Posts Tagged ‘God’s Love’

No Other God is Able to Deliver in This Way – Resurrection Day Reflection

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I’ve shared before that I love the vigil on Holy Saturday (the night before resurrection day). But one of my mostest favoritest parts of the vigil is the reading of the story of Shadrach, Meshach & Abednego and their deliverance from the fiery furnace. If you haven’t read the story lately, it is well worth looking up in your Bible in Daniel 3:1-29 or you can read it online now at Bible Gateway.

The gist of it is that King Nebuchadnezzar wants everyone to worship a golden statue that he has set up and if they don’t he’s going to throw them in a “furnace of blazing fire,” which, of course, would mean death. But three young Hebrew men, Shadrach, Meshach & Abednego serve only one God and refuse to worship the king’s statue.

Their defiance of the king gets him so mad that “his face is distorted” and he orders the furnace to be turned up seven times hotter! He has the three men bound and thrown in. The handlers that throw them in get killed by the flames because the furnace is so hot.

But when the king looks into the furnace he sees four men: Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, and another with appearance of a god, moving around, unbound, clearly still alive. The king is astonished and orders these “servant of The Most High God” to come out of the furnace.

Nebuchadnezzar recognizes that this God that Shadrach, Meshach & Abednego worships has saved them from what should have been certain death. He then makes a decree that no one should blaspheme against the God of Shadrach, Meshach & Abednego because “there is no other god who is able to deliver in this way.”

And indeed, it is this Most High God, with the power to defy death, that we worship.

But in the work of Jesus, God did not simply sidestep death, God went all the way through it. What this means, as my theology professor, Dr. David Truemper used to say, is there is now no part of our human experience that God has not personally gone through. And not only that, but he conquered death once and for all in the resurrection.

There is no other God who is able to deliver in the way that Jesus Christ Our Lord and Savior has done for us.

Thanks be to The Most High God for the victory of Jesus’ resurrection!

 

Can an Untimely Death Bring a Shine? Good Friday Reflection

 

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Today is “Good Friday,” the day we as Christians commemorate the suffering and death of Jesus. For a dramatic narration of the story by Nashville’s Charles Esten (aka “Deacon”), click here.

But it is hard for me to get my mind around the idea of an untimely death being a good thing.

I don’t talk about this much, but in the past several years I have lost two twenty-something cousins. The young men, Michael and Phillip, were the only two children of my aunt and uncle. They died about two years apart, both in car accidents.

Growing up these were the cousins that I saw most often. Even after I was married we would spend holidays together whenever possible. I’d say we were pretty close.

I’ve been reflecting lately about how I’ve felt especially dysfunctional in terms of things like housework. I’ve always been a little lax, but there was a time if company was coming I could step up my game and get my house to a shine.

Now though, I just can’t care about that shine anymore.

As I thought about what changed–or rather–when that change occurred, I realized there was a distinct shift when Michael died (he was the first one to die). It hit me hard.

Just nothing was the same anymore without Michael’s shining smile in this world.

And then when Phillip died too, it was grief upon grief, tarnish upon tarnish.

Shiny, happy housekeeping held no meaning for me anymore.

I still don’t have nearly as much company or as many dinners and parties as a once did. But even when I do, I just figure you’re willing to enter my mess then we can really be friends.

And maybe it’s a protection.

To love like I loved (still love) those little cousins of mine…and to lose them both? I mean, that kind of loss makes it hard to want to love that hard again.

It always seemed to have hit me harder than it should have–I mean, I’m just the big cousin. I don’t even know how my aunt and uncle–the parents–get up every morning.

And then there are the questions upon questions…Why them? When then? Why death?

So you see why I have trouble thinking of an untimely death as a good thing?

I don’t accept that God wanted it that way. I can’t embrace a God who wills people dead for some larger purpose. Or at least I won’t if that’s the kind of God our God is.

So then, the untimely death of God’s own son? Am I supposed to accept that? To accept that God gave up what no parent should ever have to give up?

This is where our language about God and our understanding of God’s nature get confusing. See, all the God there is came to us as Jesus. God didn’t send an agent that was somehow apart from Godself. God is Jesus. Jesus is God.

Our very God gave up God’s own shine to be one of us.

The cruel fate of an untimely death was not something that God did to someone else. No, God submitted to human punishment & sentencing. God endured humiliation and death for our sakes.

The untimely death of God is the most baffling of all. But if anything could ever shine despite death, then it would be because God conquered the very death that threatens to overshadow our world.

We know that God did not stay dead. He rose victorious from the grave and conquered death itself.

Death does not get the final word.

And whether we feel shiny, happy, or we’re still grappling with some kind of grief, we know that love wins. God’s love shines through for us always, all the time, no matter what.

On Our Relationship with God and How We Live

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When I first considered becoming a contributor at Life & Liberty I was drawn to the dual focus of promoting (1) a non-coercive society that is (2) spiritually grounded. Non-coercion and non-violence are important ideals to me on both governmental and interpersonal levels. And I believe that for people to be truly free of coercion, spiritual grounding is essential.

To see what more I have to say about this topic, check out my latest essay over there, How Spiritual Grounding Sets Us Free. Click the photo link above to go to that post.

How I am Fallen, Yet Bold to Stand

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My mind is cluttered today with a burning issue. A clever thought would be to write about what is burning on my mind, right?

Except, no.

You see, I keep putting myself out here online and I try to be honest and vulnerable, but there are still things I hold back.

Dear internet, I don’t tell you everything, but I hope we can still be friends.

Maybe I could trust you with this but I’m not ready yet.

And maybe one day I will tell you more.

Then again, maybe I won’t.

You see, there is this thorn in my side, my besetting sin, my great downfall in life, that I don’t dare bring to the bright lights of the big internet. I don’t dare.

I alluded to it in my The Home of the Brave post at Life & Liberty. And, as noted there, I have people in my life that I can talk to about it. So, I am not alone in facing this demon.

But this is an awfully ugly demon. I would say it is even uglier than my pride, about which, dear internet, you were very gracious when I admitted to it.

But the costs of sharing about this one are too great. I find it wisest and best to keep this one more guarded.

And it all sounds so horrifying to say it like this. Oh internet, there’s this one thing that I won’t tell you because it’s so awful—because I’m so awful.

And I do often feel like if people really knew this about me then I would lose a lot of respect.

But here’s the thing, even this, my greatest failing, this does not define me.

I don’t say that cavalierly, as if, hey, it’s no big deal, I’m not that bad.

Because I am that bad.

It’s just that I know, I trust, I believe that my God is bigger and better than all the bad I am.

One of the times I come back to again and again in my spiritual life as proof that God is bigger than my mess is the time God was with me in the muck. I was waste-deep in my own folly, but God was there when no one else could hear. God got me out of the muck when no one else could help me.

And I know, I trust, I believe that his goodness in and through me is my true destiny.

And so, I talk with my God and those trusted others about this great struggle. And with God’s help, I work through it, sometimes around it, and I hope to grow from it over time.

Meanwhile, I yield to God’s love for me, I receive his goodness, and I live into my belovedness. I come to him, feeling flawed and fallen, and I let him lift me up.

He sets me on my feet, bold to stand, bold to speak and write and serve and show his love to others.

And I pray this for you too, that whatever drags you down in life, makes you feel scared to even mention, I pray that you will experience God’s bigness and goodness and your forgiveness and belovedness in him.

Happy vs. Blessed Thanksgiving

The last way to be happy is to make it your objective in life.

—”Nick Smith” in Metropolitan

I try not to say, “Happy Thanksgiving” when I remember. Instead, I prefer to say, “Blessed Thanksgiving.”

Why?

Because happiness is just way too elusive.

How are happiness and blessedness different?

Happiness is a feeling and feelings change frequently. Also, happiness is often closely tied to our circumstances–when they’re good we feel happy; when they’re bad we don’t.

Sometimes–even on holidays–or especially on holidays–it is really hard to feel happy. In fact, sometimes holidays can accentuate circumstances that are pretty crummy.

But blessedness just is, no matter how we feel and regardless of our present circumstances. We are all blessed in some way.

We are blessed with life and most especially we are blessed with a God who loves us. One of my dear theology professors used to say, “God loves you for Christ’s sake and will never let you go.”

When the message of Thanksgiving is that we should be happy, I go a little Scrooge. Partly because we can’t just flip a switch and be happy.

But also I think gratitude is deeper than that. Gratitude is tied to blessings–to those realities of life that are despite feelings or circumstances.

When we can see that which is true in our lives because of the God that loves us no matter what, we may not necessarily get giddy-happy, but we can begin to access a deeper sense of gratitude for God-with-us.

So when I say, “Blessed Thanksgiving” it is a prayer of sorts–that folks may know God’s love and grace in their lives amidst fluctuating feelings or shifting circumstances.

I am blessed by each and every one of you and the way you each stand as reminders of God’s love for me. I pray you will know the deep and abiding love of God in your life.

Blessed Thanksgiving!

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