Behold, your king is coming to you

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your king is coming to you;
righteous and having salvation is he,
humble and mounted on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey. – Zechariah 9:9 ESV

I’ve spent a lot of time recently writing about current events. These things may be important, in a way, but they are temporal and will quickly pass.

I may lose some sleep over who will be the next president of the country I live in, and I’m not saying that doesn’t have weight and import and historical ramifications. But our true King has already come, and is coming again. In contrast to our politicians, and every politician who ever stumped a speech anywhere, our King is completely righteous. Our political leaders and systems won’t save us, ultimately. Only he comes bringing salvation. And in contrast to every blowhard who ever beat his or her chest from a podium, our King is humble. He humbled himself for us all the way to the cross, and he now has been exalted by his Father to the highest place imaginable and even beyond our imagination; every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess that he is Lord!

Thank you Lord Jesus for your indescribable gift!

Who’s approval?

For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. – Galatians 1:10 ESV

Oh boy.

Confession: I have been a people-pleaser my whole life. I really have to work hard in keeping my focus straight, because my natural inclination is to work hard to win the approval of those around me.

God has been dealing with me in this for a long time. One reason this battle is so tough is because pleasing others isn’t always wrong, and so it’s sometimes hard to discern my own motives. Paul is not saying here that we are to actively seek to displease people. It really comes down to what we are seeking. If we are seeking God’s approval, God’s kingdom, and God’s glory and that happens to result in our actions blessing others, that’s fantastic.

But seeking the approval of others first and foremost is deadly, for many reasons. For example, it kills courage. People-pleasing is a form of cowardice, because it is based on the fear of rejection. I know that fear very well.

One reason Christ is so admirable, so excellent, is because he didn’t seek to please people. He went to the cross out of obedience to his Father and as a result of really displeasing the wrong people. My Lord, Jesus was brave.

May I become more like him. Lord, make me your servant, not the servant of my fear of what others think. Amen.

Good, good news!

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. – Galatians 1:6-9 ESV

Can you hear Paul’s urgency, his frustration, his sharp edges in this passage? It is rare for Paul to launch mortars this early in one of his letters, but he’s certainly lighting them off here. The reason is because turning to a different gospel is not just bad, it’s deadly.

The word “gospel” means “good news”. I remember when I first understood the good news as good news. This was quite a while after I had first heard it, because it took a while for me to understand how good this news really is, and I didn’t really get that until I understood how bad I am.

Good news! Jesus loves me. Good news! He died for me. Good news! He’s perfect, and obeyed and obeys God perfectly, so his death was a perfect sacrifice for me, paying the penalty that I simply could not pay.

Good news! He rose again from death and lives forevermore, interceding for me.

Good news! He is everything I’m not so I need to receive his gift and lordship, giving my meager everything to him in exchange for his infinite everything so that all he is can fill the howling vacuum of my emptiness apart from him.

Such good, good news this is!

Astonishing, isn’t it, if my eyes stray from this good news toward some other salvation-scheme that’s less Jesus and more me? Why would I do that? But how susceptible I am, as so many of us are, to replacing this good news with something else.

Oh my soul, focus on this good news, learn all of its music by heart, and sing it well for those who don’t know it, so that they can pick up the tune as written by the Lord of all good news.

Turning the tide

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen. – Galatians 1:3-5 ESV

“To deliver us from the present evil age.” There’s something there, tangible, that I often miss.

Through his death and resurrection, the Lord Jesus delivered us from death and hell, and has given us eternal life. It’s easy to think of that deliverance only in the future tense. But if you’re paying attention you’ll notice that the New Testament resonates brightly with a sense of the Now.

Salvation in Jesus is forever, of course. But forever started that moment that he took you into himself. These days have enough trouble of their own; deliverance from these days, these evil days, is happening now.

Deliverance from, not teleportation out of.

The Lord is with us – that’s his forever promise – and he is turning us each day into immortal beings like himself who are becoming immune to the evil of our times, and indeed are daily more and more a part of his heavenly host, turning the tide.

Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.  – Matthew 6:10 ESV

More

The Lord is good. He is so good.

Think about it: we believe that Jesus came to earth to live a perfect life and die for our sins. This is, of course, true. But he did more than just die for our sins and forgive us and give us eternal life, all of which are, of course, both true and huge. But sometimes we forget that there’s more. We’re content with the idea of just barely being admitted into the Kingdom as anonymous citizens, to sleep on the streets of gold.

Listen, he did more.

He could have made us his servants. That sounds better – to serve him in the Kingdom and sleep in the servant’s quarters. Yes, much better.

No, there’s much, much more.

We’re not just servants. OK, perhaps we’re like foster children. Now we’re eating at the table.

Wait, there’s more.

We’re not foster children. We are fully adopted children of the King. This isn’t a temporary arrangement or a semi-commitment. The implications: we are heirs. Heirs of the Kingdom, princes and princesses, adopted with full rights of sonship and daughtership, brothers and sisters of our big Brother Jesus who went before us and gave his all for us.

Listen, he gave us all. Literally “more than we can ask or even think”.

From what country, from what universe does this love come from?

Thank you Lord Jesus!

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.

– Galatians 4:4-7 ESV

Teaching

This will be a bit stream of consciousness: I’m privileged often to lead Bible discussions,  teach the scriptures,  and even mentor others to do so. This is such a blessing to me,  and I also believe,  based on interactions with others and also that inner “when I run I feel His pleasure” sense,  that God has equipped and gifted me to do this.

But I never shake that underlying low-voltage feeling of micro-panic when I’m preparing, and right beforehand. Once the Bible gets opened I normally stabilize. Sometimes,  in my best moments,  half of me is sitting outside myself,  in the circle,  being taught by God right then.

I go through seasons when I feel some self-condemnation in my teaching.  It’s hard to explain.  I taught recently and went home defeated because while I was teaching I felt really good but when I got in my car to go home I was blasted with the conviction that I had entirely missed the point of what I was teaching. I had missed Jesus,  which means those in the discussion circle did too.

I’m blessed and privileged to be leading this next Tuesday at an on-campus Christian club at our nearby community college. It’s so amazing how that’s even happened.

I’m praying God will prepare me because at this point I don’t have the first idea what scripture I will lead from. May he be glorified,  not me.  And may I give them Jesus and not miss him myself.

Righteousness and rescue

The Bible
God’s word
The Word
The Word made flesh
The Man
The Word, the Man, enacting
In flesh, in bones
in veins, in muscles, in neurons
The righteousness, the rescue
Spoken of, performed
For centuries
Under the shadow of Rome
Spoken in a new tongue
Once unknown, in Greek, new languages, new customs
In lights fueled by unquenchable oil
By sad rivers in Babylon
Besieged, blinded, childless
In scenes of unspeakable horror
Yet with hope in the lament
Morning, new morning, in the night
Righteousness and rescue
Spoken of in the word
Performed
In a new temple
In a tent
Milk and honey
Across a river
Across the wilderness
One dark night in Egypt
Hope within lament
Lament and cacophony
A bush burns
Righteousness spoken
Wonders performed
Hungry bellies filled
Reconciliation
Hope in famine
The Word
A family
A flood
A bloody stone
A tree
But not alone
Righteousness and rescue
Now in flesh appearing
Carrying in his body
The power, the surge
of righteousness and rescue
Now in the written word
Now in the living Word
Become flesh
At last

Street Theater

She conceived again and bore a daughter. And the Lord said to him, “Call her name No Mercy, for I will no more have mercy on the house of Israel, to forgive them at all. But I will have mercy on the house of Judah, and I will save them by the Lord their God. I will not save them by bow or by sword or by war or by horses or by horsemen.”

When she had weaned No Mercy, she conceived and bore a son. And the Lord said, “Call his name Not My People, for you are not my people, and I am not your God.”

Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be like the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured or numbered. And in the place where it was said to them, “You are not my people,” it shall be said to them, “Children of the living God.” – Hosea 1:6-10

The “She” referenced at the top of this passage is Gomer, the “wife of whoredom” God commanded Hosea to marry.

There is a lot packed into these five verses. The names, for instance: “No Mercy” and “Not My People”. Implied in those names is some astounding obedience by Hosea – he actually had to name his kids these horrible names. See, some of the prophets got to just prophesy, but certain lucky ones were commanded to do some gut-wrenchingly difficult street theater for the people. Among this latter category are people like Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Hosea. Hosea’s obedience to the street-theater commands of the Lord involved marrying an unfaithful woman and naming his children horrific names of abandonment.

God enacts in this real life familial story what seems to me to be one of the major themes of the Old Testament: terrible judgement for unfaithfulness followed by amazing restoration by God’s grace. In a way, and I’m not trying to trivialize this, God’s dealings with Israel in the Old Testament are a form of street theater for us, and also for the host of principalities and powers watching in amazement. He repeats over and over in this long history of his people the story of sin leading to rejection and judgement leading to amazing, uncalled for, unexpected grace, restoration, and belonging.

It’s real, but it’s also a picture in many dimensions of what was coming, soon.

Enter the Word made flesh, living mercy, coming to his own people. You see, in Christ the sin is absorbed, the rejection he takes as his own, and the divine wrath falls on his shoulders, his head, his hands, his feet, his back, his side. The amazing, uncalled for, unexpected restoration and grace that flows from this is delivered to us, forever restored to the Father.

And in the place where it was said to them, “You are not my people,” it shall be said to them, “Children of the living God.”

Amazing Grace!

“That they may become perfectly one”

From today’s reading of John 14-17

“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 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. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 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. 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. O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. 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.” – John 17:20-26 (ESV)

So ends Jesus’ high priestly prayer.

How on earth to even make commentary on this? Jesus is here praying for not just his disciples, but for everyone throughout history called by his name. He’s praying for me here, and anyone else living today who is in Christ, along with all those who have gone before us.

It is astonishing when one considers the content of Jesus’ prayer. He is praying for our unity, our oneness. And the unity he prays for is not the unity of a club, or a group of like-minded friends, or even of a family:

“. . . that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us . . .”

The unity that Jesus prays for his church is the same unity he shares with the Father. It is an intimacy as close as the Father to the Son, “in” one another.

It is a sharing of everything, a bestowing of the same glory God has given Jesus onto us (!!), oneness. It is a bestowing of the same love the Father has for the Son onto us. And, trust me, we can’t even begin to imagine a love that big.

This prayer is a fulfillment of our deepest desires: to be fully known and fully loved, to partake in the glory and love of the Father to the Son and then to us. To be in deep, deep family, not just with the Lord but also with his people, our brothers and sisters throughout the world and throughout history. To be fully brought in the house, fully adopted, given a place at the table. To be seated at the heavenly feast of grace, love and glory!