We’d like to be humble…but what if no one notices?
We’d like to be humble…but what if no one notices?
For as the earth brings forth its sprouts,
And as a garden causes the things sown in it to spring up,
So the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise
To spring up before all the nations.
(Isaiah 61:11 NASB)
I read somewhere that the Koine Greek word translated as “head” (as in Christ is head of the church) in most English versions of the Bible, carries the connotation of head as in headwaters.
This thought came to me as I came across a photo I took at the south end of Columbia Lake. These are the headwaters the mighty Columbia River that eventually supplies water for irrigation and shipping systems for much of the western USA.
What’s behind that mighty river is a beautiful lake in our backyard that collects the abundant run-off from the mountains.
Christ taught servant leadership.
Jesus: You know that among the nations of the world the great ones lord it over the little people and act like tyrants. But that is not the way it will be among you. Whoever would be great among you must serve and minister. Whoever wants to be great among you must be slave of all. Even the Son of Man came not to be served but to be a servant—to offer His life as a ransom for others. (Mark 10: 42-45 The Voice)
It is what flows out of a person that makes them a great leader. If they are in alignment with Christ as their living head, Christ’s love can flow through them. As others join in unity of the Spirit a confluence grows that pours out in an increasingly deeper and wider outflow, providing for many downstream.
When a leader, any leader, demands homage and lords power over others the direction of flow is reversed. When it becomes all about respect for titles and offices and need for recognition coming his or her way the stream dries up. Submission to the type of leadership Jesus demonstrated is cooperation and confluence, not slavery. It produces much fruit.
We love Christ because he first loved us. Our love and worship is a response to him. Love must be voluntary or it is not love at all. It is something else entirely devoid of freedom.
Freely you have received. Freely give.
The meaning of life.
The wasted years of life.
The poor choices of life.
God answers the mess of life with one word: ‘grace.’
“I need to worship because without it I can forget that I have a Big God beside me and live in fear.
I need to worship because without it I can forget his calling and begin to live in a spirit of self-preoccupation.
I need to worship because without it I lose a sense of wonder and gratitude and plod through life with blinders on.
I need to worship because my natural tendency is toward self-reliance and stubborn independence.”
I used to think God must either be some sort of egomaniac, or the opposite, an insecure assurance addict, that He wanted praise all the time. I learned at an early age (and to my embarrassment now) that the best way to get something from my dad was to butter him up first. It’s the go-to weapon of choice for many people when they feel powerless. I hoped the same technique would work on God.
It wasn’t until I let go of the false definition of God that I somehow picked up in my early years that I began to realize how wrong I had been. God’s self-image is just fine, thank you. He doesn’t need anyone to create one for him.
Worship is about taking my eyes off myself and focusing on who he is. In the process of gazing on his beauty and concentrating on his attributes, I can begin to see myself in his eyes. It creates perspective.
Turning all our attention on who he wants to show himself as in this season of our lives can be like having a defining-the-relationship talk with the Almighty. God is God, holy other, far above any created thing. He knows us intimately and loves us deeply.
It doesn’t get any better than that.
Christ has risen! He has conquered death by death! The veil separating us from God’s presence has been torn from top to bottom! Jesus lives to intercede for us! He is our only mediator!
But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:16-18)
This was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and confident access through faith in Him. (Ephesians 3: 11, 12)
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5:1)
No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in Him, is mine;
Alive in Him, my living Head,
And clothed in righteousness divine,
Bold I approach th’eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.
(from Amazing Love by Charles Wesley)
I had something else in mind when I started writing an entry for Good Friday. I was impressed by the phrase “the time when the power of darkness reigns” in Luke 22:52-53:
“Then Jesus spoke to the leading priests, the captains of the Temple guard, and the elders who had come for him. “Am I some dangerous revolutionary,” he asked, “that you come with swords and clubs to arrest me? Why didn’t you arrest me in the Temple? I was there every day. But this is your moment, the time when the power of darkness reigns.”
At that particular moment, Jesus allowed himself to be taken captive by those powers that worked in the dark, away from the eyes of the few who would insist on proper protocol, and accountability and the checks and balances that are meant to thwart the misuse of power.
This was a misuse of power.
This morning as I woke I heard: He came to set the captives free.
I’ve been too impressed by the reign of darkness. Jesus said later that his submission to those who would kill him was voluntary.
Love is always voluntary, or it is not love.
This morning the words I heard, “He came to set the captives free,” struck me with the full beauty of irony. Jesus became a captive so he could set the captives free. Jesus died to overcome death.
Jesus died so he could overcome death.
I found a photo I took in Jerusalem at Lithostrotos (Roman Paving) under the Convent of Ecce Homo (Behold the Man – Pilates words when he handed Jesus over to be crucified). In a dark low-ceiling room now underground, it is thought to be the place where Jesus’ trial was held and where the Roman soldiers tortured him.
Our guide told us it was unusually quiet that day. I sat on a stone bench and sang, “My Jesus, I love Thee… If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus ’tis now,” with tears streaming down my face.
Of all the places we visited in Israel this place had the most emotional impact on me. I could feel the darkness, and yet I could also feel the light that rose out of this powerful yet powerless environment that once echoed with the sound of whips and jibes, knowing that it is by his stripes that we are healed.
His wounds became our health.
Jesus entered darkness to bring light. He became a man of sorrow that we might share the joy set before him. He gave up his liberty to set us free. He became sin that we might be free from sin.
Behold the Man
If believers decay in their first love, or in some other grace, yet another grace may grow and increase, such as humility, their brokenheartedness; they sometimes seem not to grow in the branches when they may grow at the root; upon a check grace breaks out more; as we say, after a hard winter there usually follows a glorious spring.
– Richard Sibbes
God is the God of restoration. If he raised Jesus from the dead he can surely raise hope from the dead.
It’s never too late.
My little flock, don’t be afraid. God is your Father, and your Father’s great joy is to give you His kingdom.
That means you can sell your possessions and give generously to the poor. You can have a different kind of savings plan: one that never depreciates, one that never defaults, one that can’t be plundered by crooks or destroyed by natural calamities. Your treasure will be stored in the heavens, and since your treasure is there, your heart will be lodged there as well.
(Luke 12:32-34 The Voice)
God’s version of prosperity may be bigger and more freeing than you think.
And very different.
In this portion of the journey, when steps forward and steps backward start to resemble a cha-cha more than a foot race, I sometimes wonder what is going on. As I write this people the insurance company sent are in my house packing up stuff that, only four months ago, finally had a place. Now, after the flood, it doesn’t. Again. After all that is salvageable leaves in a truck headed to a storage facility, the deconstruction people come to tear out walls I just painted and flooring we just laid. This week I rushed about trying to figure out what I might need in the next few months that I should store in bins in corners of the house that is still habitable. I was going a little nuts.
It felt like I was wallowing in hope deferred.
Then a friend (Godsend that she is) asked me if I would join her and paint during the worship portion of a conference. I was apprehensive about doing what I do in front of real live people (as opposed to anonymous readers). I am so done with performance and stage Christianity, but I decided that hiding is not much better. Besides, I needed to get out of the house – and they let me sit in a corner of the auditorium.
The first night I painted light streaming through the woods as the Lord spoke to me about shifting atmospheres in a way that brings light to dark places, but the idea for this painting, started the second day, formed before the first was even finished. I saw the red umbrella as a symbolic covering like the covering given by the blood over the doors at Passover and the covering given by Christ’s blood. I saw a break in the clouds. I saw a pass in the mountains with a rainbow of promise over it.
I was also aware of the unseen shadowy valleys between happy greening hills covered with the yellow sunflowers of spring and the places where winter is reluctant to let go of its hold.
As I finished details that indicated a shifting atmosphere the phrase came to me: Promise IS breakthrough.
The answers God has provided to problems friends and family and people I am praying for around the world already exist. God, in his great mercy, takes us through hills and valleys and seasons of sun and storm to prepare us for the rigors of abundance, influence, and authority, but he promises breakthrough.
This weekend I heard, “Know who you are. Know whose you are. That’s your protection, your covering. Lift your eyes and see God’s plan. Quit hiding and move. This is going to be good.”