The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen. Revelation 22:21
Experiencing grace within the body of Christ is the point of Easter. This is a day to seek out our brothers and sisters as Jesus did on that Resurrection Day.
He did not remain shrouded and dead in the tomb, but rose, breathing the air of earth once again, to seek us out, call our names, walk alongside and eat with us.
Most importantly, he opened wide the hearts that had been closed in fear, confusion, and ignorance.
He makes our hearts burn within us as we contemplate the gift we were given when we deserved only punishment.
Blessing and honor, glory and power, be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne and unto the Lamb forever and ever! Revelation 5: 13
Forever and ever.
is bigger and broader
beyond what I can know or understand.
Today feels so finite,
I am so temporary on this soil.
To spend a mere six weeks
studying the Words
is only a glancing blow
a taste of forever nonetheless.
The Words last while
our earthly bodies will not
the promises ring out while
our attention wanes
the blessings perpetuate while
our gratitude is paltry
the glory is overwhelming while
our appreciation is lacking
the power belongs all to Him
and not to us
It is the Lamb we know so well
the gentle willing sacrifice
taking our place
taking on our guilt
taking off our accumulating debt
taking us along for a walk, for a breakfast, for a touch of his side, his hands
letting us know
through His infinite love
from both the man and the God
that He is with us
If God be for us, who can be against us? Romans 8: 31
On such a gorgeous Easter eve morning as this, how can anything be against us?
The cherry blossoms are bursting, the birdsong triumphant, the frost on the grass giving way to dew–what possibly could be wrong with the world?
It is a simple answer. Everything. We need God. Badly.
We hold Him off.
We have seen the enemy and it is us. We defeat ourselves with our thoughts, our deeds and our passivity.
We will be called to arms tomorrow. Not arms as in weaponry, but arms that were nailed, bleeding, released, tucked inside a shroud and buried.
Then on a brilliant morning, arms that unexpectedly wrapped themselves around us once again.
God is for us. So then who can possibly be against us?
There is no conflict left except the one we must wage against ourselves.
Then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? 1 Corinthians 15:54-55
There are few thoughts as comforting as this:
death cannot overcome us.
When it is swallowed up,
it becomes something other than what it was.
It becomes a seed
covered in the ground,
for the signal to rise again,
to bloom and to fruit.
But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. 1 Corinthians 15: 20-22
Firstfruits are the best of the crop and flock to be turned over with gratitude to God. There is no stinting or pushing forward the flawed or blighted. It must feel like a sacrifice to be a sacrifice.
Abraham was willing to offer up his son but was stopped from having to go through with the sacrifice.
God was willing to offer up His perfect Son and absolutely did so.
So we offer ourselves, pitiful as we are, dead as a doornail through Adam, but saved by that firstfruits sacrifice of Christ. We are swept into His basket of offering and presented alongside Jesus the Man, blessed by the grace and mercy of Jesus the Messiah.
We who have fallen asleep, dead and hopeless in the ground, are awakened with the tenderness of the Father, to rise and bloom, reflecting His glory.
I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on earth. And after my skin has been destroyed yet in my flesh I will see God. Job 19: 25-26
Studying the Book of Job reveals a difficult truth about suffering: we rarely understand why there is pain in our lives, and may well be angry and anguished about what that means in our relationship with God. Job curses the day he was born and wishes he were dead. Yet in his torment, he is able to come to the realization that he has been spared and saved for a purpose that he can barely comprehend, centuries before his hoped-for Redeemer actually sets foot on the earth.
Job, a righteous man who suffers unfairly, a good person to whom bad things are allowed to happen, still knows he will meet God, because he believes, despite everything that has happened, that God has not abandoned him. He continues to believe God exists, not because he had so many years of blessings and good fortune, as faith in that circumstance is easy for any person. He continues to believe even when life is no longer worth living, when death would be a relief, when giving up seems the only reasonable thing to do.
A man this angry has not given up on God but asks most difficult questions, just as we would. God has certainly not given up on him and He has not given up on us, even when we stand in tatters, shaking our fist at Him.
Job knew he was in need of a God who could overlook that anger, compensate for the curses and mend the brokenness. Even after being destroyed, he would be restored to wholeness. Redeemed at face value, purchase price paid in full, in advance, no debt owing, no repayment necessary.
Why? Why would anyone do this for us?
Because God wants to see us stand before Him whole once again.
These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them:
for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings:
and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful.
Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting:
“Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. ”
There were great voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever.” Revelation 11:15
We hear various portions of the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah all year round, usually in a non-religious context, like a commercial or cartoon, using this beautiful work to celebrate something other than the everlasting kingdom of the Lord. Handel would be shocked at how mundane the word “Hallelujah” has become largely because of the popularity of his work. It has become the staple of flash mob venues at Christmas, in food courts, train stations and malls, simply because it is so well known.
But it is not at all well understood. This is far from a paean to Christmas, and is not meant to represent the “heavenly host” praising Jesus’ birth. It actually is a celebration of the Messiah conquering death itself. This is a battle cry about the defeat of evil, not at all a lullaby to a new born baby.
And so it should be the rallying cry for the faithful. It should be sung from the rafters of department stores and gymnasiums and the greatest cathedrals. It is a marvelous song to sing at full tilt, each part intersecting and playing with the voices of the other parts. It cannot be sung without a smile, a shiver down the spine and quickening of the pulse. Even if the tradition of standing for the Hallelujah Chorus was started because King George II needed to stand up to stretch his legs after the lengthy first two sections of the libretto, it is worthy ever after of our standing attention.
So too should we attend to the story of Handel’s creation of his Messiah in a mere 24 days. He was depressed, destitute and desperate for the work. When he finished writing “Hallelujah Chorus”, his assistant, who had tried shouting to rouse Handel from the room where he had sequestered himself, walked in to find Handel in tears. When asked what was the matter, Handel held up the score to “Hallelujah” and said “I thought I saw the face of God.”
When we hear these words, read them and sing them, so do we.
Why do the nations rage, And the people plot a vain thing? 2 The kings of the earth set themselves, And the rulers take counsel together, Against the LORD and against His Anointed, saying, 3 “Let us break Their bonds in pieces And cast away Their cords from us.
9 You shall break them with a rod of iron; You shall dash them to pieces like a potter’s vessel.” Psalm 2: 1-3, 9
What possible use is a broken vessel? Cracked, leaking, unsightly, unwanted, tossed aside.
Even so, that is exactly what we are asked to be, and what we are. Broken in order we be made whole, not by any effort of our own.
The world rages at faith, does everything possible to dash it to pieces, crush it, grind it to dust and cast it away.
Our only hope is to fall on the Rock so as to be broken in Him, not by the angry world.