The day God ran out of patience

2 08 2016

thunder lightningOne day, God’s patience snapped. It began as a clap of thunder in the distance. His discontent rumbled over the hills of villainy, sending forth the first warning shots that His silence would soon cease.

The ocean began to swell, turning the deep green water into white foam, reflecting the Almighty’s building fury. The winds picked up the tempo as they began to howl, building into gale force, breaking into the bellowing roar of divine indignation. God was fed up with the captivity of souls, sick and tired of the despicable prince’s pompous rule.

The roofs and shutters of the Land of Wrath lost their grip and sailed uncontrollably into the wind, exposing dismal hovels of fear. Then the earth began to shake, and the foundations of the mountains trembled, shaking with God’s burning rage.

Smoke rose from His nostrils and consuming fire burst forth from His mouth. He split the heavens because the perishing cried out; He came to rescue those entangled in the snares of death. From His Sanctuary, He heard their wail of distress.

So He mounted the cherubim and soared on the wings of the wind. He made darkness his hiding place, the sky’s dark rain clouds His canopy. Out of the brightness of His presence, the clouds advanced over the dreary land, hail-stones and bolts of lightning emissaries of the infuriated King. The Lord thundered from heaven, the voice of the Most High roared. He shot His arrows into the lewd oppression and scattered the devilish minions in a thousand directions. He threw great bolts of lightning and routed the hierarchy of hate. The valleys of the sea were exposed, and the foundations of the earth laid bare at the Lord’s rebuke, at the blast of breath from His nostrils.

Yes, the God of love could bear the sight no longer. He could no longer endure the pain. He had to rescue the people brought forth from His yearning arms, the family He created for holiness.

And so He rose that day in vindication so righteous as to be virtuous. He rose against the devastation and waste. He rose in disgust at the culture of filth, His blood running hot with rage over the crippling depravity. He rose to crush the skull of the vile rebel who had deceived His creation, and with flaming eyes and fuming anger, with clenched fists raised toward heaven, with holy sandals planted squarely on the sludge of deception’s kingdom, God lifted His thunderous voice and shook the rafters of rottenness. His glaring eyes pierced right through the lion, and with words sharpened like a saber, God challenged His enemy to the duel of the ages: “Meet me at Golgotha!”


Excerpt from Safe In His Sanctuary (pp.83-84), by Robert E Rasmussen

photo credit: agatelady.blogspot.com





Comfort in my hurt

18 06 2016

When I listen to my soul and let it speak for itself,

I realize I have been wounded.

Hurt.

My confidence in myself has sustained injury.

A bruise remains.

Then I hear in my mind a melody from my boyhood,

often sung, seldom pondered,

but now of comfort.

So I nudge near to the one in the song —

the one with the wounded, bleeding side,

where my wound is in excellent company.





The gift of fragrance that lingers

15 10 2015

In my daily reading of the Bible, I came unsuspectingly upon the story of the woman and her perfume. I say unsuspectingly because I did not foresee the depth which her example would carve out in my soul.

anointing oilYou recall the incident. Jesus was in the village of Bethany staying in the home of a man named Simon who had contracted leprosy. That’s a significant side story in and of itself. Anyway, the woman (Mary, according to John 12:3) came to Jesus holding a flask made of alabaster stone, opened it up and respectfully anointed Jesus’ head and feet with very costly ointment (spikenard). At the time Jesus was sitting at the table, and He clearly understood what and why the woman was doing this.

She was already mourning His death.

But the disciples didn’t get it. They calculated the monetary value of the perfume, and were indignant at such a waste. Their idea was that poor people would have appreciated a donation of food and clothing — a much more useful purpose than perfuming a man, even their Master.

It is an understatement to say that Jesus had the gift of discernment. He knew what His disciples were reasoning, and gave them another perspective. Bear in mind, this incident happened on the eve of the crucifixion. So Jesus gave His guys a bit of a lecture, and you know the woman was standing right there wondering if she had done the wrong thing. Jesus said that helping the poor was noble, but that the poor would always be there to receive help. Different, though, was the opportunity to do something kind for Jesus the Christ. Then came the clincher,

“For in pouring this fragrant oil on My body, she did it for My burial. Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her” (Matt. 26:12-13).

I was never able to buy really expensive perfume for my wife, but I do know that the fragrance of expensive perfume lasts much longer than cheaper varieties. With that in mind, consider that the rich fragrance on Jesus’ head and feet must have lingered throughout the night, into the next horrible day, even into the tomb. As He sat with His disciples in the upper room and celebrated His final meal with them, He filled the room with His fragrance. The Lord’s table carried the aroma of burial.

When Jesus led them in a melodic psalm and took them to Gethsemane, the sweat of blood intermingled on His skin with the woman’s ointment. The high priest who judged Him, Pilate who condemned Him, Peter who denied Him, Judas who betrayed Him, the soldiers who pierced Him — all caught the scent of one woman’s worship.

I do not know exactly how to bring the import of all of this over to you. It is a profound and chaotic picture. Jesus and His band of followers having their meal in the home of an untouchable man. The practical ministry need of poverty clashing with the impractical “waste” of a worshipper. And the contrast between Jesus’ awareness of His impending ordeal and the significance of the woman’s kindness — perhaps her sacrificial spirit reminding Him of the sacrifice required of Him — contrasted with the disciple’s ignorance (which we often share) of death, burial and resurrection happening in our very own experience.

My daughters and I received an unexpected package one day. Opening it we discovered an array of tiny bottles containing different essential oils, sent us by my niece, Alison. I had not known about these fragrant oils before, nor of their expense and usefulness. I was intrigued that one of them was frankincense. So we began exploring the world of essential oils.

This is very poignant to me because the reason Alison so kindly shared these oils with us is because my two daughters, my son, and I were providing hospice care for my wife who lay in the next room of our home with terminal cancer. It was an unexpected treat to be able to apply those healing fragrances on my wife’s wrist or back. We ministered comfort to her. She felt special. Pampered.

A few days later Lyn died in our home and went to be with Jesus. We washed her body and again applied fragrance to her skin, and dressed her in clean clothes. We said goodbye. We wept.

As you follow Jesus, you answer His call to deny yourself and take up His cross. You surrender to God’s will. You endure times of loss, grief, and waiting — all reminiscent of burial. I wonder, in going through these renditions of Jesus’ life and death, could we bring His fragrance with us? Could we become purveyors of the essence of Jesus — an aroma of life to life, or death to death (2 Cor. 2:14-16)?

There is a need for practical frugality. Bless the disciples for their compassion. But deeper still is that whisper of the Father, into our souls, to lavish what is costly on the Son He loves so dearly.

I must pause today and reflect on what I may offer Him. I must slow down, sit in silence for awhile, and let the Holy Spirit show me how extravagant worship must linger in the air no matter where Jesus leads me.





Death, Burial, Resurrection

16 08 2015

a crossDeath.

Burial.

Resurrection.

This was the path Jesus chose to do the will of His Father. It became the path for all who would follow Him. The passion of the Christian is fueled by the passion of the Christ.

The disciple will become very familiar with this path, for death, burial and resurrection will form a pattern which repeats itself in a variety of ways all throughout life. The pattern has at least three basic expressions:

VOLUNTARY CALLING TO SELF-SACRIFICE — To the degree the disciple loses his life, he gains Christ’s life. And as he trains himself for the purpose of godliness, putting lusts of the flesh to death, he aligns himself to experience the overcoming power of resurrection.

NECESSARY ROAD TO RECOVERY FROM SIN — At other times, the path leads through failure due to self-inflicted “death” resulting from sin. Through confession and repentance, the pattern emerges in cleansing and freedom

REQUIRED RESPONSE TO SUFFERING — Then, we find ourselves on the path due to suffering that comes upon us. Pain and loss cause a death to self-reliance. In a kind of burial, we experience loss and grief. But surrender to God’s purposes results in conformity to Christ and greater dependence on Him.

Why is it important that the disciple discover this pattern?

1. The death-burial-resurrection pattern gives understanding of often-confusing events which otherwise seem to have no purpose.

2. Understanding leads to hope, for we realize that there is a purpose and a way forward.

3. We do not feel alone in the struggle, for we know that Christ walked this path before us, and that the Father is glorified as we follow this pattern of discipleship.

4. We see value in the process, for by faith we grow in Christ-likeness and attain to His passion.

5. We are honored to be able to share the experience of Christ, realizing this is the privilege of only those disciples who choose the path of obedience.

Throughout our lives, after countless variations of this pattern, we see the beauty of Christ becoming beautiful in us. I have written previously, likening this to “gospel fractals.”





When the Spirit weeps

16 09 2014

I am speculating, being an unlikely source for explaining God beyond what is explicitly stated in the Bible. But I want to pass along an observation I have made.

This last Sunday in the corporate worship at our church, there was a familiar member of our congregation present who has been stricken with cancer which has left him fatigued and without successful diagnosis or treatment. He has lost a lot of weight, yet still comes when he has the strength and participates in our worship.

At one point during the service, a young woman who is also well-known in our congregation, and I believe known to be a very spiritually-hearted believer, made her way over to the man and sat down beside him to pray for him. Before long her voice raised to a volume such that everyone stopped to listen. At first with words unintelligible, then progressing to intelligible words expressing (as I recall) things such as “God is faithful,” “It is already done,” and “God is worthy.” During this time of praying and wailing, the man and young woman were embracing each other in a holy way.

After she expressed her heart in this way for three or four minutes, during which time the pastor stood and oversaw the situation, the pastor thanked and praised the Lord that He was at work, then proceeding to the rest of the planned service.

I have sought to understand what meaning we may take away from this experience. There is nothing about it that I feel was inappropriate. What I am thinking at this time is that the sadness and grieving which this young woman felt was a reflection of, if not an expression on behalf of, the Holy Spirit. God is by no means powerless to heal the man’s cancer. I pray that He will. But whatever God chooses to do, He is grieved by sin, suffering, sickness, and death.

Perhaps what we experienced on Sunday was similar to Jesus hearing that his friend Lazarus had died and weeping over the news–weeping over the sadness that it caused Mary and Martha. (Jn. 11:35)

Over these past weeks I have had a heavy heart over the Ebola plague in west Africa.  I have felt nauseous and helpless at the beheadings by radicals in the Middle East. Who can fix these mega-problems? Somehow, the crying woman in our church helps me. God is terribly sad at sin and disease. In the heavenly places, the Spirit and the angels watch with disgust. Does this mean that God is helpless to heal and deliver? No, but these sufferings are evidences of our race and planet fallen into the grip of sin.

I believe God’s anger at these evils is accumulating. My recent re-reading of the book of Revelation has reminded me that God is hopping mad at evil-doers. He sees what the enemy is doing to people. And the wrath of God is being stored up for a judgment on evil that will literally destroy the world as we know it. The powers that have a heyday now will fall under the crushing judgment of God. And God will make all things new, and peace and health will reign supreme forever. This is the promise of God’s Word. And because the promise is waiting fulfillment, we are called to share in the weeping of the Spirit.