He blesses every love which weeps and grieves And now he blesses hers who stood and wept And would not be consoled, or leave her love’s Last touching place, but watched as low light crept Up from the east. A sound behind her stirs A scatter of bright birdsong through the air. She turns, but cannot focus through her tears, Or recognise the Gardener standing there. She hardly hears his gentle question ‘Why, Why are you weeping?’, or sees the play of light That brightens as she chokes out her reply ‘They took my love away, my day is night’ And then she hears her name, she hears Love say The Word that turns her night, and ours, to Day.
See, as they strip the robe from off his back And spread his arms and nail them to the cross, The dark nails pierce him and the sky turns black, And love is firmly fastened onto loss. But here a pure change happens. On this tree Loss becomes gain, death opens into birth. Here wounding heals and fastening makes free Earth breathes in heaven, heaven roots in earth. And here we see the length, the breadth, the height Where love and hatred meet and love stays true Where sin meets grace and darkness turns to light We see what love can bear and be and do, And here our saviour calls us to his side His love is free, his arms are open wide.
The dark nails pierce him and the sky turns black We watch him as he labours to draw breath He takes our breath away to give it back, Return it to it’s birth through his slow death. We hear him struggle breathing through the pain Who once breathed out his spirit on the deep, Who formed us when he mixed the dust with rain And drew us into consciousness from sleep. His spirit and his life he breathes in all Mantles his world in his one atmosphere And now he comes to breathe beneath the pall Of our pollutions, draw our injured air To cleanse it and renew. His final breath Breathes us, and bears us through the gates of death.
His spirit and his life he breathes in all Now on this cross his body breathes no more Here at the centre everything is still Spent, and emptied, opened to the core. A quiet taking down, a prising loose A cross-beam lowered like a weighing scale Unmaking of each thing that had its use A long withdrawing of each bloodied nail, This is ground zero, emptiness and space With nothing left to say or think or do But look unflinching on the sacred face That cannot move or change or look at you. Yet in that prising loose and letting be He has unfastened you and set you free.
Here at the centre everything is still Before the stir and movement of our grief Which bears its pain with rhythm, ritual, Beautiful useless gestures of relief. So they anoint the skin that cannot feel Soothing his ruined flesh with tender care, Kissing the wounds they know they cannot heal, With incense scenting only empty air. He blesses every love that weeps and grieves And makes our grief the pangs of a new birth. The love that’s poured in silence at old graves Renewing flowers, tending the bare earth, Is never lost. In him all love is found And sown with him, a seed in the rich ground.
To see the King of heaven fall In anguish to His knees, The Light and Hope of all the world Now overwhelmed with grief. What nameless horrors must He see, To cry out in the garden: Oh, take this cup away from me Yet not my will but Yours, Yet not my will but Yours.
To know each friend will fall away, And heaven’s voice be still, For hell to have its vengeful day Upon Golgotha’s hill. No words describe the Saviour’s plight – To be by God forsaken Till wrath and love are satisfied And every sin is paid And every sin is paid
What took Him to this wretched place, What kept Him on this road? His love for Adam’s cursed race, For every broken soul. No sin too slight to overlook, No crime too great to carry, All mingled in this poisoned cup ‚ And yet He drank it all, The Saviour drank it all, The Saviour drank it all.
As a young evangelist I was seeking the advice of my mentor, Dr. Custer Reynolds. He was a learned man from Eastern Kentucky. He often couched ‘words of wisdom’ in the vernacular of the hills. On this occasion, I was troubled by critical words from a lady in the congregation where I had just finished preaching a revival. After listening to my account, Dr. Reynolds said, “If you throw a rock into a pack of dogs, the one that yelps is the one that gets hit.” His meaning was clear. Critical or sarcastic remarks often suggest a degree of guilt.
During my high school days I had an English teacher that placed Shakespeare’s writing next to the Bible in importance. I remember a quote from Hamlet (Act 3, Scene 2) that was likely the precursor to Dr. Reynold’s remarks: “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.” This is one of those memorable lines from Shakespeare that is so very simple, but expresses complexity of thought and emotion. It does seem that cynical remarks or denials often follow a truth that makes someone feel uncomfortable.
Many have winced at strong preaching that hit close to home. It is not uncommon for people to feel a sense of denial or even a little anger when the message comes near to a sensitive area of life. This may actually be the Holy Spirit bringing conviction that urges a person to repent. The word convict is a translation of the Greek word elencho, which means “to convince someone of the truth; to reprove; to accuse, refute, or cross-examine a witness.” The Holy Spirit acts as a prosecuting attorney who exposes evil, reproves evildoers, and convinces people that they need a Savior.
This is not a punitive measure from God, but rather a loving act that encourages us to confess and repent of sin before it destroys us. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness”(1 John 1:9). We should praise the Lord for the conviction of sin. Without it, there could be no salvation. No one is saved apart from the Spirit’s convicting and regenerating work in the heart.
The Apostle Paul gives clear instruction about what to do when conviction comes from the Holy Spirit: “Examine and test and evaluate your own selves to see whether you are holding to your faith and showing the proper fruits of it. Test and prove yourselves [not Christ]. Do you not yourselves realize and know [thoroughly by an ever-increasing experience] that Jesus Christ is in you—unless you are [counterfeits] disapproved on trial and rejected?” (2 Corinthians 13:5, AMPC).
Do you ‘yelp’ when you hear strong preaching about sin and its consequences? If so, this devotional may be for you. Scripture says, “And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment” (John 18:8, NKJV).
“But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7)
A few days ago, an elderly gentleman said to me, “Brother Roy, I don’t know why I’m still here. I’m ready to go home to heaven. I’m not able to do anything. I’m of no use to the Lord. I don’t know why I’m still alive.” Across the years, I’ve I have heard similar expressions many times. My wife’s grandmother was 96 years old and blind when she voiced such feelings.
On the surface that question may seem to have some merit, but when considered in the light of Scripture it is not a legitimate inquiry. On two occasions, God has interjected Himself into human affairs to reveal His plan for delivering His people from bondage:
First, it was to Moses at the ‘burning bush’. God announced: “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey”(Exodus 3:7, NIV). God had a plan to deliver His people from their bondage in Egypt.
The second time, His announcement came to shepherds in Galilee. “But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord” (Luke 2:8-11, NKJV). God had a plan to deliver all people from the bondage of sin.
On both occasions when God revealed His plan to deliver His people, human instrumentality was the key. God unveiled His plan to Moses, “I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt” (Exodus 3:10). Jesus revealed His plan to His followers, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8, NKJV).
Believers are the Lord’s plan to reach out to the lost and dying world. There is no ‘Plan B’. Like Moses, most of us move to the default mode of ‘excuses’ when God identifies us to carry out His plan. Excuses will not avail. The Lord knows our strengths and weaknesses. We ARE the plan. We dare not fail. Family, friends, and a lost world are depending on us. God’s word asks, “But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this” Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use?(Romans 9:20-21). Amazingly, we are His chosen ones even if we feel insignificant and weak.
In His design, “But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty”(1 Corinthians 1:27, NKJV). We are all part of the body of Christ, therefore, “The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable” (I Corinthians 12:21-22).
When we realize that we are God’s plan to reach lost and dying people, may we respond like William Borden, the millionaire who gave up his fortune to become a missionary to the Uyghur Muslims of northwestern China – when he died en route to the field of his calling, his Bible was found to be inscribed with three phrases: NO RESERVES – NO RETREATS – NO REGRETS !
For people who live in areas where cold, frosty mornings are a regular occurrence in winter, a car ‘auto-start’ is a great accessory. It helps ease the dread of stepping outside to face a hostile day. Standing on the inside where it is warm and starting the car certainly beats sitting in an icy cold vehicle waiting for a little heat. The pre-defrosted windows provide good visibility. The car’s warm interior provides a welcome shelter against the cold. It’s a good “start” to the day.
The social world in which we live can also be cold and inhospitable at times. Sometimes, we may be reluctant to embark on such a day. We would prefer pulling the covers over our head and staying in. Is there a spiritual auto-start we can rely on? Is there a way to start the day with a clear windshield that provides a good panorama of what lies ahead ? Is it possible to start the day with a warm and hopeful heart? The answer is: ‘Yes’.
My present vehicle has a button on the key fob that I push twice and the engine starts. I follow a similar pattern in my personal life. First, I repeat the prayer that Jesus taught us to pray: “Our Father, which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy Name. Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, As it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, As we forgive them that trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, But deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, The power, and the glory, For ever and ever”(Matthew 6:9-11, KJV).
Secondly, I repeat (or sing) the hymn “Great Is Thy faithfulness” by Thomas Chisholm:
Great is thy faithfulness, O God my Father; There is no shadow of turning with thee; Thou changest not, thy compassions, they fail not; As thou hast been thou forever wilt be.
Great is thy faithfulness! Great is thy faithfulness! Morning by morning new mercies I see: All I have needed thy hand hath provided– Great is thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!
Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth, Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide, Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow: Blessings all mine with ten thousand beside!
Two simple steps in the morning, and we can be off and moving into the day. We can walk hand in with Jesus. His presence is there to cheer and to guide. His strength and His promises will provide all that we need. Forgiven and forgiving, He will lead us away from temptation and evil.
A weather alert flashed across the television screen. It warned of a freezing rain event likely to coat power lines and tree limbs with up to three quarters of an inch of ice. The Governor announced a ‘State of Emergency’ in advance of the approaching nemesis. National Guard units, highway workers, and power line crews were placed on ‘High Alert’.
Along with extremely dangerous road conditions, a major concern of the impending storm was downed power lines. The weight of a heavy coating of ice could snap power lines. An additional threat comes from ice covered branches, even whole trees, crashing down across the lines. An arctic blast of single digit temperatures would follow the freezing rain. The dependence of our modern way of life on electricity cannot be overstated. Without electricity, homes and business would be plunged into darkness and life-threatening cold. Because few people have an alternate power source, a power failure can be disastrous.
An analogy between a power failure in our physical world and in our spiritual lives can easily be seen. Our spiritual power source is the Holy Spirit. When someone makes the commitment to follow Jesus, the Holy Spirit immediately takes up residence within that person. “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth”(Acts 1:8, NKJV). You become connected to the inexhaustible power of God. But, like power lines in the physical world, certain conditions can result in power outages.
Scripture gives several ‘alerts’ about conditions that can cause a spiritual power failure. The most obvious is sin, the willful breaking of a known spiritual law. “But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God,And your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear” (Isaiah 59:2). In addition to this most evident cause of a spiritual power outage, the writer of Hebrews cautions us “to lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us” (Hebrews 12:1). It is the term ‘weight’ that I want to emphasize. Like the freezing rain coating the power lines and tree limbs adding an unsustainable overburden, the added stress of spiritual weights can lead to a power failure.
The ‘cares of this world’ can so burden a person that the power to live confidently and victoriously fails. However, we are not powerless in the face adversity. Shaking off the weight may be accomplished by recognition of the condition, confession, and repentance. Time in God’s word, prayer, the great hymns of the church, and interaction with fellow believers all can help keep the current flowing. Let us heed the Biblical alerts and prepare for the possibility of a power outage before it occurs. We can do all things through Christ who will empower us.
“The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and pay the penalty.” (Proverbs 22:3, NIV)
There has been a series of commercials on television recently that poke fun at people becoming like their parents. ‘Dr. Rick’ in Progressive Insurance commercials tries to help sufferers deal with the trials and tribulations of turning into their parents. I must admit, on the surface, the commercials are humorous. I do see glimpses of my parents in my actions and attitudes. However, I also see a disturbing trend in our culture that devalues the ideals and life styles of parents and the older generation.
I have deep admiration for my parents with the morals and values that guided their daily living. Their legacy was passed on to me and helped shaped who I am. It seems obvious to me, as a general principle, that when children dismiss their parent’s morals and values that ‘culture’ degenerates and chaos is likely to ensue.
I believe that the growing disrespect for authority and the increase of lawlessness reflects the rejection of traditional values. As sexual morays have taken a turn toward promiscuity, abortions have skyrocketed, and single parents raising children is commonplace. The nuclear family that transmitted prevailing culture is becoming a thing of the past. Our fractured society is more and more divided into hostile groups. Each person or group has become ‘a law unto themselves’. We are devolving into a self-centered and intolerant society.
The Biblical pattern for social order is much different. Two great Scriptural admonitions stand out in my mind:
“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother’—which is the first commandment with a promise—’so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth’” (Ephesians 6:1,4, NIV).
“Listen to your father, who gave you life, and do not despise your mother when she is old” (Proverbs 23:22, NIV).
I find myself longing for the culture of a by-gone day. I hear God’s word saying, “Thus says the LORD: ‘Stand in the ways and see, And ask for the old paths, where the good way is, And walk in it; Then you will find rest for your souls’” (Jeremiah 6:16, NKJV). I hear the strident voices of today responding as they did in Jerimiah’s day to the scripture above, “But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’“
The words of the Apostle Paul echo in my heart, “For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame—who set their mind on earthly things” (Philippians 3:18-19, NKJV).
Prayer: Lord, I want to “ask for the old paths, where the good way is”.