Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Easter – Be Ye Glad!

Below are the lyrics to the song that closed our Easter services at 9:15 and 10:45. I found a YouTube version that is by a vocal group called Glad. I heard them perform it at Lebanon Valley College in 1983 or 1984. Its been a song that lingers in the back of my mind since then, working its way to the forefront at the most God-filled times. Happy Easter!

Be Ye Glad

In these days of confused situations
In these nights of a restless remorse
When the heart and the soul of a nation
Lay wounded and cold as a corpse
From the grave of the innocent Adam
Comes a song bringing joy to the sad
Oh, your cry has been heard
And the ransom has been paid up in full
Be ye glad

Oh, be ye glad, oh, be ye glad,
Every debt that you ever had
Has been paid up in full
By the grace of the Lord
Be ye glad, be ye glad,
Be ye glad.

Now from your dungeon a rumor is stirring
And you have heard it again and again
Ah, but this time the cell keys are turning
An outside there are faces of friends
And though your body lay weary from wasting
And your eyes show the sorrow they’ve had
Oh, the love that your heart is now tasting
Has opened the gates, be ye glad

So be like lights on the rim of the water
Giving hope in a storm sea of night
Be a refuge amidst the slaughter
Of these fugitives in their flight
For you are timeless and part of a puzzle
You are winsome and young as a lad
And there is no disease or no struggle
That can pull you from God
Be ye glad

Oh, be ye glad, oh, be ye glad
Every debt that you ever had
Has been paid up in full
By the grace of the Lord
Be ye glad, be ye glad
Be ye glad.

(Words & Music © 1980, Michael Kelly Blanchard)

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Seeing and Savoring Jesus - Assurance

We’ve reached the end of our Lenten study for 2011. Easter morning is upon us and we are gathering to share in celebration this Resurrection Sunday.

At the end of the day, it may be best to close this series of posts about Piper’s “Seeing and Savoring Jesus” with two quotes from the Afterword.

First, an oft-quoted passage from CS Lewis’ Mere Christianity: “A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg – or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense of His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”

And from Piper himself: “Jesus refuses to be domesticated.”

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Seeing and Savoring Jesus – Appearing

There are five major doctrines that are embedded in the story of Jesus. And no; doctrine is not a bad word.

The Virgin Birth
The Crucifixion
The Resurrrection
The Ascension
The Second Coming

Curiously, Piper deals with each one except the Ascension and I’m not surprised. The Ascension is one of the least explored elements of Jesus’ life; at least in terms of its relevance and importance.

This chapter deals with the second coming – a popular topic of my church growing up but not so much on the radar these days. But its one worth lingering over.

There will come a time of Jesus’ appearing. A time when human history will draw toward its close. A time when God will directly intervene again in our destiny. A time when God will, in essence, say “enough is enough.”

Growing up, this was always presented as a moment of validation. A time for a cosmic “we win!” When Christians are finally vindicated for their belief and their faithfulness. A time for Jesus to show the full force of the power of God and claim (enjoy!) final victory.

This is not primarily a moment of triumph. First and foremost, it is a moment of glory. At this second coming, the complete glory of Jesus will be revealed. The One who has the power of death and hell is defeated. Those who live in slavery to sin are delivered. The dead in Christ are raised.

But most of all – faith is swallowed up by sight. Believing will be replaced by knowing. Because the glory of Christ is revealed. In 2 Timothy it says that on That Day it will all be about “his appearing.” His Glory.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Seeing and Savoring Jesus – Invincible

It’s so interesting to me that the issue was never whether or not Jesus died. They all knew he died. The Pharisees knew it because they stayed at the cross until the end just to make sure. The Disciples knew it because John and Jesus’ mother Mary were there at the  cross until he died. The Romans knew it because they had troops there.

They all knew he was dead. That was never in question.

That’s why Matthew 28 records the lame attempt at a fabricated story: that the disciples had stolen his body from the tomb. Of course, this doesn’t make sense either. A Roman guard had been placed at the tomb with explicit instructions to keep people away. The rumors of Jesus predicting his resurrection had even reached the Pharisees and Roman officials.

The penalty for a Roman soldier who failed at his duty was death. They weren’t about to let a ragtag group of Jesus’ disciples steal him away at night from right under their noses. They valued their lives a little too much for that.

The truth was too fantastic to imagine – that Jesus had conquered death. That even in the face of humanity’s greatest enemy, Jesus was invincible.

The resurrection is about power. Power over circumstance. Power over doubt. Power over defeat. Power over life and power over death.

“Like every historical fact, the resurrection of Jesus can be doubted.” But sooner or later you have to come to terms with the power.

~ Godspeed

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Seeing and Savoring Jesus – Severity

We like choices. In every area of our lives, we like choices. Even in our religious life, we like choices. We shop for churches in much the same way we shop for toothpaste – we evaluate the choices and pick the one we like best.

We do the same with the Bible. We pick and choose. We make choices. It’s the rare person who even makes the attempt to integrate the Bible as a whole into her or his worldview. The usual path is to pick the parts we like and ignore or minimize the rest: we make choices.

And we do the same with Jesus. We pick and choose. We make choices about what parts of the Jesus story we focus on. We make choices about what parts of Jesus’ teaching we will take seriously. And when we do, we come away with part of the Gospel.

The parts of Jesus’ story that make us most uncomfortable are when Jesus steps out of the role of loving, caring shepherd. When he gets his back up. When his words get pointed and severe. We don’t have much use for that Jesus.

When he says, “love your enemies” we shy away. When he confronts the hypocrisy and corruption of the religious people of his day – we get uncomfortable. When he says, “take up the cross daily and follow me” – we start to waver. Its too severe. Too hard to hear. Too restrictive. Too unloving. Too sacrificial.

And then we remember …. we can just ignore that part  (please note sarcasm)! And concentrate on the parts we like: “Pass me not, O Gentle Savior!”

~ Godspeed

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Seeing and Savoring Jesus - Riches

The incomparable riches of the God we serve. Infinite wealth. Infinite power. Infinite wisdom.

[Romans 9:23-24] 23 What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory— 24 even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles?”

[Romans 11:33] 33 Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!”

[Ephesians 1:7] 7In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace 8 that he lavished on us.”

[Ephesians 3:16] 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being.”

[Colossians 1:27] 27 To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”

Wisdom, Knowledge, Grace, Christ in You. The incomparable riches of God.

~ Godspeed

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Seeing and Savoring Jesus - Choices

God could have taken care of this already. God could have settled this question of good vs. evil and the devil’s free run could be over and done with. It’s not, but it could be.

Piper suggests one reason: That through the incremental defeat of Satan (instead of instantly and all-at-once) Jesus’ death plays the pivotal role. Its through Jesus’s death that Satan is defeated. And through Jesus’ death sin and the law have no power. That means that Satan is already defeated, even though he hasn’t left the field of battle.

So, God didn’t annihilate the Enemy – God defeated him and lets him live with his defeat.

One of the most insidious things that our Enemy does is to convince us that the outcome has yet to be determined. That there is still any doubt about the Victor. [Or barring that – that there is any battle at all.]

And that leaves us with an interesting choice. We still have a decision to make. We still have to choose which battle line to join. Our free will and the choices we make still matter and still have consequences. We still make meaningful decisions.

God desires your freely chosen allegiance. The Enemy desires to convince you that there is another, better Cause. Your choice, your fidelity matters.

~ Godspeed

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Seeing and Savoring Jesus - Suffering

Jesus didn’t suffer.

At least he didn’t if you ask a lot of the people who call themselves Christians. Most people go from the celebration of Palm Sunday to the celebration of Easter without much thought of what happens in between. Good Friday is just too messy; Jesus’ suffering is just too gruesome for us to spend too much time thinking about.

Several years ago I spent our Good Friday service talking in some detail about the suffering that Jesus underwent on the cross. I talked very frankly about the physical torment that he endured.  I wasn’t morbid or overly graphic, but I was descriptive. Crucifixion was designed to inflict the maximum amount of pain and torture for the maximum amount of time without causing death.

Evidently, you’re not allowed to talk about that on Good Friday either. I had two people tell me after the service that they were leaving the church because they were so upset that I would talk about Christ’s suffering in such plain language.

Let’s be clear – Jesus suffered. A lot. It was devastating. And he endured it for us. There’s no excuse for forgetting or overlooking that.

~ Godspeed