leaving the curtain torn

Cross of Salvation

“From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land. About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?’ – which means, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’….  And when Jesus cried out again in a loud voice, He gave up His spirit. At that moment the curtain of the Temple was torn in two from top to bottom” (Matthew 27:45-51).

From noon until 3pm, during the time of day when the sun is at its peak, darkness covers the planet, representative of course of the sin that Jesus bore on the cross.  At 3pm Jesus cries out in the words of Psalm 22, a Psalm of anguish and a Psalm of victory. Jesus cries out again and gives up His spirit, meaning, He chooses to die.  And “at that moment the curtain of the Temple was torn in two from top to bottom.”

Here’s my question: How long was the curtain allowed to be torn?

Have you ever thought about that?  How long was the curtain allowed to be torn by the religious aristocracy? To the Jews who accepted Christ the tearing of the curtain meant no more obstruction, no more barrier between them and God.  To the Gentile it meant there was access granted to the One, True Living God that they had never known before. As believers today through this reality of 2000 years ago we recognize that we have access to the very presence of God and are ushered in to His glory through the sacrifice (and resurrection) of Jesus. But what about the Jews whose applecart had been upset?  Those who wanted everything to stay the same?  What about those “devout” Israelites who thought that they had the market cornered on God? What about the watchdog Pharisees who saw this as a threat to what was “right” and “proper”?

What do you suppose they did about the torn curtain?  The “veil that was rent” (to quote from the good king James)? Maybe they wrote it off as caused by the earthquake.  But Temple worship in Jerusalem continued another 40 years (until its destruction in AD 70). Did they leave the curtain torn do you think?  I bet not. Although well-intentioned, I would imagine they very quickly sewed it shut (or replaced it altogether). There’s no biblical or even extra-biblical evidence to support that notion.  But I just don’t see them leaving the curtain torn.  Do you?

Here’s my point: In Christ, God has unequivocally removed every hindrance from our living in His presence.  Right? And so why can’t we just leave it that way?

Glory to God!

Jason

peace of mind

Prayer

“Rejoice in the Lord always.  I will say it again: Rejoice!  Let your gentleness be evident to all.  The Lord is near.  Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:4-7).

There is a divine connection between prayer and peace.  A divine connection that is undeniable.  An often untapped resource in which through believing prayer we embrace the peace of God.  The peace that transcends (that passes) all understanding.  It is not a random, nebulous, temporary state defined by this world, but rather, it is all together otherworldly.  It comes from no place else.  It can be experienced in no other way.  It is a gift from the Father to His children.  It originates in heaven.  From the throne of God.  From the heart of God.  A gift from Him.  To us.

Does God wrestle with fear?  Is He ever wrought with doubt?  Does He tremble with anxiety?  Of course not!  He is God.  He is sovereign.  And He alone is God.

This is the very peace of mind He offers to us through Jesus.  Through prayer.  A peace that guards our hearts and minds.  Why?  Because our hearts and minds are where the Enemy so often attacks.

The Apostle Paul utilizes a military analogy when he pens, “The peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”  The word “guard” can be understood as a garrison.  A fortress.  A place of seclusion.  Of protection.  Of strength.

His peace.

His peace that is beyond comprehension.  His peace that is experienced amidst tragedy.  In the middle of lunacy.  At the height of agony.

Peace that is granted to us from the throne room of heaven, and is a gift from the heart of God to those He loves.

Glory to God!

Jason

limiting God’s love

ballCan you think of a time when you were rejected?

When I was in elementary school, during PE we played a lot of dodge ball.  (Maybe this was an ‘80s phenomena, or perhaps it still goes on.)  And it seemed like every day the same kids were the “captains,” in other words, the ones doing the choosing.  And it also seemed like the same kids were always chosen last, in other words, the ones who weren’t chosen at all and simply went to whatever team was left.  (I lived my life somewhere in between, in relative obscurity, and quite frankly, I was good with that!)

Maybe you were little and weren’t chosen for a team.  Or maybe, you’ve been excluded in other ways….  Excluded by friends (or so-called friends).  Excluded by family (or those who were supposed to be).  Excluded by loved ones (who did not love to the extent that you did).

ballUniversities will exclude you because you aren’t smart enough.  Companies will exclude you because you aren’t experienced enough.  Businesses will exclude you because you aren’t qualified enough.  Some who wear the name of Christ will even exclude you because you aren’t good enough (as if any of us are “good” enough).  But God’s love is not exclusive.  No one has the market cornered.

Is there a limit to God’s love?  The answer is a resounding, “NO!”

Children may refuse our love.  Spouses may reject our love.  Friends may abuse our love.  But there is no limit to the love of God.

Did Abraham ever find a limit to God’s love?  No.  Moses?  Absolutely not.  King David never found its limit did he?  How about the Apostle Paul?  The Apostle Peter?  Neither do we.

I pray that we might begin to comprehend “how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ” (Ephesians 3:18).

May we never limit the love of God revealed in His church.  And may we never limit His love as it is poured out to us.

Glory to God!

Jason

a few steps away

francis of assisi

Soon after Francis of Assisi (1181-1226) turned his back on his life of wealth and chose to live a life of poverty and simplicity he encountered a man with leprosy outside of the city.  We would expect he stopped to see if he could care for his needs.  However, that was not the case.  The story is told that as Francis saw the man, he averted his eyes, walked around him, and completely avoided any contact.

He had very recently, swore allegiance not only to live a life of poverty and a life of simplicity, but to love and care for others.  To wholeheartedly follow the way of Jesus and to reveal the Jesus Way in all facets of life.  To be committed beyond what was “required.”  But somehow, he avoided the possibility as soon as it arrived.

But the story doesn’t end there.  After wrestling within himself, with his actions (and lack thereof), Francis turned around, went back to the leper, embraced him in the name of Jesus, saw to his needs, and then continued on his way.

After a taking a few steps away from the leper, Francis turned to see him again, but the man had disappeared.  He was nowhere to be found.  For the rest of his life, as he would retell the story, Francis was convinced that the man he had embraced and cared for and almost missed, was Jesus.

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?  When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?  When did we see you sick or in prison and go and visit you?’  The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these, you did for me’” (Matthew 26:37-40).

Glory to God!

Jason

always before me

sadness“Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.  Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.  For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me…” (Psalm 51:1-3).

King David.  The man “after God’s own heart” (Acts 13:22; cf. 1 Samuel 13:14).  The David of David and Goliath.  Confesses, “My sin is always before me.”

My sin is always before me.

My sin is always before me.

“I can’t get away from it.”  “It consumes me.”  “I am overwhelmed by it.”

And yet, over time and by God’s grace, he does get away from it.  And it ceases to consume him.  The burden is removed.  David becomes overwhelmed not by his sin but by God’s grace.  And finally, finally, he breathes a cleansing sigh of relief, as his sin is no longer always before him.

sadnessWhen we consider Psalm 51 in it’s entirety, we witness God doing for us that which we cannot accomplish for ourselves.  Taking away that which positions us in conflict with Him and with ourselves and with others.  And allowing us to not be defined by our sin, but rather, to be defined as men and women after His own heart.

“Praise awaits you, O God, in Zion; to you our vows will be fulfilled.  O you who hear prayer, to you all humanity will come.  When we were overwhelmed by our sins, you forgave our transgressions” (Psalm 65:1-3).

“My sin, O the bliss of this glorious thought, my sin not in part but the whole, is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more, praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul.”

Glory to God!

Jason

the God of the towel

Eyes of Faith Stock PhotosMinistering to others is the primary way in which we reveal Jesus to a lost and broken world.  Allowing the love of Christ to bring healing to a broken world through those who themselves are continually made whole in Jesus is what serving and sharing and ministering is all about.

Jesus sets the pace:

“The evening meal was being served, and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus.  Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under His power, and that He had come from God and was returning to God; so He got up from the meal, took off His outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around His waist.  After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash His disciples feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around Him” (John 13:2-5).

Angel Sculpture Christian Stock ImageJohn’s Upper Room narrative intimately describes the motive and method of Jesus.  God has placed all things under His authority.  Jesus is in complete control.  John acknowledges Jesus’ awareness of His divine nature and authority, “He had come from God and was returning to God.”  And because of His divine prerogative, the God of the towel rises from the meal, wraps a towel around His waist, and pours water into a basin.  Jesus’ connectedness to God and divine reality as God incarnate compels Him to take the nature of a servant (cf. Philippians 2:6-8).

Isn’t it the same with us?  Isn’t it such that our connectedness to God and spiritual reality as those within whom His Spirit dwells, compel ministering to others, and bringing hope and healing to a broken world?

But, is this you’re perspective?  Is this your philosophy?  Is this your practice?

Glory to God!

Jason

putting it all together

Little ChefTiersa is capable of composing something great out of seemingly nothing at all better than anyone I know.  “What’s for dinner,” I’ll ask her.  “Let me see what I’ve got,” she’ll say.  And she’ll take a bunch of things that to me don’t even appear to go in the same pantry, much less on the same plate, and she creates something incredibly wonderful (she would dominate on the Food Network shows Chopped and Iron Chef!).

At Creation, God creates something out of nothing.  He speaks life into existence.  “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.  Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters” (Genesis 1:1-2).  The word translated “created” in Hebrew is “ex-nihilo.”  Literally it means, “out of nothing.”  Technically the text could read, “In the beginning, God, out of nothing, the heavens and the earth.”  Cool stuff!

groceriesAnd we believe it.  Right?  We believe that God speaks everything that is into existence.  Don’t we?  We believe that “ex-nihilo” God creates through His Word and breathes life through His Spirit.  Do we not?  Why then do we find it so difficult to believe that He can accomplish the same in and through us?

Very often, you and I, we look at our lives and all we see is what I see when I go the pantry the day before Tiersa goes to the grocery store.  We see nothing that’s good.  Nothing that is appealing.  Nothing that can be put together, or that can be salvaged, or that’s worthwhile.  But God sees you and I like Tiersa sees all of that stuff in the pantry, that to me looked like starvation.  For what it could be.  For what we could be.

God is in the putting it all together business.  He is an expert in stepping in and saving the day.  He continually creates something absolutely wonderful out of a complete mess.  Triumph out of defeat.  Beauty out of ashes.

View of Earth From SpaceLook to Scripture.  Look to the lives of fellow followers of Jesus today.  He’s still doing it!  “Ex-nihilo.”  God.  Out of nothing.  Faithful, strong, redeemed, alive, made new, made whole, focused, joyful, at peace – men and women of the Kingdom.

“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach the Good News to the poor.  He has sent me to bind up the broken hearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives, and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor…” (Isaiah 61:1-2b; cf. Luke 4:18-19).

Glory to God!

Jason

another way of life

enslavedIn January of 1863 Abraham Lincoln made public his intentions to abolish slavery in the United States, in the form of the Emancipation Proclamation.  Civil war erupted.  Lincoln was soon assassinated.  And it wasn’t until December of 1865, nearly three years later, that Lincoln’s dream was realized as the 13th Amendment of the Constitution was passed, abolishing slavery.

Word soon spread throughout the country.  From Capital Hill into every state of the south the headlines of every newspaper read, “Slavery Abolished!”

Yet something happened that no one had expected.  Something that no one (especially in the north) could have imagined.  A war had been fought.  A president assassinated.  A law had been signed.  However many slaves in the south, who had been set free, willfully chose to remain with their masters.  To, in essence, continue to live as slaves.  Many for the rest of their lives.

And the question that began to be asked was, “Why?”  Why would once enslaved men, women, and children who had been freed, emancipated, why would they continue to live in bondage and in fear.  As brutal and as cruel as their old master was, why would they willingly choose to work in his fields, live under his oppression, and remain under his thumb?  Why after being liberated, would so many choose the security of slavery, over the risks of liberty?

breaking freeThe answer?

Because they knew no other way of life.

“I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.  Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a child belongs to it forever.  So if the Son has set you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:34-36).

I wonder if that might hit home for some of us?

Glory to God!

Jason

the imagery of forgiveness

compassPsalm 103:12, “As far as the east is from the west, has He removed our transgressions from us.”

Isaiah 1:18, “Come now, let us reason together,” says the Lord.  “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow.”

Micah 7:19, “You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl our iniquities into the depths of the sea.”

Jeremiah 31:34, “I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”

snowGod reveals relationship in vivid metaphor.  Sin removed as far as the east is removed from the west.  The stark contrast of scarlet and snow.  Sins plummeting to the depths of the sea.  An all-powerful, all-knowing God choosing to forget, and remember our sins no more.

The imagery of forgiveness.

Our Father forgives.  He heals.  He restores.  He delivers.  He rescues.

Through divine prerogative and divine covenant and divine eyes He sees us not for our sin, not for our shame, not for our rebellion, but for who we are through Jesus.

seaHe sees us clearly and in such a way we often find it difficult to see ourselves.  As whole.  As holy.  As righteous.  As forgiven.

Galatians 3:27, “For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.”

He sees us through Jesus.

Glory to God!

Jason

words of glory

“Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!  How unsearchable His judgments, and His paths beyond tracing out!  Who has known the mind of the Lord?  Or who has been His counselor?  Who has ever given to God that God should repay him?  For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things.  To Him be the glory forever!  Amen.” – Romans 11:33-36

This section in Romans 11 is called a “Doxology.”  Words of (ology) glory (doxa).  They are words that give glory to God.  Praise and honor to God.  We at times will sing a song with the same title: Doxology – “Praise God from whom all blessings flow….”

As the Apostle is writing the letter, considering the wonderful plan of God revealed in the Gospel of Christ, he pauses to give glory to the Father.  His words become poetic.  And He sings a song of praise to the Lord for the wondrous things He has done.

You have to be feeling pretty good about life to all of the sudden start singing.  Don’t you?  Tiersa’s grandpa, Leon Bowen, whistled when he was in a good mood.  He would whistle church hymns.  Just thinking about him whistling brings a smile to my face.

I look forward to the holidays every year.  Maybe you do too.  Food.  Family.  Friends.  Coffee.  Lots of coffee!  Even among the busyness of the season, there’s plenty of time to relax and enjoy.  Tiersa and I will make the rounds.  We’ll catch up with extended family.  Sit down face to face with friends we only “see” the rest of the year on Facebook or talk to on the phone.  I love the holidays!

However for many, the holidays can be extremely difficult.  Painful even.  Strained family relationships.  Trying to please everyone (which is an impossibility).  Balancing time with others so that no one gets their feelings hurt.  Financial stresses.  Loneliness.  Missing loved ones who have passed on.

My hope is that we would be very aware of how we might minister to those who are struggling in any way, especially at this time of year.  And if we find ourselves struggling, that we would turn to God.  That we would allow our Father to minister to us.  And that we would praise Him from whom all blessings flow….

Glory to God!

Jason