Tuesday, December 10, 2019

A Tale of Tears and Timbers

Hey Friend,

"The Lord observed the extent of human wickedness on the earth, and he saw that everything they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil.  So the Lord was sorry he had ever made them and put them on the earth.  It broke his heart.  And the Lord said, "I will wipe this human race I have created from the face of the earth.  Yes, I will destroy every living thing - all the people, the large animals, the small animals that scurry along the ground, and even the birds of the sky.  I am sorry I ever made them."  But Noah found favor with the Lord.  (Genesis 6: 5-8)

It occurred to me that ever since I was a little girl and heard the story of Noah, I had fixed my mind on the fact that God wanted to destroy every living thing.  If you really wanted to sum up the story...I may have told you, "The whole world was wicked and so God wanted to destroy it all." 

The part I kept overlooking was the sentence, "It broke his heart." 

I can think on times as a parent that my children, whom I love dearly, did things that broke my heart.  It wasn't that I was angry with them, it was more that I wanted the very best for them and by their disobedience they wound up doing things that ushered in harsh consequences.  It was at those times that my heart grieved. This wasn't what I wanted for them. I wanted so much more. My heart of love wanted abundance for them.

I am learning that God has a heart...and it hurts.  It hurts with what hurts us.

Perhaps the Great Flood was millions of tear drops of sacred ache.  Maybe the expanses of water that covered the whole earth were slow drips of sadness from the omniscient eyes of God.  Perhaps the floodgates of God's grieving heart burst open and every crevice of the earth filled with the sheer weight of His brokenness. 

The Flood was the flood of God's grief born of love.

God in His love and goodness, had mercy on His creation and so He made a way with the rough hewn timbers of the ark for Noah, his family, and two of every creature He'd created, to find their way to safety and salvation.  

God's love outlasted His grief.

God could have wiped the world clean and washed His hands of the mess, but He chose to keep suffering along with His creation.

God then gave His people the Covenant of the Old Testament.  On tablets He gave His people laws to obey that would lead to freedom.  Keep the ten commandments and be able to live in communion with the Alpha and the Omega.  

But no, His people grieved His heart, not once, but many times.  God, instead of sending an ark, fashioned a cradle of holy timbers that would hold this God-made-flesh Savior in its arms. 

God looked at the world and once again, His heart broke.  Tears fell and He knew He had to bring heaven down to earth.

God chose to come and live among His people as Jesus Christ the Son.  He put on human flesh and He endured human pain and suffering.  As an infant Jesus wept.  He knew pain from hunger and cold.  He grew to know the pain of being ostracized and hated.  When His friend died, Jesus didn't preach...He wept.  

In His ministry Jesus was mocked, betrayed, lied to, forsaken, abandoned, beaten, broken, hated, forgotten...He experienced heartbreak from a complete human perspective.  He cried real human tears.  

God the Father grieved once again.  He had sent His Son, but the world rejected Him.  He sent a Savior and the crowds yelled, "Crucify Him!"

Jesus was stripped, beaten, flogged and inhumanely nailed to the timbers that made the cross.  While His Son died the cruelest death, God wept.  The love that poured down from God's broken heart was like holy water to our parched souls.  The flood of Christ's blood made white our sinful stains.

Ann Voskamp writes, "On that Cross, they speared His side and pierced straight into His heart, filled with pain, and it was the water and blood of His broken heart that gushed right out, a flood of love."  (excerpt from "The Greatest Gift")

In everything God has done, the motivation has always been love.  Love that came not in sparse drips, but in raging and fierce floods.  Because we broke God's heart, He opened up the ark, the cradle, and the cross.  Because He loves us so much He allowed His holy heart to break in two and make a way for us to draw near.

It's a tale of tears and timbers from a God of love who cannot deny Himself.

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for your heart of love for me.  Thank you for hurting when I hurt.  Thank you for being willing to grieve the loss of your precious Son so that I could be with you forever.  Forgive me for thinking that you are an angry God that keeps score of my sins.  Let me see the God of love that would flood the earth with water and flood the souls of man with Christ's blood so that we would be saved.  From the cradle to the cross nothing can hold you and no expanse is too great to encompass your great love.  Let my own tears remind me of all the tears you've shed over me and lift my head to gaze into your eyes of love for me.  In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

What about you?  What misconceptions have you had about God?  Do you see Him as a God of anger or a God of love?  Do you believe that God grieves over you and all of creation; that He endured the pain of sending His Son for us because of unfathomable love?  How does that change you this Christmas?

Be blessed...

ps.  Congrats' to Amy D. and Judy K. - winners in the "Women of Courage" book drawing.  It's still not too late to give the gift of love, joy, and hope to the children of Redeemer Christian School.  No amount is too small to make a huge impact.  Visit our Giving Page...thank you.


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Monday, December 2, 2019

My Heart Yearned For the Light

Hey Friend,

I checked my gear one last time, switched on the lamp on my helmet, and glanced back over my shoulder one last time, squinting at the sunshine streaming into the entrance of the cave. 

One by one we headed into the opening in the rocks.  As a camp counselor at a Christian camp, this was a pre-camp opportunity.  I'd always wanted to try spelunking, but until now, hadn't had the opportunity.  I listened intently to our guide's instructions, lest I be labeled a "cave-buffoon" for doing something utterly stupid.  We would all have to work together.

We repelled down rocky crags that took us deeper and deeper into the belly of the cave. In some passages we belly crawled, like a long, slow moving centipede, snaking our way through the narrow tunnels.  We deliberately and meticulously chose our steps in order to push through tight openings.  

Just when I thought we had to be heading into a dead end, the narrow artery opened up into a huge vaulted chamber.  I pointed my headlamp around in order to take in my surroundings.  The clusters of sharp pointed daggers (or stalactites) hung precariously from the ceiling above me.  Millions of slow calcium carbonate drips had crystalized over time, forming these ominous structures.  

The waterfall-like limestone flows varied in size and looked eerily translucent and radiated a certain blue-green fluorescence when the light shone upon them.  

The presence of light illuminated this dark underworld and made the widely varying speleothem (cave formations) come alive.  Stalactites, stalagmites, gypsum flowers, helictites, cave pearls, water-filled sumps, popcorn, and a whole host of artistic creations left me breathless. 

At this point in our journey we took a break and our guide invited us to gather around in a circle.  His voiced echoed off the walls.  "One by one I want you to turn off your headlamps.  Go slowly," he directed.  

When only one or two lamps went dark, it didn't make a huge difference, but halfway around our circle of light-going-dark, the light in the cavern noticeably dimmed.  Finally we were down to one lamp still lighted.  As long as this lamp stayed lit, there was hope.  We could see our guide, each other, our way out.

The last lamp went out and our guide said, "You are now experiencing absolute and complete absence of light...utter darkness."  I felt my chest tighten a bit and my breathing became more shallow.  The longer it remained dark and I felt the nothingness envelope me, I heard mysterious sounds and began to feel discomfort that bumped up against fear.  My heart grew anxious for the light to return.  

Anxious anticipation grew into yearning and desperation for the light to shine once again. Seconds seemed like hours. How long was I going to have to remain in the dark?  I wanted the light.  I wanted it NOW!  

Our guide's deep voice broke the silence. He spoke deliberately, "Once again, Jesus spoke to the people and said, 'I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows Me will never walk in the darkness, but will have the light of life.'" (John 8:12) 

He continued, voice calm and authoritative in the darkness, "The Light shines in the darkness, and darkness has not overcome it."  (John 1:5)

"Know this," he continued, But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1:7)

By this point, I was literally shaking.  I wanted the light back.  I yearned for the light that I too often took for granted.  It struck me that I have "The Light" (Jesus and His Word) always available to me, yet, I ignore Him and I get sidetracked and forget to pick up my Bible.  I choose darkness. That thought scared me.

I needed to yearn for "Jesus the Light" like I was yearning for light to break the unbearable darkness in the cave.

This Advent season, I NEED the light of Christ in my life.  I look around me and the world is becoming more and more like utter darkness and absence of light. The headlamps are going out.  I've become somewhat numb to the evil that prevails in our culture.  Wrong has become right, evil has become good, death has become life, and "true north" has ceased to exist. I need to do my part to not let the light be snuffed out...

Dear Jesus, please come.  Make your home in my heart and teach me to abide in You.  Teach me your precepts.  O how I long to dwell in your holy word.  Let me hunger and yearn for it like I yearn for the light in the darkness.  Your word is a lamp unto my feet and your love is hope for my dying heart.  Renew in me a spirit that is on fire for you and that revels in the joy that your salvation brings. Let me bask in Advent - the glorious moment before the miracle. Jesus, I adore you.  Have mercy on me.  Thank you for being God with me...Emmanuel.  It's in your precious name I pray.  Amen.

What about you? Are you actively choosing to live in the "Light"?  If not, what keeps you from doing so?  Do priorities need to change?  What does Jesus coming into the world mean to you, personally?  Will you share...

Be blessed...

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