Friday, May 21, 2010

Upside-down: not just for cakes anymore...

First of all, it has been a while. And for that, I do apologize... however, if I feel no inspiration to write, I usually don't write. Who wants to be bored by MY drivel? Not me. So tonight, I am moved. Inspired. Pregnant with a pondering, and thankfully nothing more...

Have you ever just laid down on a bench and looked at the world around you with your head upside-down? I used to do this in college. Quite frequently, actually. I would notice the intricacies of the trees, how the branches looked more gnarly from the underside... How the leaves seemed to simply hover above my eyes... How the canopy was like the underside of an umbrella, and it was breathtaking. People walking down the sidewalk took on a much more comical appearance. They sort of bounced along, like little dwarves on the moon. It was always fun to explore from a new perspective.
I was standing at church one Sunday, during worship, singing along to a truly great worship song, when I got this amazingly cool picture of myself, along with many others, standing before the throne of God, with Jesus entering the room. And the pondering began.
Have you ever noticed that everyone bows before royalty? If you’ve ever watched one of those movies from the medieval times, you would see peasants falling face-down before a prince (thank you Everafter...), or even the aristocracy bowing very low and averting their eyes before the king and queen. This was customary. This was law. If you didn’t do it, you could be beaten, thrown into prison, left for dead. It was a serious matter. You bowed before the king. His heralds went ahead of him to warn you that he was making his way through the streets so you could get your head down and genuflect before him.
I started thinking about how when Jesus, the King of Glory and our Redeemer, came into the room in my vision, we all remained standing. And it was right. It was fitting and holy and amazing. It got me to pondering about why it was good and proper that we should remain upright before the King of Kings. And the world turned upside-down. You see, we are not only redeemed, bought and paid for by the blood of Jesus, the Messiah, but we are also credited with His righteousness! When God looks upon Lauren, He doesn’t see Lauren, in her flesh and stupidity. He doesn’t see her faults and sins. What He sees, when He looks at Lauren (or anyone who is born again), is Jesus. 
This may be a tough one to grasp, but let’s think on this together for a moment... Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice. He was crucified for our sins. The sins of the world could never be covered by all the lambs, goats, oxen, and doves from ancient history to our modern day. It just wasn’t enough. It was like applying pressure to the horrific gash until the paramedics arrived. God’s plan was never to allow the sacrifices to continue forever, because He knew full well that it wasn’t really good enough. With that mindset, we would go on, in our own strength, sinning and sacrificing till the day we died. It wasn’t enough. 
Enter Jesus. The truly perfect, pure and spotless Lamb. His sacrifice bought and paid for every single sin, and it was good enough because He was perfect. He was God and man, and chose to deny His divinity for 33 short years, to walk and live and breathe among His creation. To be tempted as we are tempted. To eat and sleep just like the rest of us. To be mocked and scoffed at because of His radical way of teaching, thinking, living. I mean, who ever heard of such crazy talk? In order to be first, you must be last. In order to be the greatest, you must be the least. It’s upside-down, and much of the world doesn’t understand it. And for this reason, much of the world doesn’t want to have anything to do with it. If they only knew... 
So this Jesus: spotless, blameless, sinless, comes onto the scene, and lives an amazingly sin-free life. Not only did he not sin, but he also did many wonderful things while here. He healed people all over the land. Blind men saw, deaf men heard, bleeding women were made whole, dead people rose and lived again! Lame men walked, demon-possessed children were set free, the list goes on and on. He taught with more wisdom and knowledge of the scriptures than any rabbi ever had. He unlocked mysteries to men and women, yet confounded the pharisees. He told the rich that in order to follow Him, they needed to become poor (sell all they had). Hmm... to be rich, you have to be poor. More inversion...
Okay, so we have this amazing man in Jesus... but wait, there’s more... and I’m not talking about a set of Ginsu knives, folks. I’m talking about the ultimate sacrifice: Jesus, living a perfect life, decided that He would go to bat for us, a sinful and truly depraved people. HE died so that I might live... truly live. When I understood this next thing, my life flipped faster than grandma’s Pineapple Upside-down Cake. 
The life we live, as born again believers, is full and rich and glorious. Why? Because Jesus’ blood paid the price for all our sins. Every last one of ‘em. Past, present, future. They’re history. Actually, they’re no more. And what He did then is just astonishing. He gave us His righteousness! We aren’t walking around with a blank slate, so to speak. We are (or we should be) walking around this earth, carrying the righteousness of Christ!! All His purity, all His love, all His sinlessness... It’s ours, by way of His blood covering us. We “put on Christ,” as Paul writes in Galatians 3:27. No, this doesn’t mean life’s a bunch of sunshine and roses... but it does mean that we, being covered by the blood of Jesus, don’t have to walk in defeat ever again
And this is why we are allowed to stand upright when we enter in, to the most amazing and holy place, and worship our Lord Jesus Christ. We can stand boldly before the throne of God and shout and dance and sing before our God in worship to Him. And of course, we can also bow low and fall on our face before Him, too. Sometimes that’s the way to go. But know that Jesus came to turn this place upside-down. And know that the view this way is much better.

Friday, May 7, 2010

more than enough

Often times when we read about Israel (the nation, not the man) we read about the whopper sins they committed or the continuous complaining in the desert. We learn how God speaks about them as “a stiff-necked people,” and how He wanted to wipe them off the face of the earth at least once. How is it that this nation, so full of blunders, can turn so quickly and overwhelm us with goodness?
In the course of 5 chapters in Exodus, Israel goes from erecting a golden calf and worshiping this false god, to giving so selflessly that the workers making the Tabernacle and its furnishings tell Moses to stop the influx of gifts and materials. 
It amazes me to read such portions of scripture that show how blatantly Israel denies their True Savior, and in the next breath, complies so willingly. Read the following two sections and savor their inequality...
“When Moses failed to come back down the mountain right away, the people went to Aaron. ‘Look,’ they said, ‘make us some gods who can lead us. This man Moses, who brought us here from Egypt, has disappeared. We don’t know what has happened to him.’ ... Then Aaron took the gold, melted it down, and molded and tooled it into the shape of a calf. The people exclaimed, ‘O Israel, these are the gods who brought you out of Egypt!’” (Exodus 32:1-4, excerpts)
Wow. These same Israelites had just experienced the miracles, or plagues, in Egypt, where they had not been affected by many of these horrific happenings, even though they were right there in the middle of it all. These same Israelites had just walked across a sea--large enough to drown ALL of Pharaoh's army--on dry ground, with walls of water on either side. This pilgrimage across the Red Sea was only after they had miraculously plundered all of Egypt of its gold, silver and clothing. These were the Israelites that had no patience to wait for Moses while he was going up the mountain of the Lord to receive instructions.
I read this and think about how this stiff-necked nation went from obedience to rebellion in a matter of hours. Mob mentality. One person cries out and the rest begin to panic. But I think it was much more than just a snowball effect at heart here. The nation of Israel had been enslaved in a foreign country for more than 400 years. During this time God was silent. 400 years of silence. How would you feel if the one in charge of you chose not to speak, much less deliver, you for 400 years? I am sure they were a bit jaded. But then the silence is broken with such drastic magnitude! How can you NOT recognize the awesome faithfulness of God? But this generation had never had to live in faith until this moment. Up till now, these Israelite slaves had everything they needed for survival provided by their masters, the Egyptians. True, they weren’t free. True, they weren’t treated in the best way, but no one has a perfect life, right? The point is, they never had to wonder about their next meal. Out in the dessert, every step had to be made in absolute faith. But to turn so completely backwards, craft a calf-god and worship it?! That is seriously insane.
After Moses goes down the mountain, deals with the people, and God puts a nice plague upon them, Moses heads back up the mountain to receive--once again--the commandments written by God’s own finger, and other instructions. After 40 days and nights, Moses heads back down and addresses the people. He tells them of the tabernacle they are to construct and all its accessories. A call is made to bring in gifts, if they so desire, to donate to the cause of building this meeting place.
“Moses gave them the materials donated by the people for the completion of the sanctuary. Additional gifts were brought each morning. But finally the craftsmen left their work to meet with Moses. ‘We have more than enough materials on hand now to complete the job the Lord has given us to do!’ they exclaimed. So Moses gave the command, and this message was sent throughout the camp: ‘Bring no more materials! You have already given more than enough.’ So the people stopped bringing their offerings.” (Exodus 36:3-6)
When I read this at first, my heart was warmed by the amazing ability to give and give until the needs were met for, what we could basically call the equivalent of, the church. It reminded me of reading the book of Acts, and how the early church had everything in common and no one had need for anything. I thought about how it would be so terrific if only the church today could look like that, on a global perspective. But then I thought about how just after this beautiful display of generosity and selflessness, the nation of Israel continues its journey, only to fall into rebellion again almost immediately. 
So my question for today is this: How similar am I to Israel? How quickly can my heart turn from rebellion to obedience, and back to rebellion again? The truth is that it can take a moment. Sadly. The flesh rises up when we least expect it, most times. Which is why Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 10:12, “If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall.” And also why in Romans 5:20 we are reminded, “God’s law was given so that all people could see how sinful they were. But as people sinned more and more, God’s wonderful grace became more abundant.” 
No matter what happens in this life, God knows. God knows not only that we, as born again believers, strive to hit the mark in our lives and in worship to Him, but also how much we fall short. And this is why His grace abounds more than does our sin. Jesus Christ, His sacrifice and righteousness far outweighs our sins and rebellion.  
Oh, Israel... You never cease to amaze me. And Jesus, You always amaze me more.