THE TURN

The perfect God/man, Creator of all things, the Son of GOd blackened by the most horrific sins imaginable. God the Father could not bear to look.

Those who know the Easter story, who know the biblical account of the crucifixion and who have perhaps dug deeper into the traditions that surrounded the gruesome yet beautiful event, will remember well the climax of the story. At least, it is the climax of the story from our viewpoint. Luke 23 beginning in verse 44 is where I want to begin.

” Now it [l]was about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour. 45 Then the sun was [m]darkened, and the veil of the temple was torn in [n]two. “

Jesus had taken on the sin of the world. All sin for all time. The perfect God/man, Creator of all things, the Son of God blackened by the most horrific sins imaginable. God the Father could not bear to look. God the Father turned His face away, His back toward His only Son. Jesus cried and asked, “Why have you forsaken me?” The anguish of seperation between two who for eternity past had been One, now torn… Jesus commits His spirit to the Father and from our viewpoint, the story of Good Friday and Christ on the cross comes to an end.

Right now its almost 5am on Easter Sunday morning 2019. Most pastors are getting up preparing for the sunrise services. Me, an old retired cop, just spent 5 hours on a security detail for my company and I’m preparing for bed, hoping to make the non-sunrise service. But, driving home, contemplating Easter morning I began thinking about what time it was that Jesus actually arose. We know the women came to the tomb at first light but how long had Jesus been back to the earthly domain? Had He stood over His mother Mary, as she fitfully slept in shear exhaustion, eager to comfort her? Maybe watching over His disciples, knowing their hurt and how joy would come to them this day.

As I thought on those things, I went back in my mind to Friday. Just after Jesus died. That was perhaps the most amazing and overwheling part of the story and we, for the most part have missed it! The picture above of Jesus in heaven is a nice picture but think about Jesus story of the prodigal son and how the father came running down the road to greet him when he returned.

AFTER God the Father had to turn His back on Jesus, His only Son, seconds later, Jesus is there with the Father and God turns back, His face now beaming at His Son! Can you imagine the embrace? Can you picture God the Father running to embrace His Son? Ah, Easter, thank God!

SCANDALOUS

“As Christians, our purpose is to love those people the way Jesus loves them – with generous compassion, scandalous grace, and undeniable truth.”

ONE of my favorite Bible passages is John 1:16. In the NKJV it reads, “And of His fullness we have all received and grace for grace.”  It can also be rendered, grace upon grace’ , that is over and over again, never stopping, just continuous grace! I  heard it described once in this manner…

GRACE. God’s wonderful, matchless, unwarranted riches of forgiveness and love lavished upon people like me who were enemies of God, not loving, nor caring about Christ, God’s only Son who, not only was with the Father as the Creator of the universe; but, became the sacrificial lamb. Beaten so horrifically and murdered in a way by which no human, nor any creature should ever be subjected. Yet, by His grace, He made me an heir to His kingdom, a son, righteous only by the blood of Christ; but loved with a love so deep, so pure, and never ending.

Imagine a beautiful mountain stream, fresh, sparkling clean, amazing in taste and unmatched in its refreshment and with the sound of the water flowing along, the wind wafting along, lightly in the trees, birds and animals gathering to enjoy the wonderful early afternoon sight. For me, the smell of lilac, fresh and flowing on the air makes the scene complete. In that scene, the flowing water is God’s grace. One pastor described kneeling at that stream and drinking in the cool water to his heart’s content. I picture it differently. I throw myself headlong into the water, submerging myself and coming to the surface where I stretch out in the stream and allow the water to flow over me, knowing that every second the grace is new, it is fresh, and it will never run out. Every part of me completely engulfed by the refreshing stream. I find myself completely lost in its embrace.

Bighorn Mountain Lake

In a session for the Bible study, ROOTED: Connect with God the Church your Purpose, in teaching on GRACE, is written… “As Christians, our purpose is to love those people the way Jesus loves them – with generous compassion, scandalous grace,  and undeniable truth.” (emphasis added) I love that term! Scandalous grace! Defined, scandalous is at once, shocking or outrageous. That describes such love, particularly in Jesus’ time when He was seen lavishing love on an adulterous woman of the street by forgiving her of all she had done. Jesus love was certainly not the physical love we are drawn to imagine, but for the religious folks of Jesus’ time, the other definitions would fit HIS grace…  Think about how the self-righteous religious leaders of Jesus time (and perhaps even ours) might picture Jesus’ grace on those they saw as too low to speak with, to reprehensible to share a meal or clothing. Try these: disgraceful, immoral, shameful, indecent, disreputable, appalling, reprehensible, wicked… For Jesus to sit at the well and speak openly to the Samaritan woman, really! It was not just a woman He was lowering Himself to address, not just a poor woman, but a Samarian!

In a session for the Bible study, ROOTED: Connect with God the Church your Purpose, in teaching on GRACE, is written… “As Christians, our purpose is to love those people the way Jesus loves them – with generous compassion, scandalous grace,  and undeniable truth.” (emphasis added) I love that term! Scandalous grace! Defined, scandalous is at once, shocking or outrageous. That describes such love, particularly in Jesus’ time when He was seen lavishing love on an adulterous woman of the street by forgiving her of all she had done. Jesus love was certainly not the physical love we are drawn to imagine, but for the religious folks of Jesus’ time, the other definitions would fit HIS grace…  Think about how the self-righteous religious leaders of Jesus time (and perhaps even ours) might picture Jesus’ grace on those they saw as too low to speak with, to reprehensible to share a meal or clothing. Try these: disgraceful, immoral, shameful, indecent, disreputable, appalling, reprehensible, wicked… For Jesus to sit at the well and speak openly to the Samaritan woman, really! It was not just a woman He was lowering Himself to address, not just a poor woman, but a Samarian!

Then, of course, we have Mary, a woman no stranger to immorality and demeaning relationships with apparently multiple men… not only did Jesus love her with grace unmatched by anything the world had ever known, but He allowed her to express her thankfulness by pouring rich, fragrant perfume in his hair and by that publicly show the depth of her love for Him… certainly the religious leaders thought it disgraceful, immoral, shameful… Jesus’ grace to them was all of those. Even to Judas, an apostle… he could not fathom how Jesus would allow such a thing. Although Judas’ concern was more for the money he was losing by not having his own hands on that perfume than the indecency of Christ’s allowing such a show of affection!

THE GRACE of GOD,  poured out on mankind by CHRIST… absolutely SCANDALOUS!

PRAISE GOD!

An Act of Love

Riggs Ministry Minute “When there is only a minute for ministry” http://www.docriggs.com
Rev. Ross L Riggs, D. Min. True North Ministries
A heavy anticipation, not the kind one gets when anxious to see a grand-baby for the very first time but an anticipation that comes from hurt, deep within the soul. They had been up throughout the night, talking, remembering, laughing and crying; all the while carefully preparing the mixtures of natural nectar, spices and aloes that would together anoint their precious Savior. Not being able to sleep nor could they fill that aching emptiness in their hearts. Perhaps they hoped seeing Him again, even though it was just his dead and badly beaten body and to tenderly sooth it with balm from Gilead.
As the sun slowly broke across the horizon, faint streaks of light began to seep into the recesses of the garden of Jesus’ tomb. The two sisters, Mary and Salome, Zebedee’s wife, held hands as they made their way with the others among the heavily scented flowers of the garden, still wet with dew. The chill in the air was enough to cause the other Mary to pull her shawl around her shoulders; even as she did a chill crept across her and she shivered almost uncontrollably, but not from the cold. Emotions boiled up with each of them. It was if their hearts were racing as they made their way through the shadowy morning stillness.
Suddenly, they were there, standing in front of the tomb where they knew Jesus had been buried. Why is the stone rolled away? Why are the guards so very still? Why is everything so incredibly silent? The birds had suddenly stopped their singing. Every early morning sound that normally fills the air was halted. It was if every living creature was standing completely still, expecting some amazing news and no one wanted to miss it. As everyone listened, a beautiful, incredible voice came from the direction of the tomb. Could it be? Was that an angel, a messenger from heaven actually here in this beautiful place sitting atop the large stone? This is too amazing, like the many miracles they had witnessed as they traveled with Jesus across the countryside. And then it was the angel’s voice the broke the stillness. The words he spoke seemed to answer every question while creating a dozen more.
“The Jesus that you seek… He is not here. HE IS RISEN!”
She thought her heart would explode within her chest! Could it be true? Could she really have heard what was the hope of every hope she carried within her? Suddenly she felt as if she had to get away, to find someone and tell them, to learn the truth, to find Christ! Mary made her way back through the dense flowers of the garden, sending splashes of cold dew across her face as she ran. She stopped. There stood a man. The gardener? “Sir, you must tell me where they have taken them!” She pleaded with him as she dropped along the path and took hold of his robe. As she stared at the cold ground beneath her where she knelt, her breathing was rapid and erratic as if mocking the jumble of feelings she had inside. Then suddenly, that voice, that soft, gentle, completely unmistakable voice… “Mary” and she knew.

The Garden Tomb outside Jerusalem