How Precious Did That Grace Appear

If we only conclude the problem is “out there”, we completely miss the concept of grace. The problem is always “in here.”

Jonah’s adventure is the gospel in literary form. Grace, fall from grace, consequences, anger, repentance, and the return to grace. In no way can I judge the heart of Jonah as he found himself washed up on a Mediterranean beach. What I do know, is that he accepted his mission and made his way to Nineveh. I imagine, from his retreat into exile that led to his three-day isolation, he still has some apprehension about this trip. Nineveh is the bully of the world at this point. Jonah would like nothing more than to see God eradicate this city from the earth, yet his mission is to lead Nineveh into God’s grace.

The literary tool heavily used in the recount of Jonah’s tale is one which expresses the largeness of the main players and the circumstances. God is a big. Nineveh’s sin was big. The storm was big. The fish was big.

Our semblance to Jonah is becoming increasingly clear. Though we are not all commissioned to preach repentance to a major city, we are all called to something bigger than ourselves.  The bigness of Jonah’s adventure is not emphasized by chance. Putting ourselves in Jonah’s shoes, the first thing we’ll discover is the bigness of our sin. No matter how pure a façade you put on or how good you think you are, things are always worse than they appear. You never find yourself immersed deeper into sin than when you see others as worse sinners than yourself. If we only conclude the problem is “out there”, we completely miss the concept of grace. The problem is always “in here”; your decisions, your motives, your attitude, your hypocrisy, your selfishness. Sin is no respecter of persons, selfishness freely invades the mind of every human being. Recognizing the presence and tactics of this enemy is the first step toward taking back your self-control.

Once we ourselves and our sin in perspective of its bigness, the massiveness of God’s grace is brought into focus. Grace is also no respecter of persons. God freely offers His grace to all humanity, regardless of their past. Grace is freely available through repentance, no questions asked. Even Nineveh, who blended extreme narcissism and extreme brutality into a way of life, had God’s graciousness liberally spread over them at the moment of their repentance.

After grace comes commission. Our responsibility is to choose grace through repentance, we then prove our honor by our service. Like His grace, God’s mission is enormous. The creator of all things is heartbroken over the selfish path His creation has taken. His mission is to re-create all of creation through the lens of perfect selflessness. Nineveh was not the only target in God’s mission for Jonah. Jonah, the sailors on their way to Tarshish, Nineveh, Israel, you, me; we are all targets in God’s mission objective.

Jonah made the mistake of thinking Nineveh’s destiny rested souly on his shoulders. He was just as self-consumed as Nineveh, believing it was only by his grace that God’s could be offered. After delivering a intentionally blunt and vague warning to Nineveh, the city did the thing that Jonah feared most; they mourned over their sin and repented so corporately that God spared the city.

The people of Nineveh believed God. They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them. Jonah 3:5

Nineveh’s outward expression of repentance is the image that stuck in my mind as Dean spoke this morning. To be so broken that weeping alone is insufficient for expressing your grief. Only by reducing your physical self to the lowest stature your culture recognizes, replacing your soft cotton clothes with a rough burlap sack and covering your head with dirt and ashes decomposing on the floor of a fire pit, there is little question of the integrity of one’s mourning at this point.

One of my medium’s of choice is charcoal. I enjoy the raw, natural feel of drawing with compressed ashes and using the natural oils in my fingertips to manipulate the hue and intensity of the charcoal color. I started today’s drawing by expressing the grief of Nineveh, covering the page with a heavy layer of vine charcoal. Next, I firmly pressed my open right hand onto the page, removing charcoal from the page and leaving an impression of my skin. With the hand defined, I darkened the area around the hand with compressed charcoal and blended it into the vine charcoal with my finger. Pressing my hand onto the page once more, I pulled off any compressed charcoal that spilled over into the white space and created this finished image.

How Precious Did That Grace Appear, Jonah 3

God’s grace is substantial enough to remove every blemish from your soul. His grace is bigger than your past. By His hand, He can make all things clean again.

You are Jonah, but your story is not about you. Look at Him.

“How precious did that grace appear, the hour I first believed.” – John Newton, ‘Amazing Grace’

The Mountains Melt

The Lord reigns, let the earth rejoice,

let the many coastlands be glad.

Clouds and thick darkness are all around Him;

righteousness and justice are the formation of His throne.

Fire goes before Him

and burns up His adversaries all around.

His lightnings light up the world;

the earth sees and trembles.

The mountains melt like wax before the Lord,

before the Lord all of the earth.

The heavens proclaim His righteousness

and all the peoples see His glory.

All worshippers of images are put to shame

who make their boasts to worthless idols;

worship Him, all you gods!

Psalm 97: 1-7

The Mountains Melt

Lord – a person who has authority, control or power over others; a master, a chief, a ruler.

Philippians 2:9-11

God has highly exalted him and bestowed upon him a name that is above every name.

The word ‘name’ in this passage is referring to more than the one Mary gave him at his birth. Jesus, while being a name that raises hope, strikes fear, and is often surrounded by controversy, it is not above every other name. The name being referred to here is Jesus’s title, his position. Jesus is the Christ, the I am, the Most High. He is Lord.

How frequently have you used ‘lord’ in the last week? “Dear, lord….” “Oh, lord!” “Lordy, lordy!” Too many to count? What do you mean when you say that word? Do you even know? ‘Lord’ is not a convenient term that was coined to add emphasis to a statement of surprise or frustration, it is an authoritative term carrying serious weight. Those who carry the title of “Lord’ own unquestionable authority over people, places or both. Those of nearly every faith assign God, alone the title of Lord. To imply another being, human at that, is ‘Lord’ is blasphemous. To make a statement like that in 3 A.D. Jerusalem is a death wish.

Carry that weight of the position over into this verse. God is making an undeniably clear statement, Jesus is Lord. God. The one who is Lord Himself. He says Jesus is Lord. The game just changed.

I do not fault a person using a “curse word” around me, provided that use the word in context. When you say a word synonymous with feces, make sure what you are referring to is logically associated with fecal matter. Otherwise, you just sound like an idiot. This is applicable to any word. Words that carry supreme authority should be used with extreme caution and respect.

Many people today claim the position of being Christian, not really understanding what it means to be a follower of Jesus. Being Christian is not a matter of paying dues, associating with one group while avoiding others. You cannot claim Jesus as your Savior without also claiming Him as your Lord.

Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my father. Matthew 7:21

Christ, Kairos, YHWH, the Most High,

Jesus Christ is Lord.

All will acknowledge Him, whether willingly or not.

Who is He to you?

A Smoldering Wick

A Smoldering Wick

 

Matthew 12

A bruised reed, he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not quench until he brings justice to victory.

As long as you have life, you have value. Jesus will pursue you, longing for you to pursue him, until you breathe your last.

His appearance was like lightning

Death in His Grave

by John Mark McMillan

Though the Earth Cried out for blood
Satisfied her hunger was
Her billows calmed on raging seas
for the souls on men she craved

Sun and moon from balcony
Turned their head in disbelief
Their precious Love would taste the sting
disfigured and disdained

On Friday a thief
On Sunday a King
Laid down in grief
But awoke with the keys
Of Hell on that day
The first born of the slain
The Man Jesus Christ
Laid death in his grave

So three days in darkness slept
The Morning Sun of righteousness
But rose to shame the throes of death
And over turn his rule

Now daughters and the sons of men
Would pay not their dues again
The debt of blood they owed was rent
When the day rolled a new

On Friday a thief
On Sunday a King
Laid down in grief
But awoke with the keys
To Hell on that day
The first born of the slain
The Man Jesus Christ
Laid death in his grave

On Friday a thief
On Sunday a King
Laid down in grief
But awoke with keys
Of Hell on that day
The first born of the slain
The Man Jesus Christ
Laid death in his grave

He has cheated
Hell and seated
Us above the fall
In desperate places
He paid our wages
One time once and for all

His appearance was like lightning

Matthew 28:3

His appearance was like lightning and His clothes were white as snow.

Celebrate the victory.

Justified & Adopted

Over the last three weeks we’ve learned how we are justified through our faith in Christ alone. One would think justification is the pinnacle of the Christian faith. Today’s focus tops it.

I have several friends who have either adopted a child or are in the process of adopting. In his book “Outlive Your Life”, Max Lucado quotes the number of the world’s orphans is less than the number of families in America that call themselves Christian. He then poses the question, “Why are there still orphans?” Our culture takes a cynical approach adoption, which then affects our perception of the Gospel.

Do you have any children of your own?

You already have ___ children, why adopt?

These kinds of questions are extremely offensive to adoptive parents and degrading to the child.

Or the family introductions that go something like this: meet my adopted child so-and-so. Teaching the young mind they are lesser than a “real” child because they don’t have your DNA.

One thing I have learned through my friends who’ve adopted is this, biology doesn’t dictate parenthood. When it comes right down to it, we’re all adopted. God entrusts experienced souls (parents) with rookie earth-dwelling souls (children). The transaction occurring through copulation doesn’t make someone more of a parent and an adoption agent won’t make someone any less of a son or daughter. We are all adopted.

The same is true in spiritual anthropology. We are justified through our faith in Christ, but that faith also makes us adopted children of God. For in Christ, you are all sons of God, through faith (Galatians 3:26). We have an open invitation to approach God intimately. We do not have to communicate through a priest, Jesus is our mediator. It does not matter how we look or how we’ve failed, there are no rituals to navigate through to reach God. We are simply free to cry “Abba, Father” and embrace our heavenly dad.

Originally a slave to sin, Jesus justified us through his death and Resurrection. By faith, our Judge passes an innocent verdict despite our failures being sufficient evidence to convict us. He then steps down from the judge’s bench, walks toward the defense table with His eyes affixed on ours, then passionately embraces us as He whispers in our ear “Child. You’re home.”

So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God. Galatians 4:7

Rock, Paper, Scissors

Picking up right where we left off last week in Jesus +, our message today focuses on Galatians 2. As we saw in Galatians 1, Paul is very frustrated with the church in Galatia because they were preaching a distorted version of the Gospel message, requiring Gentiles to become Jews before they could be Christians. The responsibility for this change fell on the shoulders of their leader, Peter. In chapter 2, we read the account of Paul calling Peter out in front of the church and correcting their theology.

I will admit, I read this chapter and had this image in mind before leaving for The Ridge this morning. I wanted to create a somewhat abstract image of Paul confronting Peter in today’s drawing and recalled how Jesus referred to Peter as a rock for His church(Matthew 16:18). Confrontation plus rock naturally led to the old school yard game, rock, paper, scissors (what can I say, I was an 80’s kid). Quick summary of the rules to refresh your memory; paper beats rock, rock beats scissors, scissors beats paper.

Peter is the rock, Paul is the paper with today’s key verse (Galatians 2:21) highlighted, Jesus is the two rail spikes crossed like a pair of scissors. Ultimately, Peter was promoting an idea that our righteousness before God was directly dependent on how well we adhered to certain religious rules. Specifically, the Jewish law God set in place through Moses generations before. The problem is, such teaching negated the importance of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. If one had to follow the same laws now as they did before Jesus lived, Jesus was just another good guy, a good example but an expendable story in this gospel message. In that sense, rock could defeat scissors.

Enter Paul. Just as Peter’s ministry focused on introducing Jesus to the Gentile community, Paul’s mission was to connect Him to the Jews. As a strictly conservative Jew, Paul knew the law inside and out, so ‘paper’ is a natural fit to represent him. Paul converted from Judaism to Christianity after an eye-opening life-experience on the road to Damascus where he and Jesus were formally introduced. After that moment, Paul’s reputation changed from a brutal man who made Christians fear for their lives to the General Patton of the early church. When Paul spoke, people listened and when had something to say, he was not afraid to say it. Paul heard what Peter was saying and called him out in public; in front of his church, the Jewish community, and the Gentiles he’d insulted. Paul straightened out Peter and the church in a Galatia, un-scrambling their twisted theology and returning them to the clear gospel of Christ.

The verse I highlighted is the key to Paul’s correction and vitally important for us to understand about the gospel: I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing.

If anything we do could be good enough for God, Christ’s death was superfluous and his teaching blasphemous. The Old Testament documents the cycle of humanity’s failure to keep the law, which is why we required a messiah in the first place.

Paper covered rock, preventing rock from pounding scissors.