start to get defensive when people keep disciplining us. When people offer correction we begin to step over that line of it being helpful to it becoming insulting. We resist discipline, we fight it, and we cease to see its usefulness in our life. We figure that we have grown up now, and that we don’t need anyone to tell us what to do. And so we tend to ignore discipline. We see those who would correct us as being oppressive or overbearing. We want to do things our way & so we begin to view God as some kind of cosmic Principal who we only ever hear from when we’ve done something wrong.

But in Scripture, we see this teaching over and over again. Only a fool despises discipline and rejects it. When discipline comes, it comes from love, and God is a good Father to love us this way. He doesn’t just allow us to wander into the middle of moral issues. He offers guidance, correction & discipline when we wander. When we do things that are contrary to His desires for us, and that drag us away from walking in holiness, He lovingly corrects us, disciplining us as He sees fit. It is right & good that He would do this. If He didn’t, He wouldn’t be a very good Father. He’s not all cuddles & cupcakes. Sometimes God has to wield the ‘rod of correction’ in our life so that we find ourselves desiring to get back on track, but He isn’t some uncaring authority figure looming over us just waiting to hit us with a switch.

The author of Hebrews very clearly says that if we don’t receive discipline, then we should be worried, because that would mean that we weren’t His, that we weren’t a part of His family. And so we gladly endure His discipline, knowing that it comes from the deepest love we will ever experience. We endure it because we see that God intends His glory & our good to come from it. We endure it because we love Him in return, and because we want to look & act like Jesus, from the tops of our heads to the bottom of our feet. Our whole self being conformed to His image. There is a fruit of righteousness that comes form enduring His discipline, and if He loves us enough to do this work in us, we shouldn’t desire to miss a moment of it.

We should seek correction, walking in a mindset & heart of repentance. We should be ever mindful of thoughts and attitudes within us that do not honor God, working to take every thought captive. There is a degree to which we should exercise self-discipline & self-control, those are evidence of the Holy Spirit at work in us. But we should also be ready at any moment to receive this good discipline from God, our hearts ready and willing to submit to His good love. Learning from Him & being disciplined by Him teaches us, as disciplined disciples, to walk in His rhythms of grace & that is a very good thing.

Father, it is right that You would discipline us in your love. It is right that You would discipline us according to Your laws & statutes. Father, it is good & right that You would press us toward holiness & righteousness, selflessness & servitude. Thank You for loving us enough to stop us in our tracks and to bring us to correction in You through the blood of Jesus Christ. Give us wisdom so we can see, a heart of humility so we can listen. Thank You for treating us as sons & daughters. Amen.

We Do Not Shrink Back

Father, You have granted us a boldness in Christ. You have opened up the door that we might approach You and Your throne in full confidence. This is a deep, deep blessing. Thank You for providing this to us so that we might approach the difficulties of life, the trials and temptations, with this knowledge and expectation. If You have granted us this, then we can be that much more bold about the things of righteousness, moving forward in Your love, mercy, grace and honor. Thank You for this deep, deep blessing. May we use it to bring You glory & to draw others near to You. Amen.

Hebrews 10:26-39
26 For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. 28 Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. 29 How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” 31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

32 But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, 33 sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. 34 For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. 35 Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. 36 For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. 37 For,

“Yet a little while,
    and the coming one will come and will not delay;
38 but my righteous one shall live by faith,
    and if he shrinks back,
my soul has no pleasure in him.”

39 But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.

It’s funny to me how consistently we test out limits. We touch the paint by the “Wet Paint” signs, we stick our toes just over the lines that say “Do not cross.” The speed limit says 55 and we push 75 because everyone else does, and that seems to be the expectation. Sometimes we flirt with the line, sometimes we jump right over it. But when it comes to entering the presence of God, there had always been a historic line that meant death for any who would draw near without being prepared. Even those who were prepared entered with uncertainty. Priests who spend hours and days sacrificing, praying and preparing to enter the Most Holy Place in the Temple in Jerusalem would still enter with a rope around their ankle and bells on the fringes of their robe…just in case they fell dead in God’s presence, they could be removed without risking danger to their supporters.

But in Jesus, we have been offered full entry into the presence of God. The curtain in the Temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The veil separating us from the presence of God was eliminated. In fact, for those who are in Christ, He even went deeper than this. Rather than us needing to approach Him, He has approached us, and dwells within us. This is why we can move with such impunity before God, because He Himself indwells us.

There should be no lack of boldness (not arrogance) for those who are in Christ, then. If God Himself lives within us all, then there is no place, no effort where we do not go with Him. We pray and ask and seek that God would go before us, but we do not remember the fullness of this fact, He not only goes before us, but He moves in step with us as we go throughout our day. Whatever we do, wherever we go, we carry God with us. That is a major point of accountability, and it is a major point of encouragement.

Whenever we feel inadequate, we need to remember this great promise. Jesus is Emmanuel, God with us, and the Holy Spirit of God is God indwelling us. There is then no dividing line between God and man anymore once we allow God to deal with the sin within us. All we have is boldness & hope as we move with Him within these 24 hour rotations, within His rhythms of grace.

Do you want to move in boldness today? Remember who goes with you & suddenly everything seems a lot more doable. Even in sharing our faith, we will find His presence to be a comfort. Give it a shot today. Point someone to our-God-Who-dwells-in-us.

Father, You have granted us a boldness in Christ. You have opened up the door that we might approach You and Your throne in full confidence. This is a deep, deep blessing. Thank You for providing this to us so that we might approach the difficulties of life, the trials and temptations, with this knowledge and expectation. If You have granted us this, then we can be that much more bold about the things of righteousness, moving forward in Your love, mercy, grace and honor. Thank You for this deep, deep blessing. May we use it to bring You glory & to draw others near to You. Amen.

Shared Purpose

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My wife and I recently went to The Speed Art Museum for a date day. The Speed has a variety of art styles spanning centuries of human history. One room or gallery will exhibit one style or era or culture’s art or art history, and when you turn the corner, you may walk into a room with a completely different feel, cultural background or context than the space you were in 30 seconds ago. There is a shift in perspective then, that is forced or coerced so that the visitor is taken on a journey throughout the breadth of human creativity.

While we were walking, my wife asked me if I thought that ‘high school me’ would have anywhere near the appreciation or understanding that I have today. And, of course, the answer would be no. I used to be very skeptical of ‘Modern’ art, and openly mocked efforts that I deemed possible for a toddler to reproduce. Even some classical art fell under my scrutiny for various reasons. I didn’t understand individual movements, let alone the progression from one form to another. I didn’t see value where I didn’t understand value to already exist.

Pictured here is Sfumato,by Teresita Fernández, a piece made very recently in 2005. It’s a simple piece containing glass cubes placed directly on the wall. It’s the type of piece that I would have seen in high school, thought was interesting, but would have passed over as being ‘actually art.’ It falls under the realm of ‘cool’ or ‘interesting’ but would not have left me with any more reaction than a passing glance would have afforded.

Today, as an adult (as someone who spent hours and hours in a humanities program in college and who is married to an art lover) I can see more clearly, and I can extend appreciation for art that doesn’t sit bounded in by a frame, for pieces that don’t require a Leonardo or a Pablo attached to it in order for me to see its value.

When I looked at Sfumato last week, I saw the church. I saw all the individuals who gather in Christ and who reflect and redirect His light. I saw individuals making up a collective whole. I saw individually crafted pieces, set in a particular way, that while they do not directly interact with one another, they complete a larger image. I saw people with different talents, different backgrounds, different cultures coming together. Remade, re-imagined and re-purposed by the one who is setting the scene of eternity.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIf you turned one, twisted it, removed it or replaced it with something else…it would have been glaringly obvious. Each one has its place for a reason. Each one spaced closer to one and farther from another with a greater vision in mind.

I know that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. My wife and I have different styles that appeal to us more so than another, and that’s totally fine. And she may look at Sfumato and see something totally different than what I see. But I see Romans 12 at work on a wall in a secular art museum.

I see the body of Christ being drawn in and carrying a single identity as she is in process of coming together. Each one sculpted according to one standard. I see as casting off of individual desire for a greater will. I see uniformity in purpose, a shared purpose. Each one receiving the same light, standing on the same pure white field, but still maintaining its own perspective, its own place and its own context while still pointing toward that overarching, external influence.

We all see different things from wherever we stand, but we who are in Christ must also keep in mind that the end result is not about us, but about God and what He is doing. He is the artist, we must trust in His plan.

Shadows & Glory

Father, thank You for bringing us signs and symbols along the way that point our hearts toward You and toward Your plan. Shadows of glory-to-come remind our hearts of Your provision in the past, present and future. Shadows of glory-to-come remind us of Your intent to see Your Name glorified and Your will done.  These shadows were not without purpose and meaning, but they are not as deep, or wide or full as the true sacrifice of Your Son, Jesus Christ. We bless His Holy Name & we bless the Holy Spirit that reveals these things to our hearts. Amen.

Hebrews 10:1-10
For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near.
Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sins? But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.

Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said,

“Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired,
    but a body have you prepared for me;
in burnt offerings and sin offerings
    you have taken no pleasure.
Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God,
    as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.’”

When he said above, “You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law), then he added, “Behold, I have come to do your will.” He does away with the first in order to establish the second. 10 And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

As we read through the Old & New Testaments, we find so many parallels, so many things that call forward and backward to one another. Abraham sacrificing his only son, the son he loves, as an act of trust in God and God’s provision in that moment of sacrifice with a ram is a direct call to Christ’s sacrifice, His substitutionary death. God, working through Moses, parts the waters, His people pass through from an old life into a new following and dedication to Him pointing toward baptism and new life yet to come through Christ. All these shadows, all these interconnected events throughout history point us toward God’s will and His provision throughout the course and pathway of time.

But God wasn’t content to let things rest in shadows and symbols. He would be glorified when they played out to their fullness. We see humanity keeping laws and walking in the rhythms of the law, but God speaks to us through Christ and teaches us to walk according to the rhythms of His grace. Walking in the reality of the thing, rather than just in the symbol of it, is walking in depth and mercy and love. He has provided a deeper meaning for us to lash our hearts to and find our rest.

It also comes down to intent. Obedience to God’s will matters more than our ritual obedience. Our hearts must be engaged, not just our schedules. Jesus’ sacrifice is the true sacrifice, the others were simply shadows pointing towards it. He had to be engaged, not just pointed toward in order for wholeness to come to us and for glory to go to God.

Acting within the symbol of the thing does not mean as much as actually doing the thing. Otherwise it’s just words & words without action equates to hypocrisy.

And so we come to God, thanking Him for not just giving us a symbol of salvation, but for actually providing it for us. Through Jesus Christ, we find the symbol & shadow, the ritual sacrifice, done away with and the true sacrifice taking its place. In this fact and in the faith God provides, we find our rest. May we be that shadow, then, that points someone toward the reality of the cross today. May the image of Christ at work in us draw people to the true Christ and their salvation. May they see Christ at work in our speech, our actions and our attitudes as we walk with Him daily in the rhythms of His grace. May we step aside, so they can see God & give Him the glory.

Father, thank You for bringing us signs and symbols along the way that point our hearts toward You and toward Your plan. Shadows of glory-to-come remind our hearts of Your provision in the past, present and future. Shadows of glory-to-come remind us of Your intent to see Your Name glorified and Your will done.  These shadows were not without purpose and meaning, but they are not as deep, or wide or full as the true sacrifice of Your Son, Jesus Christ. We bless His Holy Name & we bless the Holy Spirit that reveals these things to our hearts. Amen.

Unfinished Work

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My wife & I went to the Speed Art Museum in Louisville, KY recently, and saw this painting as soon as we entered the first gallery. This is The Expulsion of Hagar by Cristoforo Savolini. 

Or is it?

It’s obviously incomplete. You can see where forms are supposed to go, where Abram’s incomplete leg was supposed to be, but the painting is obviously lacking in a lot of its intended content. Where is the background? What time of day is it? We have no context for this painting. Sure it was painted in 1675, but are they in Canaan, London or Amsterdam? Rome, maybe? Is this set in Abram’s time, in Savolini’s? A lot of the cues that tell us that this is a complete painting are sorely lacking.

So is it a painting?

We can see that an artist was at work, right? We can definitely see that skill was used to complete what has been done so far, so it meets the expectation for quality on that front. We can see hints of what’s intended for the remainder of the human forms through the sketching on the base coat, so the future intent can be interpreted, not to say that our minds don’t go ahead and start filling in the gap a little on their anyway.

So, can implied meaning complete a painting? I can visualize the tent door flung open behind Abram as he’s pressing Hagar and Ishmael out of the home. I can picture a rolled rug or mat tucked in the corner, a basket, maybe a chicken running out of the way, maybe even a palm in the distance behind Ishmael. But even with my imagination employed, is this a painting?

I have to say “Yes, it is.”

Why?

Well, I see lots of things every day that are incomplete, or that are still under repair, or being worked on, but work to be done doesn’t make that thing less of itself. It is what it is, but it is in a state of repair or work. There are two men in my house right now who are removing tile from an old bathroom and who will, by tomorrow, take that little room through varying stages of demolition, construction and completion. But the room is still a bathroom. There is a sink, a shower and a toilet. The purpose of the room isn’t changing, it isn’t being changed into a different type of room. So it was built to be a bathroom, it is being remodeled as a bathroom and it will continue to be a bathroom after they are done. Status in progress doesn’t change intent or purpose.

This is the same for us who are in Christ.

When we come to Christ, from the very first moment of our redemption, we belong to Him. We are being shaped, sanctified, and matured into someone who looks more and more like Jesus every day. We are a Christian when we make the decision to follow Jesus, when we come out the baptistry and when we begin our very first Bible study. In five years, when we are steadily involved in local ministry, serving on a team, reaching out to our neighbors, leading others in prayer and bringing people to Christ just like we were, we are still His, still Christians. We are simply in a different state with Christ than when we began.

So many times I have talked with people who expressed some kind of concern that translates into a feeling that maybe they didn’t really know what they were doing when they came to Jesus, like they were too immature to really grasp what it was they were doing at the time, and so they have discounted their conversion experience. But here’s the deal, starting your very first step in the rhythm of grace and knowing the dance by heart don’t change the fact that you are doing that dance, hand in hand with God. You are taking the steps with Jesus at the lead, you are in progress with Him.

Grace was needed when we came to Jesus, and grace will continue to be needed as we walk with Him and we will continue to rely on grace until the day we meet Him face to face and we finally are complete in Him. Walking in such a way that doubts that grace, its effectiveness or the work of God is an attitude that works against faith. We must accept that God has adopted us, and that while we are a work in progress, an unfinished work in Christ, we will one day find our perfection in Him, even if it is after our life has ended. We are His, we are Christ-followers, a people in transition even while we are a people who are secure. This is grace at work in us, over time, every day.

So, is it okay to look at ourselves as an unfinished work? Sure. Absolutely. But we must also realize that Christ has already done the work to see that effort in us brought to its completion. Abram is a figure on a canvas, it was up to Savolini to see him finished. Human effort will always come up short, we cannot complete ourselves. But Christ’s handiwork will see us brought around to where He desires us to be in His timing. We must simply walk in faith, trusting Him and trusting His process.

We’re a masterpiece in progress.
Enjoy watching the Master at work in you, one brush stroke at a time.

 

Purified, Redeemed & Given Peace

Father, bring us Your peace. Through Jesus Christ You have offered to us grace beyond measure. You have inaugurated our entry into Your presence with His blood, purified us and saved us from the wrath due us in Your judgment. Thank You for putting away our sin by this sacrifice. Thank You for promising us life beyond life and death. Thank You for the blessing of the greater picture of existence with You through Him. Thank You for the presence of Your Holy Spirit in this in-between time. Amen.

Hebrews 9:15-28
15 Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant. 16 For where a will is involved, the death of the one who made it must be established. 17 For a will takes effect only at death, since it is not in force as long as the one who made it is alive. 18 Therefore not even the first covenant was inaugurated without blood. 19 For when every commandment of the law had been declared by Moses to all the people, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, 20 saying, “This is the blood of the covenant that God commanded for you.” 21 And in the same way he sprinkled with the blood both the tent and all the vessels used in worship. 22 Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.

23 Thus it was necessary for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these rites, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. 24 For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. 25 Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, 26 for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27 And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, 28 so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.

This is a lot to take in, isn’t it? Centuries of human effort, ritual purification, sacrifice and an obvious inability to maintain moral standards left us reeling. We were desperate, the children of God were in need of relief, and the world needed a savior without even knowing they needed Him. Try as we might to deny sin’s presence in our life, we rationalize all our decisions, seek out our own way and call the effort worthwhile. We stubbornly stand in pride and deny correction when it comes.We’ve all stood silently in this place. We know our own hearts, even if we don’t speak what we feel all the time.

Emotionally and spiritually bankrupt, God saw our deep need to be cleansed, redeemed and brought into real peace with Him. We need to remember this, drink it in & rest in Him.

And so comes Jesus.
Pause a minute. Breathe & speak His Name.

Heaven’s sacrifice once for all who would come.
Final.
He loves You deeply.
Pause again. Breathe & speak His Name, Jesus.

We needed Him so badly. Our efforts always temporary, we needed relief. And so He brings us peace by removing the need for the effort, and taking it upon Himself. This is the richness of the love of God, this is the depth of His grace. This loving Father, making sacrifice on behalf of His children, so that we might bring Him glory and that He might sing over us in His peace.

Jesus is the One who stood in the gap. The Father the One who sacrifices. The Holy Spirit the One who indwells us as we are being made holy – Our Triune God gathering us into His love.

Pause a minute. Breathe & abide in the rest He provides. Breathe. Trust in our Great High Priest who offered Himself up as the sacrifice.

Breathe.
Rest.
Speak the Name of Jesus.
Trust in Him & Praise His Name.
Walk in the rhythms of His grace today.

Father, bring us Your peace. Through Jesus Christ You have offered to us grace beyond measure. You have inaugurated our entry into Your presence with His blood, purified us and saved us from the wrath due us in Your judgment. Thank You for putting away our sin by this sacrifice. Thank You for promising us life beyond life and death. Thank You for the blessing of the greater picture of existence with You through Him. Thank You for the presence of Your Holy Spirit in this in-between time. Amen.

Rivulets of Divine Conspiracy

Father, we can look back now, and see how Your grace snuck up on us. Working through the blood of Christ, in rivulets of divine conspiracy, you crept in from all angles and wrought Your terrible torrent of life-giving love on our broken, dead souls. Through something tangible, You did the unthinkable. Through something physical, You worked the eternal. Holiness shrouded in flesh, mystery upon mystery, You overtook us with the flood of Your poured out love and raised us to life. We praise Your handiwork, O God! We bless Your holy Name! Amen & Amen!

Hebrews 9:1-14

Now even the first covenant had regulations for worship and an earthly place of holiness. For a tent was prepared, the first section, in which were the lampstand and the table and the bread of the Presence. It is called the Holy Place. Behind the second curtain was a second section called the Most Holy Place, having the golden altar of incense and the ark of the covenant covered on all sides with gold, in which was a golden urn holding the manna, and Aaron’s staff that budded, and the tablets of the covenant. Above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat. Of these things we cannot now speak in detail.
These preparations having thus been made, the priests go regularly into the first section, performing their ritual duties, but into the second only the high priest goes, and he but once a year, and not without taking blood, which he offers for himself and for the unintentional sins of the people. By this the Holy Spirit indicates that the way into the holy places is not yet opened as long as the first section is still standing (which is symbolic for the present age). According to this arrangement, gifts and sacrifices are offered that cannot perfect the conscience of the worshiper, 10 but deal only with food and drink and various washings, regulations for the body imposed until the time of reformation.

11 But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) 12 he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.

13 For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, 14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.

The blood of God Himself, let loose in a divine river of life. It flows from Emmanuel’s veins. How sweet the sound of its rushing, how terrible the price. By You called us worthwhile, and You sang over us in our distress. You brought us comfort upon comfort, and You glorified Yourself all the while. This Lamb & Priest, the Sacrifice & Architect of salvation for all who will come to You. He poured out His life into the locks of the passageways of Your throne room, Father, and opened the way for us to return home.

It’s funny that we think the road back to You is ours to walk, ours to determine, Father, when You are the One who cut through the terrain, who smoothed out the way, who removed rocks and obstacles and build bridges over dangerous rivers so that we might survive the journey. The prodigal came home because the father provided the road, otherwise he would have been lost forever. Jesus paved the road with His sacrifice, and through Him, You provided The Way. We never saw them coming, these rivulets of divine conspiracy. But You work as You will, and Your will was bent on Your glory and on saving us from ourselves.

Veiled in flesh the Godhead see, hail the incarnate deity.
Robed in flesh, on earth to dwell, Jesus our Emmanuel!

Thank You for taking our temporary sacrifices and completing an effort we could never accomplish. We bless Your holy Name! I love that You do not work in direct paths, but in those circuitous rivulets of love, You teach us to follow along in step with Jesus, Your Holy Spirit guiding and comforting us in the pace and the rhythms of Your grace.

Father, we can look back now, and see how Your grace snuck up on us. Working through the blood of Christ, in rivulets of divine conspiracy, you crept in from all angles and wrought Your terrible torrent of life-giving love on our broken, dead souls. Through something tangible, You did the unthinkable. Through something physical, You worked the eternal. Holiness shrouded in flesh, mystery upon mystery, You overtook us with the flood of Your poured out love and raised us to life. We praise Your handiwork, O God! We bless Your holy Name! Amen & Amen!

Jesus’ Pre-Passion Prayer Pt3

Father, unity with others comes at a price. Unity with You comes at an even deeper price. Give us strength to sacrifice our pride, nailing it to the cross with Jesus. Give us the strength to die, to see with eyes of one looking back over their life as we draw our final breath, so that we might have eyes to see those things that would fill us with regret, and let us lay those sinful inclinations down to die so that we might live. Let us live in unity with You. Cleanse us, refine us and let us walk in Your glory through the sacrifice of Jesus. Amen.

John 17:20-26
20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.

24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. 25 O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. 26 I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”

This High Priestly prayer of Jesus is arguably one of the most beautiful parts of all of Scripture. Of all the gifts that God has given us in His Word, this shines out as a gem on the crown of the Gospel message. Jesus did not have to pray this prayer out loud, but He did, and He did it for our benefit. He speaks frankly with the Father, He speaks plainly for His disciples, and He speaks plainly for us. We see the desire of His heart, and we see our deep need for Him. And where we stand unworthy, He seeks simply to redeem us from our unworthiness.

Those days when we don’t feel worthy, when we don’t feel loved, lovable or worthwhile, Jesus calls out to us and says, “Listen to this! I asked God for you. I want you to believe in Me, and be drawn into this deep, abiding relationship with Me. You are worthwhile, and God will be glorified in this.” Because while it is ultimately all about God and His glory, we also see that God is glorified, and this pleases Him, when we walk in unity with the truth, and with Him. And this is what Jesus set about to do.

This relationship will stand as testimony to the whole world of His goodness, mercy, grace and loving-kindness. Your life and mine stand as a love letter, read out loud, just like this prayer was spoken out loud. God didn’t have to do things this way, but He chose to so that more and more might see and hear and be brought to salvation through Jesus Christ. He has made it known, and He will continue to make it known, because it glorifies God and it redeems us.

The world will reject us. They do not know Christ. Romans 3 reminds us:

What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, 10 as it is written:

“None is righteous, no, not one;
11     no one understands;
    no one seeks for God.
12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
    no one does good,
    not even one.”


Even in the face of our sin, Jesus prayed this prayer. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. This is grace. This is the rhythm we walk in with Jesus as we seek unity, daily, with the Father, and the rhythm that brings joy into our lives. Let us pause, remember and seek His wisdom & glory for this day.

Father, unity with others comes at a price. Unity with You comes at an even deeper price. Give us strength to sacrifice our pride, nailing it to the cross with Jesus. Give us the strength to die, to see with eyes of one looking back over their life as we draw our final breath, so that we might have eyes to see those things that would fill us with regret, and let us lay those sinful inclinations down to die so that we might live. Let us live in unity with You. Cleanse us, refine us and let us walk in Your glory through the sacrifice of Jesus. Amen.

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