April 17, 2021

Jesus is so Irritating!

Am I allowed to title a blost in that way?  I mean, can I tell the Lord that He is annoying?  It's not His fault, really.  He is simply busy being the Lord of my life and, unfortunately, I don't always appreciate that living under the Good News of what He's done for me means I can't just do and be whatever I want.  Here's where He's getting under my skin (under my sin?!) this week.  And, truth be told, I am very thankful for it!

Philippians 2:6-8 says this about Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—
        even death on a cross!

That's really awesome, right?  He was God, but made Himself nothing so that we could be reconciled to God by His death and resurrection when we believe in Him.  That's the Gospel Christians talk about and celebrate.

But guess what Paul says to the believers in Philippi just before that, in verse 5?

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

[crickets, or maybe an expletive if that's more your style]

I have been thinking a lot about how polarized people feel/are right now and how heavy everything seems.  As someone who often sees the value, even if just in part, of people's perspectives on both sides of an issue, it grieves me a lot to see so much posting of trite memes and sarcastic one-liners, in general, but especially by fellow believers.  It's easy and makes us feel good, but we have to call it what it is: wrong and dishonoring to our God and fellow image-bearers.

In the verses above what I read is this: Jesus had every right to be a trite meme and sarcastic one-line poster in His day!  He knows what's in the heart of man (John 2:24) and He knew His own righteousness; He knew how often people came to Him for selfish reasons and personal gain, but not to love Him. He alone in the history of mankind had the "right" to judge everyone He met.  And what did He do?

He served.  He died.

He looked over the crowds and had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd. (Matthew 9:36)

I guess in one sense, He did make a judgment about them.  But it was motivated by compassion (love) which protected Him from writing them off as a bunch of idiots.  You poor fools lost in your sin!

This is how God directed my thinking yesterday as I vacuumed my kitchen - yup, our kitchen is carpeted; it's silly! - while trying to process all the information and opinions I have encountered on social media and in the news this week in light of the evil at work in our world.  Living in the era of social media and quick access to information, no matter how true or incomplete, fuels our natural tendency to make rash judgments (not to mention fools of ourselves)!  All of us do, whether we post about it to let the world know or simply hide it in our hearts, pridefully smug.  I, too, form opinions and am quickly tempted to write off certain people or groups as hopeless at best, or unredeemable at worst.  Can you relate?  I imagine some of them may feel the same about me!

But not Christ.

The only One who could have pronounced judgment, instead made Himself the way to be rescued from it!  And Paul reminds the Philippians and those of us to walk with Jesus in 2021:

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:


What must we do with our hard, judgmental hearts when they act up? Go straight back to the primary message of the kingdom of God: repent and believe the good news!  That is the Word of God to those responding to Christ for the first time to those who have known His salvation for decades.  This is surrender to His will.

Find yourself out of step with His will, casting judgment on others?

Repent and believe the good news.

Christian, you and I have been made new!  The made-new listen to the Spirit, confess the sin to their loving Father, and remember the risen Savior and the glorious work He has done in their lives.  All this reminds us of how eager we are for others to know this freedom: from sin and also the freedom from needing to play God and decide if people are worthy or not.  He says they are!

But wait, there's more! The Lord also shows us His way and transforms us into people of compassion, people who speak life, people who reflect the light of Christ in the world, people who model their relationships with others according to the mindset of Christ.

Thank goodness He provokes us by His Spirit to get us back to Him.

Praise God with me today that Jesus is so irritating!

April 4, 2021

Happy Independence Day!: an Easter Reflection

Friends and strangers who might read this,

These words are my Easter gift to you.

With affection for you
and all praise to God: Father Son and Holy Spirit,
Heather 💛

Jesus ushered in a new kind of kingdom. He proclaimed the good news that included the language of freedom from bondage.  The more He talked about it, the more curious it became and the less His hearers, even the twelve, seemed to understand the purpose of the newly-arrived/coming kingdom.  Many Jews thought of freedom from Rome and expected Jesus to set Jerusalem free from their tyrannical reign.  In the present day, here in the United States, we too can misunderstand, despite not being under the thumb of a foreign power.

Our origin story is one of shaking off the rule of a monarchy.  Since it's in our DNA, we are always looking to wrap our arms around freedom and liberty - values as precious to us as friends and family.  Unfortunately, that orientation can influence our reading of Scripture as we filter Christ's words about freedom through our specific way of looking at the world - similar to the Jews of Jesus' time.  Indeed Jesus Christ sets free from sin each one who He fills with faith to call on His name.  But it's a dependent freedom, a liberty that binds us to a new master - the all-powerful One who is also the Good Shepherd - and a call to live for His purposes according to His values.  We are set free from a tyrannical ruler into the kingdom of our good Creator, under His authority.  But that rushes us ahead too quickly.  Let's start by taking a look at how it all began.

Holy Week has had me thinking about Eden, that most lovely of gardens, and its connection to Christ on the cross and Christ the risen one.  There, as the world was spoken into being, humankind was created to worship and submit to a leader; their Creator King was in charge of setting the rules and boundaries of His creation.  From then till when Adam and Eve ate the fruit, they worshiped and submitted to their Creator King as He intended it to be.  But He gave them agency as His image-bearers in His creation, to choose to follow Him or not.  In the end, deceived into believing that perhaps their Creator King didn't really have their best interest at heart, our fore-parents looked at and desired the one thing they could not have, and had it.  Thus death became a player in the drama.  We've all been born into it since.

Their Creator King had told them that if they ate of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil they would die (Genesis 2:15-17).  Well, we're all here today, so they obviously didn't die-die, but a separation opened between them and their Creator King.  They could no longer serve Him in purity, because they had decided to be rulers of their own lives.  Sin (the condition into which we are born as sons and daughters of Adam and Eve, not individual peccadillos) was the new ruler of human hearts.  According to the Bible, no one has the choice of not being in its service (Romans 3:9-20).  If we are honest in our assessment of humanity throughout history, we see the ramifications of this reality everywhere: from wars, injustice, and abuse around the world to our own inability to control our thoughts and actions enough to consistently be "good people."

Let's go back to Jesus' talk about freedom from bondage then.  One Sabbath day, (recorded in Luke 4:16-21) when He stood up in the synagogue (think church) to be a reader from the Hebrew Scriptures during the service, they gave Him a scroll from Isaiah.  After reading, he told the worshippers that the words were fulfilled in their hearing, that very day.  What did he read?

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because He has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives,
and recovery of sight to the blind,
and to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.


In the garden of Eden, they were free, abiding in the Lord's favor.  What did that freedom look like?  It certainly did not look like life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness in the way we perceive freedom.  It was a Creator-King-oriented freedom, set within His boundaries, full of sensual delights and shameless intimacy: God to human, human to human, even human to nature.  No shame.  No fear.  No barriers in relationships.  No bondage caused by physical, relational, emotional, or even spiritual baggage or brokenness.

Jesus came so we could get back to that with our Creator King and to ultimately restore all things to their former glory!  The only way was for Him to bridge the gap of the separation caused by sin and death.  God had to enter into our plight, become one of us, die in our place, and rise victoriously in triumph over death.  AND HE DID!

In the Easter devotional Suffering and Glory, Anthony Carter says, "For [Patrick] Henry it was liberty or death.  For Jesus it was liberty by death. ... The death and resurrection of Jesus set us free." p 17   I just love that so much.  The freedom (and joy!) we seek are found through the ugliness Jesus suffered and the power that raised Him from the dead!

All those longings and desires you and I have for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness*?  The Bible tells us those are simply our attempts to escape death, trying to shake off the bonds of sin in our life.  Yet every attempt we make, while we may have some success here and there, never truly set us free.  We continue to encounter the effects of sin and death in our lives, within and without.  There seems to be no escape.

That's because, apart from a Creator-King intervention, there is no escape.

BUT HE INTERVENED: the second person of the Trinity, Jesus Christ - fulfilling the prophecies of the Old Testament and the will of the Creator King for His beloved image-bearers - came, lived sinlessly, died unjustly, and rose victoriously so that we too might live, now and forevermore!  In surrender to Him, by taking Him at His word, our hearts are satisfied.

If Easter teaches us anything, it is that death doesn't get the final say; Jesus does.  Christ rose from the dead!  Today the invitation is to, as Matt Maher says in the song below, COME AWAKE!  Every Sunday is a celebration of our Risen King who came:
  • to give life for the walking dead,
  • to atone for the sin,
  • to sucker punch shame and guilt and damn them to hell,
  • to rise to restore us and return us to our Creator King.
Taking Him at His word, we can live now and forever WITH Him, under His trustworthy and benevolent rule.  He makes all things new!  He can make YOU new.  Will you turn to Him today?  His righteousness is yours through faith that He is who He claimed to be: the resurrection and the life.

If you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved.  The scripture says, "No one who believes in Him will be put to shame."
Romans 10:9-11

Let those verses encourage you if you already belong to God through Christ; death is no longer your master, what a work God has done in your life!  And if you have yet to confess with your mouth and believe in your heart that Jesus is Lord, I pray today will be the beginning of your journey with Him in newness of life and freedom from death, sin, and shame!  As Matt Maher says in the song below, "Let no one caught in sin remain."  Today is a great day to let Christ declare over you "This one is mine!  This one is free indeed!"

So, good news! Not only today can we say Happy Easter!
We can also declare to one another, Happy Independence from Death Day!

Christ has died.  Christ is risen.  Christ will come again!

*You may not be from the United States, but I do think that phrase from our founding documents summarizes our human longings so well!