Tuesday, December 31, 2013

When He Came Down . . .

Peace on Earth and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled!
. . . . .
Pleased as Man with men to dwell,
Jesus, our Emmanuel!
[literally “God with us”]

What do you do when someone has offended you?
Neglected you?
Betrayed you?
Sinned against you?

My reflex is to turn away from the offender, the offense;
Withdraw. Take cover. Create distance: It’s a gut reaction.
Like touching a hot burner on the stovetop and recoiling, recovering, self-protecting.
Other temperaments have an opposite instinct: 
attack, lash back, respond in kind.

This Christmas month, the marvelous truth 
I’ve been turning over in my mind
(like a flawless diamond, radiant from every angle)
is this:
In Jesus’ coming to earth,
God moved toward His offenders.
He came to establish peace
with those waging war against Him.

Think of the scale of our offense:
The Creator of all made us in His image,
to be near Him,
to know Him intimately,
to love Him and be loved by Him –
But humanity – by the millions 
rejected Him,
ignored Him,
offended Him,
betrayed Him.

His response to us defies human sensibility:
He did not turn His back, 
leaving us to our own foolish devices,
Letting humanity and creation spin out 
to its inevitable self-destruction.
Nor did he release His holy fire, destroying us
with the blaze of His (well-deserved) judgment.

He entered our world, coming close to those 
who had pushed Him away.
He moved toward those who had rejected Him.
He ‘climbed into our skin and walked around in it.’

Think of the scale of His earthly entrance:

From a radiant throne at His Father’s side,
Where He enjoyed a perfect relationship with His Father,
In a perfect place, utterly pure,
He stooped down low . . .

into an animal barn,
a backwater town,
an occupied nation,
a sin-stained world,
To come face to face with His offenders.

He came in compassion, in gentleness;
He came not to shake His fist at us, 
but to reach out His welcoming arms.
He came, ‘God with us’
To live the life we could not,
To give us peace with God 
that we could not make ourselves,
To call us His friends when we were His enemies.
Even to die at the hands of mankind – 
the greatest offense imaginable –
So that He could rescue us 
by God’s strong and tender hand.

For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God
through the death of His Son, it is much more certain,
now that we are reconciled, that we shall be saved
through His resurrected life. (Romans 5: 10)


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Why Jesus?

In Christ, 
God lives, 
by His Holy Spirit. 

And God's call to Jesus is:
to preach the Truth to us,
to heal our brokenness,
to free us from our prisons,
to comfort our griefs.

We give him our dust and ashes,
our broken dreams and misguided expectations,
burnt down to nothingness;
He gives us in return His eternal Beauty.

He covers our sorrows with His holy Joy;
He strips away our heavy spirits;
He dresses us in His rich praise!


So that our roots will sink deep into the richness of His life,
so that we will grow in Him,
so that we will bear fruit that delights Him,
so that the fragrance of our lives will lift Him on high,
so that our lives will be a song for His glory.

(Isaiah 61:1-3, my paraphrase)

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

From Leadfoot to Cruise Control. By Grace.

I’ve blamed it on being a Boston native.
On living in the boonies ‑ with a long straight highway my only link to civilization.
On perpetually running 5 minutes late, while being unwilling to actually ARRIVE late.
But the bottom line is the same: I am a serial speeder. (And I’ve got the tickets to show for it.)
Sometimes, years pass without a ticket. Other times, I’ve gotten 2 or 3 in a short timespan, much to the chagrin of my husband – who, with affection and exasperation, has nicknamed me “Leadfoot” and “Danica.”

With each offense, I’ve gone to court. I’ve used my birthday money or sacrificed some personal luxury in order to pay the fine. In other words, I’ve done something that would help me feel the sting and the shame of my law-breaking.

Did that convert me from speed demon into law-abiding driver? Well … no. All it produced in me was an eagle eye for police cars; I was more careful about getting caught.

But last October’s ticket was different. This time, something happened that provided me with a far different, far more powerful incentive (no, I am not presently incarcerated). I was having dinner with a friend who actually works at the court where I was slated to appear, and laughingly told her I’d be stopping by her office soon. Immediately, she offered to take the ticket, in spite of my hesitation to relinquish it. (How would I ever learn if I didn’t pay?!) She insisted, then called me a few days later to report that the fine AND the points had been removed. Why? Because I was her friend. And to the officer who had pulled me over, that was enough.

This unexpected gift and its beautiful result rings with the melody of the gospel. I don’t speed anymore. Not from a sense of shame that I’ve done wrong, but from the glorious realization that God’s love for me overcomes my every offense against Him (even my driving ones).

The law tells me what’s right and wrong; yet it cannot create in me a positive desire to obey. Instead, it creates shame and a fear of punishment, followed by a sense of having paid my own debt, once I’ve written that check.

But grace — my due punishment wiped away by a merciful God, without a court appearance or payment — begets love and joy and obedience. (In this case, it also begets a heartfelt commitment to use my cruise control.)

Can we just be honest here? Grace isn’t fair! It’s counterintuitive. It’s offends our sense of “if-then.” I mean, if I “get away with” speeding, won’t I just do it again? Even my sons recognize the audacity of my unexpected pardon. “But Mom, how are you ever going to learn if you don’t have any consequences?” one son asked me, apparently concerned for my speedster soul.

Many Christians believe ‑ and teach ‑ a qualified, watered-down grace; a lukewarm substitute that pales in comparison with the radical, extravagant, all-encompassing grace that God has shown us in Christ. Perhaps our hesitation to embrace God’s immense grace is from the same heart as my son’s: concern that we’ll never be motivated to change if we are truly and fully freed from our debt. 

All I know is this: I no longer speed. I don’t want to trample on the grace that God has shown me. Romans 2:4 tells me that it is God’s kindness that leads me to repentance. And this repentance is joyful!

So, driving the speed limit has become yet another way that I worship my Saviour.

His grace has forever changed my “leadfoot” ways.

His grace has forever changed me.

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy,
made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—
it is by grace you have been saved.
Ephesians 2:4-5

Recommended Reading:
Holiness by Grace, by Bryan Chapell