To God for us

And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Ephesians 5:2
Nothing exhilarates me more than God revealing a mystery (Colossians 1:26). When you read something you've read before again and then click, you just get it. Before that moment it was simply illusive: God killed Jesus. According to Passover regulations, at precisely 3 pm, the High Priest took a sharp knife and slit the throat of the umblemished sacrificial lamb of the whole of Isreal. And so in Mark 22:34-38 we read how God (the High Priest) took Jesus (the unblemished lamb) as our sacrifice. And to give us a visual, "the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom," (v. 38) a picture of God (the High Priest) slitting of the throat. This cutting did much more because it allowed ALL who asked Jesus to be their sacrificial lamb to enter the presence of God.
And looking back to the Ephesians 5:2 passage, I see how Jesus as the unblemished Lamb was different than a lamb selected for the Passover feast. A lamb in the Passover feast was taken against its will to give to God. Jesus gave himself for us, to God! Now that's love. Pure. Unselfish. Love.

Revealing the heart

As we worshipped corporately and lifted Jesus' name on Palm Sunday this past week, a fresh realization occurred to me: Palm Sunday is about the heart. When Jesus rode into Jerusalem, the people praising Him, they were confident in legalistic rules; Jesus would overturn the Roman rule. It was about the letter of the law. If it had been about the heart, they would not have chanted, "Crucify Him! Crucify Him!" just 3 days later. So today, does praising Him revealed legalistic rules or our hearts?
Never before have I realized that I relate to the people in Jesus' lifetime on earth who wanted the Roman government overturned. Too often, I am frustrated with politics, laws, politicians and think, "Jesus judge them. Show them who's really in charge." But in Jesus' earthly ministry he never claimed to bring his kingdom on our sinful earth but to their hearts. It isn't different now. Jesus simply wants me to have his kingdom rule in my heart.
I think of the present day Christian martyr, Saeed. In chains for the gospel message, he is being persecuted in Iran for preaching the gospel. Yet his correspondence radiates joy and peace amidst the struggle. Truly this is a picture of the kingdom of God reigning in his heart.
Jesus taught in the Beatitudes
Blessed are the poor in spirit
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:3)
These are those who've given everything they hold dear to God, holding nothing back. The poor in spirit entrust their most prized possessions to God. A.W. Tozer says, "They have broken the yoke of oppression not by fighting but by surrendering," (The Pursuit of God, p. 23). Abraham is a dynamite example of ripping from his heart his most treasured possession, Isaac, as he laid Isaac on the alter.
My responsibility is not overthrowing the king of this world but to let the kingdom remain in my heart. But how? I can think of no better place to begin than to remain, to abide. How do I have compassion on those who are children of the king of this world? How do I love them like Jesus does? I don't have strength on my own to do this. I will abide. There is no other way.


Every month, same as the last, budgeting. Cash flow. Telling the money God's given us where to go. Some months end in the green, but sometimes emergencies happen and we see red. I never realized that this idea of accounting is what Paul was using to encourage the Philippians in Chapter 3:7-8:
But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus for my Lord.
Paul is urging us to think as he, considering all the advantages we seemly have in life are really nothing in comparison to knowing Christ. If you look back to verses 5 & 6 you see him list his credentials. The advantages, not material possessions, he had in life. I think about mine. Those things I carry in my back pocket: I am a US citizen; I had a Christian upbringing; I have a college degree; I am married; I am a mother...but these merely reflect my status. They aren't who I am. They are not my position in life. And further more, Paul calls them nothing, worthless. They alone leave me in the red. Christ is the only thing worth anything. Only Christ can move me to the green.
Twice Paul says, he wants to know Christ (vv. 8 & 10). The greek word is ginosko. It means experiential knowledge, to get knowledge of feel, to understand or perceive, and interestingly, it is an expression used to refer to sex (an intimate knowing).
I am reminded of Randy Alcorn's insight shared in Heaven. What if marriage as we know it is an illustration of our marriage to Christ in heaven. What if sex, getting lost in each other physically, emotionally and mentally, is a glimpse of the thrill and exhilaration we'll feel when we are walking and talking with our Maker, Jesus? It seems to me this may be the knowing that Paul is talking about. Really knowing Christ because you've experienced Him in your life.
In verse 9, Paul states he wants "to be found in Him." Again another reference to abiding in Christ as I shared my thoughts last week.
In verse 10, Paul repeats his desire and longing to know Christ and adds to his list:

  • Power of His resurrection; Interestingly, I found the the word power is where the word dynamite comes from. Paul wants to experience the dynamite power God used to raise Christ from the dead.
  • Share in His sufferings - The word share (NIV says fellowship) is koinonia meaning intimate fellowship is sometimes used to refer to sex. When Christ hurts, do I? Do I cringe at injustice, aching hearts, orphaned children, widowed women? 

Paul had an intense desire to be one with Christ. Is my life really marked by that? Honestly, it's not. Jesus said, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness," (Matthew 5:6.) Is my soul's longing desire Jesus (Psalm 42:1-2)? Do I know Christ more than I know the engineer?
I have found that knowing more in my head about Jesus has revealed to me much of who Christ is.
We will be like Him because we'll see Him as He is. 1John 3:2
When we meet Jesus face to face, we'll be like Him because we'll see Him. Why can't this process begin now? Indeed this is the process of sanctification...being made holy. The more we know about Him, the better we understand Him (although we can never fully grasp God) the more we can be transformed into His likeness. This is a process that begins now and will be completed at perfection.
I am a list maker. My iCal is loaded with tasks and agendas. I feel I have gained worth if in my day I have mentally checked off the to do list. This in sense, puts me in the green. Now I see that the only way to be in the green is to experience Christ.

My work

The completeness of the Bible is mind bogglingly beautiful and reassuring to me! As God directs me in studying different books of the Bible simultaneously, I am tickled to see how the truths within overlap in perfect unity. Truly, "all scripture is God-breathed," (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
I uncover unity in Philippians 2 (written by Paul) and John 15 (as John writes of Jesus' ministry). In Paul's letter to the Philippians, he urges them to "work out your salvation with fear and trembling," (2:12-13).  "Work out" means to practice or bring that which has already been begun to completion. God has begun a good work in us and will be faithful to bring it to completion (Philippians 1:6). He is working through are we to be working? Why are we to work after we accept the gift of salvation? Not because we have to but because we want to, because we are so grateful for Christ's sacrifice and do not want to do anything to offend such a merciful, gracious God. If someone gave you a house to live in and it wasn't quite finished (say trim work & some painting), would you decline the gift? I would be so thankful and live in it as the finishing touches were being fashioned. To decline the gift altogether or complain about it would seem offensive and ungrateful. How much greater a gift is salvation? God saved us (past tense) from the penalty of sin. God saves us (present tense) from the power of sin and God will save us (future tense) from the presence of sin when we enter heaven. 
What work do we need to do? I think a bigger picture can be seen when we take a look at Jesus' teaching at the Last Passover meal with his disciples in John 15 when he says, "I am the vine, you are the branches." A branch cannot draw nourishment from any other source other than the vine. It would not work for me to draw strength from any other source but Jesus. Think of a vine trying to get nourishment from a can of Diet Coke. That's absurd and it's absurd to think that I could be sustained by anything or anyone BUT the Vine, the Bread of Life, Jesus. Therefore whatever "I" do, it isn't really me doing it, it's God doing it through me. The branch doesn't give food and water to the flows through the branch from the vine. So the good things "I" do, it's Jesus doing it through my body. If I detach myself from the Vine, I can do NOTHING! (John 15:5) Romans 11:18 also says "Remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you." Jesus supports me.
So yes, I'm working out my salvation...working at abiding so the Christ can work through me to produce good fruit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control to name a few (Galatians 5:22-23). It is indeed a two-way flow. If I cut myself off by not abiding, He's still working, but the nourishment and strength He provides won't have any fruit to go to. And the vine is solid, even though I the branch can wilt in the stresses and trials of life. But the Vine, he's not going anywhere!
And while I'm working to remain connected to the Vine, I am to be humble, realizing that it is God who is working in me because He chooses me and because it gives Him pleasure to work in me (Philippians 2:13). The word "work" appears twice in verse 13 and means active energy, effective power or efficacy. This is how God works in me and makes me desire what He wants and enables me to do what He wants me to do. God always supplies the energy and desire to do His will.
My work is abiding, remaining with Him, to be united with Him, one with Him in heart, mind and will. The rest is God's work.

Plunder...but they can't take the good stuff joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. For "Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay; but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him." But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and perserve their souls. Hebrews 10:34-39
It's hard to maintain perspective in this country that seems to be falling further and further away from the True Vine, Jesus. Watch the news on any given night and you see the "fruit" of abiding in Christ is NOT there often enough. Disrespect, self-glorification, rising taxes, scandal... I'd be lying if I said fear never creeps into my mind. This week, I read this passage in Hebrews and it reassured me of hope. I love the end of verse 34, even if we are stripped of everything we work to physically possess, we have a better possession! We have an inheritance: eternal life, and NO government or ill-will citizen could ever take that away from us. But don't overlook the last phrase in this verse: "we have an abiding [possession]," Christ with us, present tense! Every time fear begins its attack...I need to have confidence that He that is in me is more powerful than Satan who is in the world (1 John 4:4). Those in this world Satan uses may plunder and strip me of all my earthly possessions, but they can't take the good stuff, Christ in me--my eternal life!