The promise of beauty deceived me

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Decrepit tulips

The tulips never even opened.  Instead, they started to decay from the moment I placed them in water. The promise of their beauty on display at Target deceived me

I keep flowers all around the house.  This vase is sitting on my bathroom sink. Nearby on Mike’s sink, in contrast, sit some lovely Alstroemeria boasting in their fairness. But somehow the ugliness of the tulips speaks a louder message of truth and I am loathe to toss them.

I sense that I need to embrace the reality that these flowers represent.  This world, this Earth 1.0, IS decrepit, a crumbling place.  No amount of make-up or human enhancements can change this reality.  There IS a curse.

It’s always winter in Narnia – the power of the White Witch reigns. A fact, akin to my decaying tulips.

But just as C.S. Lewis penned, there IS a stronger Truth, an ultimate Power that is at work.  Aslan is coming and a warming, colorful spring heralds this Hope.

Resurrection Sunday, Easter, signals the same for us. A forever summer is drawing nearer. It’s different from summers we have known. Given our few senses, is it even a wonder that we CAN’T imagine a SUPERIOR-summer?

John, guided by the Spirit of God wrote in Revelation 21: 1-4: 

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.  And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.  And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

This renovated, remodeled, new and best of all possible Earths will be Beauty par excellence because the King of Beauty, the LORD Himself will be present with us forever to enjoy.

Since mid-February I have begun to daydream more about this promised future.  I’m beginning to look forward to it.

In the meantime, I thank God for glimpses of beauty, for tastes of goodness here on Earth 1.0. They DO cheer me and lift my spirits. No denying that.  Still, I am sobered by dying reality. A reality that hints at an everlasting Beauty but a reality that cannot hide decay.  Like make-up on a cadaver being prepared for a funeral home viewing.  I’m not fooled. No one is, if they are honest with themselves.

So, this past week, I have learned much from my aborted tulips.  By grace, because of the gift of God’s Word, I know Truth. Jesus.  Though appearing ‘ugly as sin’ because He was MADE to be sin, He was and is and will always Beautiful.

And we believers who, along with my tulips, are decaying, will one day change out our outer layer for new bodies, a final and permanent version 2.0, supernaturally perfect and perpetual.

Aren’t you glad that the best is yet to be?

 

 

 

 

 

I won’t even do it for my pastor!

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Sunday morning.  The communion table’s shrouded plates drew my attention. My thoughts centered on Jesus and His saving work for me. “Father, give me a genuine sense of Your Son’s sacrifice for me!”

A bit of a grimace flickered across our pastor’s face as he prayed for our church and the world.  I decided to pray for him right then and there. An unbidden idea arrived -“What if I asked God to give ME Patrick’s headache or stomach discomfort for the duration of the service?”

As quickly as suggestion formed in my mind, I dispatched it with this humbling admittance:

  • I’m not willing to suffer Patrick’s stead, even for one hour!

My eyes settled once again on the surface bearing the elements.

Holy Spirit-inspired Truth landed on me.

Jesus PLANNED for and undertook to undergo my eternal punishment, cut off from the love of His Dad, a fellowship He had enjoyed since before time.

Not just MY eternal punishment but the weight of every other believer’s well-earned punishment too.  I sat there, half listening to Patrick and using my imagination to re-create the enormity of this formula:

  • Infinite punishment due one believer X number of men for whom Christ suffered X 3 days

My finite brain cells couldn’t expand sufficiently.  But I glimpsed a splinter of Jesus’ love for us.

The sacrament of the shared Supper drew forth a new kind of gratitude.  Thank you, good Father for answering my morning’s prayer.

 

Downton Abbey and Why Jesus Came

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downton-final-season  Mike and I just finished watching this series.  You have to understand how we ‘do movies’.  Thirty minutes at a time, while enjoying supper on trays.  So we have have moved through Seasons 4, 5 and 6 (with a break of several years) at a enjoyably slow pace, savoring each scene as well as imagining what would happen next.

After our hiatus, we noticed a shift from what seemed like an intentional soap operatic purpose of shocking the viewer TO a peppering of events with grace.

We could be mistaken in assigning a perceptible shift in the screenwriting of Julian Fellowes.   It could be that over the years we have grown both more desperate for and in love with God’s Grace, so that we spot it wherever its fragrance wafts.

One dramatic category of this Grace pervaded that final show.  All the broken relationships were healed.

Yes, some might call this contrivance, a tying up with a pretty bow this microcosm named Downton Abbey.

But we loved it!  Reconciliation between humans is a powerful, supernatural and divine blessing.  God has so wired each of us with the need and longing to be ‘right’ with each other and ultimately with God Himself.

  • Deep calls to deep……Psalm 42:7

I’m not ashamed to admit this: we sobbed, both of us.  Tears painted with the recognition of this holy ache planted deep inside.

Realistically, we all know that harmony doesn’t last, at least in this world. Edith’s parents, Robert and Cora Crawley, articulated as much. But the desire for it and the joy that sweeps into our hearts when we are made right with one another point to a world where that kind of peace will be its warp and woof.  That life exists.  Jesus’ birth is proof.

This is one meaning of Christmas.  Creator and Father God intruded into our broken world as the God-Man Jesus to provide the one and only way for us sinful creatures to be reconciled to Him.  And being reconciled to Him, we have hope for harmony at the horizontal level.

By the time you read this, Christmas day will be waning or already past.  Invariably, if you are older than 7, your expectations have not been met.  The hype, YOUR hopes for a mystical, otherworldly taste or experience of Joy bigger than you were not met.  Either in the gifts or in the relationships.

Tomorrow looms as another cold-water, ordinary or even painful day.  But cheer up, reality is actually better than we imagine.  Because of Jesus, Christmas’ promises will neither disappoint nor fade away.

Jesus really did come at that point in history, when Augustus demanded a registration of all his subjects.  And His predicted death and resurrection are the evidence you need to safely trust His words about your future.

There is a new earth and new heavens awaiting Christians, one where true reconciliation with God and with each other will be played out forever.

Downton Abbey gives us a glimpse of what we long for and what is possible.  Thank you, Julian Fellowes!

Why do you trust Christianity? (aka: Why are you a Christian?)

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The only reason to be a Christian or to trust Christianity as a worldview is…

..if it’s TRUE!

Truth is a cross

The God of the universe is a ‘reasonable’ God.  That means He created EVERYTHING in a manner that can be attested to rationally (i.e. backed up with reasons or evidence), using His life-generating ‘logical’ Word.

In fact, God says in Isaiah 1:18 – “Come now, let us reason together, says the Lordthough your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. 

So on this Easter Sunday, I want to pass on what I am learning to articulate, 4 simple facts that even agnostic New Testament scholars and quite a few atheists agree on.  Where disputes and disagreements lie are in the interpretations of the facts.

Being equipped with ‘just the facts, ma’am’, can give you confidence when you find yourself with someone who doesn’t know the truth about Jesus.

Just the Facts, Ma'am

Here is what is past dispute and agreed upon by most reputable scholars, no matter their faith positions:

 

 

 

 

  • Jesus of Nazareth was put to death by crucifixion and laid in a tomb 
  • The tomb was discovered empty 2 days later
  • His disciples believed they had seen the risen, physical Jesus after his death
  • These disciples dramatically changed from cowering, demoralized followers to energized, bold and confident men and women who started a world-wide Christian movement that continues to endure and to grow both stronger and more numerous 2000+ years later

The evidence that backs up these facts comes NOT just from the Gospel accounts and letters written by Jesus’ earliest followers, but also from a-sympathetic historians, (that is to say, from those who didn’t have a dog in the race!)

To give you further confidence when sharing these 4 simple and incontrovertible facts, you only need to know ONE thing more.  Claims are most solid when they can be falsified.

So what would quickly falsify Christianity?

Empty tomb

 

 

 

Produce the body!

That’s all it would take to disprove and shut down the claims of these followers.  And you had better believe it, that the Romans AND the Jewish leaders did all they could to find the dead Galilean.

So as you celebrate and think about the living Savior, be confident, that you can trust the claims of the Bible.  Jesus IS (present tense) the truth, the light and the life.

Jesus' tomb is empty, unlike others

 

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