Drenched in Tears

Would we really know God as Father, as Friend, as good, as faithful, if we had never known abandonment, rejection, fear, the end of the road, the edge of the cliff, the sealed-up grave? 

I’m kind of reluctant to admit this, but most times God speaks to me at church more with the lyrics of the worship songs than with the sermon. Two songs in the last month have been light to me, O Praise the Name1, and Goodness of God2

Singing O Praise the Name Sunday, I was arrested by these lyrics: 

His body bound and drenched in tears 
They laid Him down in Joseph’s tomb 
The entrance sealed by heavy stone 
Messiah still and all alone 

I suddenly realized, or I guess it really sank in, that Jesus’ followers didn’t know he was going to rise from the dead. They didn’t know. Jesus’ dead body was drenched in tears.  

We are settled into the comfy assurance of the resurrection. Even people who aren’t Christians know Jesus rose from the dead. He is famous for it. And that is good, but also bad. See, knowing Jesus rose from the dead is like the biggest spoiler ever in the history of the world. But they didn’t know. 

Maybe it is necessary for us to experience death and grief and utter despair in order to fully experience resurrection, new life, joy, amazing grace. Not arrogant assumption; not ho-hum presumption. That’s where the second song comes in. 

You have led me through the fire 
In the darkest night 
You are close like no other 
I’ve known You as a Father 
I’ve known You as a Friend 
And I have lived in the goodness of God  

… And all my life You have been faithful  
And all my life You have been so, so good 
With every breath that I am able 
Oh, I will sing of the goodness of God 

“All my life you have been faithful.” That lyric has been vibrating through me like a bell. Because I never fully realized until lately just how faithful He has been in my life. I really don’t remember much of my childhood. I am sure that I deliberately forgot it, tried to not even experience it as it happened. But God has been healing me and He is getting down to the core pain. I am realizing that I endured decades of abuse, mostly emotional. But God was always there. All my life he has been faithful. 

Amazing grace. Resurrection joy – His but also our own and those we love and pray for. Think of the joy and wonder and the testimony we would miss – the witness we would not have – if there was no suffering, no grief and despair, no death. Death of hopes and dreams, death of relationships, physical pain and struggle. Would we really know God as Father, as Friend, as good, as faithful, if we had never known abandonment, rejection, fear, the end of the road, the edge of the cliff, the sealed-up grave? 

Jesus had to experience death in order to set us free. Maybe we have to experience a kind of death in order to have the solid-rock faith, the knowing God’s faithfulness, the hope and confidence that we can bring to others. Maybe we need to be drenched in tears so that we can say, with every breath that we are able, all my life He has been faithful. All my life He has been so, so good. 

God comforts us so that we can comfort others. God grants us mercy so that we can be merciful to others. God stands whole-heartedly with us in our suffering so that we will stand whole-heartedly with others who are suffering. God never leaves us alone in our suffering so that we won’t leave others alone in theirs.” — Dave Zuleger3 

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.  2 Corinthians 1:3–5 

For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. 2 Corinthians 1:8-9 

And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Revelation 7:17 

1O Praise the Name. Songwriters: Martin W. Sampson / Benjamin William Hastings / Dean Ussher 

2Goodness of God. Songwriters: Jason Ingram / Ed Cash / Brian Mark Johnson / Jenn Louise Johnson / Ben David Fielding 

3God Brings Us Suffering for Others’ Sake https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/god-brings-us-suffering-for-others-sake    

Image in the Public Domain

The Face of God

Jesus endured the complete rupture of his fellowship with God – the horrible darkness and pain of God’s face turned away – so that I could dwell in the Presence of God always. 

Restore us, O God; make your face shine on us, that we may be saved. Psalm 80:3 

Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote a wonderful book called Sanctified Through the Truth all about the last prayer of Jesus for his disciples, the prayer where Jesus consecrates himself to be the sacrificial Lamb of God that we might be sanctified as God’s people. Reading Lloyd-Jones’ book, I came across this stunning statement: 

“He [Jesus] is now submitting himself, therefore, to the most terrible thing that he ever contemplated, namely that he should be separated from his Father. He had come out of the eternal bosom. He was in God from the beginning, he is co-equal, and co-eternal with God; but here he realises, and he faces it, that in order to save and to sanctify these people he has to undergo this separation from God and to be made a curse. It means the breaking of the contact, and he submits himself even to that. He is prepared to endure even the loss of the face of God on the cross that we might be sanctified. He separates himself to this.” — Martyn Lloyd-Jones (emphasis mine) 

The loss of the face of God! “The Hebrew word for ‘face’ in the Old Testament is often translated ‘presence.’ When we seek the face of God, we are seeking His presence.”1 For those hours on the cross God would turn his face away from Jesus. Jesus would become sin for us that we could become the righteousness of God, that we might be sanctified or set apart to God. But in the process, he had to lose the face, or Presence, of God. Jesus had to endure the Face of God turned away from him, refusing to hear his cry. 

But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear. Isaiah 59:2  

The face of God is what Adam and Eve freely enjoyed in the Garden. It is also what they hid from. 

And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence (face) of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. Genesis 3:8 (ESV) 

The loss of the Face is ultimately death. It is to be in darkness, adrift. It is to experience rejection and abandonment. The Face turning to shine on us is life and light and gracious acceptance. The light of His Face gives understanding and piercing self-realization. Isaiah’s response to seeing God was anguish at his sin, “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” (Isaiah 6:5). 

The Face of God can cut to the heart, but He always sends grace and healing to the humble. After Isaiah’s anguished repentance, God sent the cleansing coal from the altar: And [the angel] touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.” (Isaiah 6:6-7) 

From the Face of God we receive salvation, blessing, grace, peace, deliverance, and the knowledge of God. 

Restore us, O God; make your face shine upon us that we may be saved. Psalm 80: 3, 7, 19 

In Psalm 80, the psalmist asks God to restore them and “make your face shine upon us” three times. The word translated “restore” is shub (שׁוּב). It means turn back, return, repair, restore and rescue. The interesting thing is that it is the same word (translated “return”) that is used in verse 14: 

Return to us, O God Almighty! Look down from heaven and see! Watch over this vine … 

The Face of God turning back to us, looking down, watching over, equals our restoration, repair, rescue – our salvation and peace. 

The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace. Numbers 6:24-26 

So why do we keep hiding from him? Even if not actively hiding from Him, why is it so hard to remain before His face, in His presence? Why do I keep looking elsewhere? Why do I keep forgetting that He is right here with me when I am gasping and despairing in the midst of the storm? Why do I keep thinking I have to struggle on by myself, thinking nobody cares, no one will help me? Jesus became the sacrificial lamb and endured the complete rupture of his fellowship with God – the horrible darkness and pain of God’s face turned away – so that I could dwell in the Presence of God always. 

For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God (before the face of God) on our behalf. Hebrews 9:24 (ESV)  

Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:16 (NKJV) 

1What does it mean to seek God’s face? Got Questions https://www.gotquestions.org/seek-Gods-face.html  

Image, hand-colored lino print by Sheila Bair. Copyright 2020, all rights reserved. 

Broken Hearts

broken hearts 

broken hearts everywhere you go 

walking through crystal shards 

cutting again 

bloody feet 

bleeding hands 

jabbed with flashing slivers  

working deep 

rending despair   

yielding 

relentless 

 hope 

… he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound … Isaiah 61:1 (ESV) 

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. Psalm 147:3 

But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water. John 19:34 

Image by Peter.Lorre https://flic.kr/p/3yeriz  

Must

“We must find each other again.”

“Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked. “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” Acts 9:5-6 

But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.” Acts 9:15-16 

I was a little startled lately when I noticed deep inside me a bristling response to the word “must” in the above verses. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised. It is the natural response of the natural man, right? We want to do what we want to do. Being told we “have to do” anything in our current culture has become anathema. Having to suffer in particular. 

The Greek word, dei (δεῖ), means “it is necessary,” and in this context means a “necessity in reference to what is required to attain some end … necessity established by the counsel and decree of God, especially by that purpose of his which relates to the salvation of men by the intervention of Christ and which is disclosed in the O. T. prophecies.” 

Whoa. This is not just an authority figure telling us we have to do something we don’t want to do. This is what is necessary to attain God’s ultimate plan and purpose – the salvation of the world. If we call ourselves Christians there are things that we “must” do. The Lord didn’t waste time telling Saul/Paul what he must do, the works planned for him from the beginning of the world. 

Right after I read and meditated on these verses, J.D. Walt sent out an article with some “musts” for the Church today. I think the urgency with which he writes is justified: 

“We stand in the ruins of the still collapsing facade of Christendom. And all our churches are like so many blind people standing around a massive elephant each with our hand on a different part of the animal and each proffering and preferring a different diagnosis, prognosis and plan.  

So what’s the point today? The point is to say the Day of Pentecost never ended. We need not return to the first century church but to restore the 21st century church. This will come by Word and Spirit and the recovery of plain Scriptural Christianity. We must cease fiddling with forms and fads. We must find each other again, not as so many churches but as “Church.” We must cease chasing after phenomenology and begin to run after Jesus on the path of the race marked out for us.  

We must meet one another again at the level ground of the foot of the Cross and awaken to the fact the Heavens have been rended once and for all. Jesus is ascended as Lord and King.” — J.D. Walt 1 

And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” Luke 2:49 

He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. Mark 8:31 

Then came the Day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover must be killed. Luke 22:7 (KJV) 

And the gospel must first be preached to all nations. Mark 13:10 

But when they bring you before the synagogues, the rulers, and the authorities, do not worry about how you should make your defense or what you should say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that moment what you must say. Luke 12:11-12 (NET) 

As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. John 9:4 

1Don’t Pray for the Wind. Set the Sails https://seedbed.com/dont-pray-for-wind-set-the-sails/

Image from FreeBibleimages.org  

Grace Recognized

If joy is grace recognized, then I begin to see why I have had such a hard time with joy.

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. John 15:9-12 

Joy = xará (χαρά) 

To me, the verses above in John have been like a Rubik’s Cube. I kept moving the parts – love, commands, joy – around, trying to make sense of them. I have written before about having trouble grasping joy. But this time, as I looked at the meaning of the Greek word translated joy above, the light broke through and I felt the last piece slide into place. 

As in the movie Princess Bride, the word does not mean what I think it means. The definition says nothing about emotions or feelings. It does not focus on me at all. But rather, it turns and looks in wonder at God. The word simply means the awareness of God’s grace and favor; it is “grace recognized.” And if joy is grace recognized, then I begin to see why I have had such a hard time with joy. 

Xará is one of three cognates of, or words that derive from, the root xar- “favor, disposed to, inclined, favorable towards, leaning towards to share benefit.” The three are xaírō (“rejoice because of grace”), xará (“joy because of grace”) and xáris (“grace” the Lord’s favor – freely extended to give Himself away to people because He is “always leaning toward them”).1 

If you have never felt that kind of favor inclined towards you from humans, especially from your parents, then it is hard to recognize it from God. “[T]he Bible teaches that grace is completely unmerited. The gift and the act of giving have nothing at all to do with our merit or innate quality (Romans 4:4; 11:5–6; 2 Timothy 1:9–10).”2 If all the “favor” or approval you ever received was, or was perceived to be, earned, dependent on approved performance, fulfilling the fantasies and demands of others, then the idea of unmerited grace is foreign. Certainly, joy because of grace is a mystery

The Bible is clear that God’s joy, love and grace are all bound up together in Christ Jesus. According to Romans 5:6-8, grace is a demonstration of God’s love. 

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless (sick, without strength, feeble, insufficient, unimpressive), Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 

I know and believe this passionately. But I am beginning to see that for a long time I have been chained, deeply and unconsciously, to the insufficient and unimpressive parts of the above translation. The recognition, the awareness – the joy – of God’s unmerited grace has been like brilliant sunlight shining down briefly through a hole in dark clouds. Like a bright light hidden under heavy blankets of oppression. Maybe that is why Jesus said, “No one lights a lamp and hides it in a clay jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, they put it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light (Luke 8:16).” Maybe it’s so that I can see it too. 

Jesus’ joy is also the awareness of this grace. The grace that demonstrates the Father’s unconditional love. The grace and love demonstrated (freely extended to give Himself away) by Jesus who would endure the cross “for the joy set before him” (Hebrews 12:2).  

So, joy is not just another performance – how high I can raise my hands, how loudly I can sing. It is not another opportunity to fail to get it right, to be insufficient, unimpressive. But rather, it is “merely” a recognizing, an acknowledging, an awareness of the gift offered in his outstretched hands – 

the sun on my face 

bird-joy greeting the dawn 

the unfailing Presence 

a Father’s love leaning towards me 

blood running down a wooden cross 

… fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame … Hebrews 12:2 (NASB) 

He is not here; he has risen … So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy (grace recognized), and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings (Rejoice!),” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. Matthew 28:6-10 

1 All definitions from Bible Hub https://biblehub.com/  

2 What is the definition of grace? Got Questions https://www.gotquestions.org/definition-of-grace.html  

Image, A shaft of sunlight pierces the threatening clouds, by Mark Levisay  https://flic.kr/p/J9cBSr  

My Dad

A few years ago, I sat down with my dad and recorded some memoirs of his life. The result revealed a funny, passionate, pretty cool guy. Dad passed away this week and we bury him today. I know this is long, but I would like to honor him by sharing some of his life with you. 

Dad was born in Ionia, Michigan, in 1927. He remembered that his mother kept him in long blond curls and lacy shirts (Little Lord Fauntleroy costumes) until he was three or four. He hated that. He had to wear knickers until he was eight or nine and really hated them. When he got his first pair of long pants he felt very grown up.  

When Dad was 12, they moved to a farm three miles north of Muir in Ionia County. He remembered getting up early enough to do the chores (feed the animals, etc.) before walking to the one-room school. In the cold months he had to get to school early to get the fire ready and the school warmed up. On the farm that Dad had the responsibility of a large half-acre “truck” garden. He had to plant, weed, and harvest the vegetables and take them to market in town. But he got to keep the profits, and he was able to save up enough money to buy his first beautiful bicycle from the Sears Roebuck catalog.  

Dad also raised a calf which won the blue ribbon at the County Fair. The animals loved him. Dad remembered one rooster in particular who would run down the drive to greet him every day when he returned home. That affinity to animals continued. I remember our dog Rowdy and my Dad “singing” together. My Dad would sing and Rowdy would howl along with him. That dog loved my Dad. 

My Dad was always a prankster. He told me some mischievous things he did as a teen. One time he and his friends put a large oak table in the middle of the highway to see a truck hit and demolish it. The driver got out and chased them, but he hid in a cornfield. Another time they took apart a wagon and put it back together on somebody’s roof. One favorite prank was to fill a paper bag with cow manure and set it on fire on a front porch and then knock on the door and run. Of course, the owner would come out and stomp out the fire.

One time a not-so-happy victim chased them. They scattered, running through back yards, trampling gardens and breaking down fences. The next day he was all innocence at the breakfast table as his scandalized parents read the headlines in the small-town paper: Hoodlums Destroy Victory Gardens.  

He told me that one of the worst punishments his mother could mete out was the phrase, “You will have to tell your father when he gets home.” Then he had to go all day dreading when he had to confess to his father what he did. Grampa Roy usually went easy on him though – being a joker himself. 

When he was in high school, he played football. In one game he was hit in a “whipsaw” (hit at the top and the legs at the same time from different directions) by two guys from the opposing team. He got a concussion and couldn’t remember the rest of the game. But the Ionia Sentinel Standard reported the next day that Douglas went crazy in defense, not afraid of anything. A year or so later when he was stationed on Bikini a Navy ship was anchored off shore. Two sailors got permission to come ashore to see him. They asked, “Are you Douglas?” They were the two guys who had hit him, and they were the ones who told him what happened the second half of the game. 

His Uncle Hiram told Dad that if he learned Spanish, he could go with him to South America when he graduated. He took Spanish but struggled. The war broke out and ended that plan. However, for the rest of his life he tried out his broken Spanish whenever he met Spanish-speakers. They usually gave him bemused, but polite, answers or nods. He also, on purpose, massacred French saying when parting company with you, “Your reservoir my sewer – that means good bye in French.”  

Dad joined the Navy at 17 as soon as he graduated from high school. He got a cyst removed from his leg ahead of time, so there would be no possibility he would be 4-F and not allowed to enlist. He got his hair cut real short ahead of time too so when he got in the chair at basic the barber took one look at him and said, “Get out of here.” But then – disappointing to him, but good for us – he got scarlet fever and had to be quarantined.  The war ended before he got out to the South Pacific.  

He stayed in the Pacific though as a Navy corpsman attached to the 53rd Seabees construction battalion. He was based in San Diego, Hawaii, Kwajalein Atoll, Enewetak Atoll, and Bikini. His last duty station was Bikini as they prepared for the atomic bomb testing. Most of the guys had to go back out to the ship at night, but Dad was allowed to stay on shore in the medical tent. The tent had a refrigerator in it for medicines and penicillin and the guys would store beer in it. Other Seabees would bring steaks down from the food tent and a radio that got state-side music and they would grill steaks and listen to the music at night. Dad also talked the guy that usually did the food inspection before the soldiers could eat their meals into letting him do the inspection. That way he was first in line for chow. 

Upon his return from duty, Dad was accepted at Central Michigan University, where he studied for one year before transferring to the Western Michigan University occupational therapy department in 1947. Dad was staying at the YMCA while attending school, when he met my Mom at a dance in December of 1948. He had heard music and wandered down to the gym. They noticed each other through the crowd, but my dad was too shy to ask for a dance. Mom told her sister, “That’s the man I’m going to marry.” As the dance was ending Mom finally went over and introduced herself. My Dad never had a chance. He remembered the sweater she wore his whole life. They danced together at the next dance and never stopped. They taught ballroom dance for over 60 years together, only retiring just a couple of years ago.   

In a quiet moment just days before he passed into glory, we talked about going home and standing in the Presence of God. We talked about that we can’t stand before God because of good things that we have done or because we are, what he called, a “big wig” in the church. That none of that means a thing to God. The only thing that means anything to God is what Jesus did for us on the cross. That we are standing before him in filthy rags if all we have are the good things we have done. At least, if that is what we are trusting in.  

With the light of eternal revelation in his eyes he said that trusting in your good deeds is “like trying to buy your way into heaven.” Yes, exactly Dad! It’s like trying to buy our way into heaven. But the only currency accepted by God is the shed blood of His Son, Jesus Christ.  

He stopped being able to talk much soon after that, but I know we will meet again in God’s Presence. I love you forever Dad and will miss you greatly.   

Your reservoir my sewer.  

Photo, family photo shows that my Dad’s legacy of humor lives on in his crazy family. He’s the one in the middle in the bottom row.

Justice to Victory

“We deserve bare bones justice, and what we get is grace upon grace upon grace.”

Here is My Servant,  

whom I have chosen,  

My beloved,  

in whom My soul delights.  

I will put My Spirit on Him,  

and He will proclaim justice to the nations.  

He will not quarrel or cry out;  

no one will hear His voice in the streets.  

A bruised reed He will not break,  

and a smoldering wick He will not extinguish,  

till He leads justice to victory.  

In His name the nations will put their hope. (Matthew 12:18-21) 

This prophecy about the Messiah, which first appears in Isaiah 42:1-3, says that he will proclaim justice to the nations, and that he will lead justice to victory. I wondered, what does that mean – leading justice to victory? Does it mean what it looks like at first glance, that He will finally bring justice and condemnation on all the evil in the world? Will He finally judge all the rebellious and sinners? I know that will happen someday, at His second coming. But I think that the “justice to victory” that He brought the first time was something else. Something wonderful. 

Matthew is clear in repeating this prophecy about the Messiah from Isaiah that he is referring to Jesus first incarnation, or first coming, for the verses leading up to it say: Large crowds followed Him, and He healed them all, warning them not to make Him known. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah (Matthew 12:16-17). 

The Hebrew word translated “justice” in the original prophecy is mishpat, which means judgment. It comes from shapat, which means to avenge, condemn, contend, execute judgment. Throughout the Bible God warns that the judgment for sin is death: 

And the LORD God commanded the man … “you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” Genesis 2:16-17 

When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned. Romans 5:12 (NLT) 

Each one shall be put to death for his own sin. Deuteronomy 24:16 

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23 

Pure justice then is death for all who sin. That’s all of us, who in our selfishness and greed and lust have killed and maimed and impoverished each other – physically, mentally, spiritually.  For what we do, even secretly, even what we secretly think, affects those around us – “so death spread to everyone.” 

But, instead of pouring out His judgment on us, God’s judgment on sin was poured out on Jesus at the Cross. As Pastor Troy Gentz preaches, “we deserve bare bones justice, and what we get is grace upon grace upon grace.” In willingly dying as a sacrifice for our sin on the Cross, Jesus was victorious over sin and death. He brought justice to victory. 

For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. Romans 8: 3-4 

You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins. He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross. In this way, he disarmed the spiritual rulers and authorities. He shamed them publicly by his victory over them on the cross. Colossians 2:13-15 (NLT) 

“He [Paul] applies to us personally what Christ accomplished perfectly. When we are united to Christ by faith, his punishment becomes ours and his righteousness becomes ours, and God counts our sins against us no more.” — John Piperi  

God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. Romans 3:25-26 

But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 15:57 

Thanks be to God that He brought my justice – the justice due to me – to victory by the shed blood of Jesus for us on the Cross!

Come to Him, wounded and fading and He will give you life. For “a bruised reed he will not break and a smouldering wick he will not extinguish.” Salvation 

iHow Did the Cross Disarm the Devil? https://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/how-did-the-cross-disarm-the-devil 

Image by Jack Bair

God is Pleased

This pleasure doesn’t just mean to be happy, but reaches out to embrace me by accepting the sacrifice made on my behalf.  

For troubles without number surround me; my sins have overtaken me, and I cannot see. They are more than the hairs of my head, and my heart fails within me. Psalm 40:12 

“My heart fails.” How often lately have I felt that way! I was drawn to look closer at this verse and was amazed (but I shouldn’t have been!) to find it leading me to the passion of God for the reconciliation of the world to himself. It all leads back to the Cross where the way back to God was opened. Everything leads to the Cross. 

Though I went looking specifically at verse 12 and the “my heart fails” part, it was the next verse, Psalm 40:13, that arrested me. 

Be pleased (with me, delight yourself to make me acceptable, accomplish, accept the sacrifice, satisfy my debt, reconcile me, pardon me) to save (deliver, rescue) me, LORD; come quickly, LORD, to help me. Psalm 40:13 

It was the “be pleased” part that struck me. When I looked at the Hebrew I saw that it doesn’t just mean to be happy, but reaches out to embrace me by accepting the sacrifice made on my behalf.  

The Hebrew word is ratsah (רָצָה). It means, according to Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, “to be pleased with; specifically, to satisfy a debt.” It means to be acceptable, approve, delight yourself, enjoy, pardon, be favorable, reconcile.  

God is pleased, delights even, to make me acceptable. He takes pleasure in accepting the sacrifice satisfying my debt. He delights to reconcile me, pardon me, save me!  

For God was pleased (took pleasure, was willing) to have all his fullness dwell in him [Jesus], and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. Colossians 1:19-20 

What amazing grace! My heart fails from sin. I am oppressed and trapped under impossible debt. What is God’s response? He is pleased – takes pleasure, enjoys, is willing – to reconcile me to Himself, through the shed blood of His Son. It is not because He has to, but because it makes Him happy. It gives Him great pleasure. It delights Him. And even more than this, God is pleased to give me the kingdom, an everlasting inheritance with Him. God is pleased to do this as Jesus affirmed in Luke 12. 

Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased (takes pleasure, is willing) to give you the kingdom. Luke 12:32 

I am overtaken now, not with my inescapable sin, but with His overwhelming, unfailing, unending, amazing grace and compassion. 

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion (inheritance, allotment) forever. Psalm 73:26 

He Has Called Us Friends

“This is the essence of the gospel: the mighty God seeks a relationship with the people He created.”

I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you … John 15:15-16 

He has called us friends, phílos in the Greek – “a friend; someone dearly loved (prized) in a personal, intimate way; a trusted confidant, held dear in a close bond of personal affection.”i 

Isn’t that amazing? You and I can hear God say this to us: I have called you friend, dearly loved and prized in a personal, intimate way, a trusted confidant, held dear in a close bond of personal affection. 

And can this mighty King 

Of glory condescend? 

And will he write his name, 

“My Father and my Friend?” 

I love his name, 

I love his word; 

Join all my powers 

And praise the Lord. 

— Isaac Watts, Psalm 169  

Condescend: To stoop or descend; to yield; to submit; implying a relinquishment of rank, or dignity of character, and sometimes a sinking into debasement. — Webster’s Dictionary 1828 

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Philippians 2:5-8 (ESV) 

“The sovereign King does “condescend.” He does call Himself our Father and Friend. This is the essence of the gospel: the mighty God seeks a relationship with the people He created.The One Year Book of Hymns, February 23ii 

You did not choose me, but I chose you … 

“The Christian faith is not an ethereal, fluffy philosophy. It is the concretized, mystical union between Jesus Christ and his people. The meaning of our chosenness is waking up to the face of his choosing us and responding by reorienting our entire lives around seeking him and his Kingdom.” — J.D. Walt 

The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear Him, and He makes known to them His covenant. Psalm 25:14 (ESV) 

i HELPS Word-studies for Strong’s #5384, Discovery Bible, 2021

ii One Year Book of Hymns, compiled and edited by Robert K. Brown and Mark R. Norton, devotions written by William J. Petersen and Randy Petersen

Image copyright by Jack Bair

I See

I cast my mind to Calvary 
Where Jesus bled and died for me 
I see His wounds, His hands, His feet 
My Saviour on that cursed tree i 

I cast my mind to Calvary  

my eyes fixed on that cursed tree  

And suddenly I see 

and know with 

mind-heart lightning light

that if Jesus could do this thing  

If he could dynamite history asunder, if he could blow up every mountain  

disintegrate the rubble and blast away even the dust  

making the way to God completely, compassionately, blazingly open  

If he could give me the right

by faith in justice meted by bleeding hands

to be a child of God walking hand-in-hand  

If he could fling all my sins into the depths of the sea, as far as eternity  

And lock my enemy fiercely onto the very short leash of time  

If he is always  

all of my life  

the whole, in each and every part  

with me  

and will NEVER  

no, not, ruled out as a fact or even a possibility 

leave me 

Then  

He is with me now in this breaking, this shaking, this pain  

and he can deal with it, and is dealing with it  

He’s got this

He knows, he hears, he sees

And underneath me 

and my loved ones and my situation  

and this great big horrible mess that is my life right now 

are His Everlasting Arms  

forever and ever and ever 

and ever 

world without end 

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! 1 John 3:1 

ifrom O Praise the Name (Anástasis) Song by Hillsong Worship 

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