Monday, September 28, 2009

Outrageous Love

"He was oppressed and afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; He was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her sheerer is silent, so He did not open His mouth."
Isaiah 53:7

If there were ever a man who deserved to live a life filled with joy, it would have been Jesus. He deserved to be clothed in royal robes, crowned with a golden crown, and handed a scepter. He deserved to be honored and respected. His character was marked by a righteousness no other man has ever achieved. Miracles, forgiveness, teaching, and healing that transcended from the physical realm to the emotional and spiritual realms characterized His ministry. He exhibited power and authority over nature, illness, death, and demons that taunted men's souls. More importantly a sacrificial unconditional love was the motivation for every act He performed and for every word He spoke. To begin to understand the depths of Christ's outrageous love we have to look past the life He lived to the death He died. It was in His life that He set aside His right to live eternally to experience our sin. It was in the death he died that His love poured out. He set aside His glory to bear the burden of all of our ugly sin. He chose to set aside His relationship with His Father to feel our deepest pain—separation from the Heavenly Father.

During His life, Christ expressed His love through teaching, confrontations, miracles. transparent relationships, and continuous prayer. He also chose to express His love another way. As He was arrested, tried, beaten, and crucified, He chose to love through a determined silence that spoke as loudly as the words He preached and as loudly as the actions he demonstrated. To prove His love to us, the same mouth that spoke the universe into being remained silent in the face of accusations. The same mouth that calmed angry seas remained silent as crowds mocked Him. The same voice that preached to crowds was silent during illegal trials. It was silent when the earth darkened and as sin was poured out on Him. The same voice that called a dead man out of  the tomb refused to answer false accusations hurled, refused to call down angels to help Him. The same voice that caused soldiers to fall back when they arrested Him was silent as He endured brutal beatings. 

He was God. He was innocent. He was sinless. He had every right to defend Himself and He had the power to walk away from the hate and the sin—yet He chose to remain silent, sentencing Himself to die. He even remained silent when soldiers took whips with sharp stones and bits of bones embedded in the end and beat Him, ripping His flesh wide open. He was silent when they put a scarlet robe on His bleeding flesh and jammed a crown of thorns onto His head. So enraged by the perfect life He lived, they slapped Him and pulled hairs out of His beard, hurling curses and spit at Him. They even drew lots to see who would get His clothes. He was silent as they placed His hands on the cross bar and hammered nails through His hands and His feet. With each clang of the hammer, the searing pain of the nails tearing through flesh and bones, emphasized His silence, As they picked up the cross and dropped it into the ground He faced faces filled with hate. He remained silent when the searing pain of nails intensified with each breath He took. He remained silent when His bloody, raw back rubbed against the wood grain. He remained silent as the thorns dug in His brow and the blood trickled down. 

Hanging suspended between heaven and earth every breath increased the pain, He did we could never have done. He looked at the people below him and broke His silence to ask His Father to forgive them. As our sin was placed on Him, a cold darkness blanketed the earth. Christ was thrust into another realm of pain He had never before experienced – it was the emotional pain you and I feel when we are bound by sin--He felt the same loneliness we feel when we walk away from God in guilt. He felt the same hopelessness and despair we feel when we no longer go to our Father to have needs met. He felt the same sense of being forsaken as we feel when we are buried beneath a mountain of shame. Jesus, alone for the first time in all eternity, was separated from His heavenly Father. Then and only then He broke His silence. It was not a cry for His release, but a heart-rending cry that rose up from the deepest parts of His soul. "My God, My God why have You forsaken me?" With a heart broken by separation, He died our death.

By looking at His death, we get glimpses of the depth of His love and we see the high cost of grace. He loved enough to die for fearful disciples who ran when He was arrested, to die for Peter who vehemently denied knowing Him, to die for those who arrested Him, for those who beat Him, for those who mocked Him, for those who hammered the nails. He even loved deeply enough to stay on the cross when sin made Him feel alone and forsaken. His outrageous love was enough to endure the cruelty of the cross for the joy of presenting us to His Father—not as sinners, but as beloved children, purchased and purified by His blood. He loved with a love so outrageous it killed Him. I want to remember that when I face trials and God seems silent. His silence has been one of the loudest declarations of His love we will ever hear. He has chosen to be a peculiar person, a priest, and an adopted child. He has promised to never leave me or forsake me. So, when He chooses to speak to me through His silence again, I want to hear what He is saying?

Prayer: Father, thank you for the love that Christ demonstrated to us in His suffering and His death. We also thank you for your forgiveness. Please help us love those who are difficult to love. May our commitments of love not be here today and gone tomorrow -- but be firm and steadfast through every circumstance imaginable. May we always experience Your love at it deepest levels when You seem to be silent. AMEN.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Avoiding Unwholesome Talk

"Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, 
but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, 
that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, 
with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 
Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, 
along with every form of malice. 
Be kind and compassionate to one another, 
forgiving each another, just as in Christ God forgave you."
Ephesians 4:29-32

One of the ways we can shine brightly in a world filled with darkness is by the words we choose to use in our everyday lives. Before people trust Christ, their speech is often characterized by angry, corrupt communication. Paul, who wrote Ephesians, is a good example of this. Before he trusted Christ, he was known for "breathing out threats and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord." After Paul trusted Christ, his words reflected a life governed by love and a passion to share the gospel. His words reflected a desire to teach believers how to relate to their heavenly Father and each other. 

The Holy Spirit, in sealing us as God's children, called us to a higher standard in the area of speech. Sadly our speech is not all that different from nonbelievers'. Our speech often reflects what's going on in us. To change speech we need to begin to keep our hearts pure by letting go of bitterness and working through our anger. Doing this has the potential of keeping us from evil speaking we might be tempted to do. We cannot get rid of those things without confessing them to God and asking Him to remove them and replace them with His tenderhearted compassion.

Pure speech is also easier if we are quick to forgive each other. I found this easier to do when I realized I have already sinned more against God than any person has sinned against me. The least I can do is to forgive those who offend or hurt me. While that realization excites me, it also makes me feel pretty vulnerable. It means I have to become willing to take risks and be willing to put myself in the position of being hurt again and again. To be honest, there are times I want to protect my heart and put up walls so thick no one can penetrate them. However, after I spend time sitting at Jesus' feet and experience His love, I find I don't want to grieve the Holy Spirit by building walls. After spending time with Him, I become more willing to love and risk being hurt. 

It is important to remember it is in living in Christ's presence, that the Christian life becomes more than a set of rules or a fear of making God angry. It becomes a relationship with a living, personable, loving God. I realize my actions can hurt Him because of the love He has for me. In His presence I am more willing to risk being hurt by forming Christ-centered relationships. In His presence, I am willing to risk ridicule by being “different” and using words that edify and minister grace to those who hear them. In His presence, I want to love as boldly as He does—even if it means rejection. I at times even get brave enough to risk a person's anger by pointing out the sin that hinders their relationship with God. 

I have come to realize to have the kinds of words I want in my mouth I have to walk with the Savior and let Him reveal the hurts with which I haven't dealt and allow Him to heal them. I've had to be humble enough to ask Him to replace anger with tenderhearted compassion. I've had to ask Him to melt my bitterness and replace it with His limitless forgiveness. I've had to ask Him to replace the fear of being hurt again with a bold faith that counts on His faithfulness to heal and sustain me with His love. I've had to ask Him to deal with my pride that handles relationships apart from Him. I have to let Him peel away the layers of self-protection so His love shines brightly through me!

Hebrews 10:24 says that we are to provoke one another to love and good works. I think that includes spurring one another to speak words that reflect love. I want the Holy Spirit to fill me so my words minister grace and love to those who hear them? May I encourage you to let the Holy Spirit strip you of the things you use as self-protection so the light of His love can shine brightly though you?

Prayer: Father, thank you so much for the intimacy that comes from having your Holy Spirit seal us into your family. Thank you so much for loving us and for dwelling in us even though at times our words and our actions grieve you. Thank you for the Spirit's work in our lives that melts anger, dissolves bitterness, and erases evil words before we speak them. Thank you for giving us the grace to forgive. Please fill us with Your love and let that overflow into words that edify others. Father, we live in a hurtful world where angry hateful words are hurled at us and around us daily. Please let Your truth and Your love reign in our hearts and minds so that we meet those words and situations with Your grace being protected by your love. Amen.


Several years ago I realized that I often sped through my Scripture reading and gave it little thought. Yet, when I had meaningful conversations with friends or family members I replayed them over and over in my head. One day it occurred to me, that if I thought more about what God says in his word that I would not only know more about Him, but I would come to know Him in a personal way. I would know more about His thoughts, His character, His intentions, His passions, and His actions. So, I began to take one verse at a time and think on it and then journal about it. At the time I was served as a volunteer in youth ministry and shared my “Thoughts on God” with those girls. For a while I have been rewriting and posting them on this blog. I have realized when I am in the Word or move through my day focusing on God's presence that I have wonderful opportunities to Meet God in the Everyday. The Everyday can include storms, blessings, hard things, scary things, exciting things...just any where, anyplace, any time. I hope that you will be able to engage with what I write with both your head and your heart. I also hope you will be challenged to love, trust, and know the God of the Scriptures. It is my prayer that as you read you will experience Him at a deeper level and share pieces of your journey in the comments. It is my desire that we form a safe community of believers who pursue the God who loves us radically, eternally, and without reserve. As a precious pastor once told me, "Don't forget, Wendy, God is Good!" I find myself compelled by His Goodness and His Love to share so others can know Him through all the ups and downs of life. Please feel free to dialogue back and to share how each passage impacts you. If if there is a passage you would like me to write on or if you would like to be a guest blogger, please let me know. I am just learning to navigate this blog and appreciate the kind comments you have made in the past...I promise I will even try to respond if you leave a note. If you are blessed please share the blog with friends!