Monday, June 30, 2008

If I Make My Bed in Hell

I found this picture on the page of a facebook friend (thanks, Jake!). When I came across it, I was preparing a message to preach in my church and it fit perfectly. In fact (as I mentioned on Sunday) I would never have thought a picture could capture the truth of 2Corinthians 5:21, but this one did.

That verse says that Jesus was made sin for us so that we can be made the righteousness of God in Him. One writer I consulted called it the most profound verse in the Bible.

God crossed many dimensions to become man and open to us the way of life.

  • From infinity he came to an obscure Roman province on a dark planet in a nameless solar system in one of uncounted billions and billions of galaxies.
  • From somewhere outside time he made himself subject to the oppression of the aging process.
  • From perfect love he came to scorn and contempt.
  • From eternal life he came to death.
  • And from perfect holiness he became sin. For us, his enemies.
Sin gives rise to many griefs: shame, ugliness, rejection, isolation, despair ... the list goes on. Jesus has felt every one of them. There is no place you can go where Jesus has not been. As David wrote in the Psalms, "Even if I make my bed in hell ... you are there!"

Every single individual on this planet is loved and valued by Jesus Christ. Every person is born for joy, and because of Jesus' unspeakable payment, joy is just one step away.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Swallowed Up by Life

Saskatoon will never host anything like the Olympics. The airport, though modern and altogether satisfactory, could be described as intimate. Not a popular tourist spot, this prairie town happens to be a regular destination for me because of its centrality to ministries working among First Nations communities in western Canada.

John Revesz was born near Saskatoon. Before departing for there four weeks ago, I saw John in church and made it a point to tell him where I was going. I knew he would be interested. He was always interested in people, me included.

John couldn't see very well lately. Helen did all the driving. But he was always in church ... until a couple of weeks ago. Helen told us he was weak. Last Sunday afternoon I started a five-day meeting in Brightwood, so I wasn't home when Valerie got the call, "John is dying. Do you want to see him?"

She did, and when I got home, I phoned. "Yes," Helen said, "he is about like yesterday." So I arranged to be there in a couple of hours. But a little before it was time to go, his daughter called back. It was too late. John saw his opportunity and took it; I had missed mine.

An earthly pilgrimage is a thing of wonder. Here was a 97-year-old man whose parents had been born in Hungary, one of 10 children, Canadian-born but immigrated to America. He had worked as a farmer, preacher, mechanic, furniture fabricator, homebuilder, woodworker and handyman.

Without any religious background, John had come to faith in Jesus Christ when he was 30 years old. Astride a farm tractor one day, he heard the voice of God. So he stopped the tractor and knelt in the dirt to invite Jesus into his life. "He identified immediately with God's great grace and tender mercies," as his son, Richard, put it.

John immediately began leading young people to events where they could make the same discovery. He knew Jesus now, and it was important that other people have the opportunity for the same relationship. "Our dad made Jesus a 67-year theme," Richard said.

A good choice. The only choice, really. At the end of 97 years, he slipped away, and that's the best part. He is gone from us, but he did not go to silence, gloom or fear. He did not, in fact, go to anything less than what he knew for 97 years. No, he went to much more. His mortality, as Paul wrote to the Corinthian church, was swallowed up by life.

“Someday you will read in the papers that D. L. Moody of East Northfield is dead," wrote the famous evangelist of an earlier century. "Don’t you believe a word of it! At that moment I shall be more alive than I am now; I shall have gone up higher, that is all, out of this old clay tenement into a house that is immortal – a body that death cannot touch …”

So it is for John Revesz. So it can be for you.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Glad for 35 Years

When I was 10 years old my dad became the pastor of Butte Community Bible Church in Butte, Nebraska. We moved 600 miles from the Texas panhandle to Butte, population about 500 souls, and spent 5.5 years there.

That's a big chunk of one's childhood and youth, and the source of lots of stories, but the most important thing that happened to me in Butte was meeting Valerie Hansen.

She was a year older and consequently, for almost the entire time of our sojourn in that little town, just out of my reach. Nevertheless, I was smitten from the beginning. There was never anyone else for me almost from the first time I saw her. But less than six months remained of that 5.5 years before I finally wore down her resistance to the idea of dating a younger guy.

We married in the church in Butte on June 8, 1973. My dad performed the ceremony and we honeymooned in Spearfish Canyon in the Black Hills of South Dakota.

That was 35 years ago and I'm still smitten.

Marriage is a thing of wonder. Like everything else in creation, it's a physical picture of something invisible, something too profound to imagine, something God wanted us to see every day to remind us of an eternal truth.

For example, vines we have to picture that Jesus is the source of life to us and we need to cling to him ("abide in me" he said) and draw his life to bear fruit so the world can partake of him.

Bread pictures that he is sustenance for us. Seeds and soil show us that from death comes life. Stars depict that vast company of angels who constantly do his bidding. Etc. Etc.
And as Paul wrote to the Ephesians, the great mystery of marriage is that it pictures the love between Jesus Christ and his people.

Look around and you will quickly see how many people are hungry for community, for relationship, for comfort, for unconditional love … all these are part of a good marriage, and all these are offered in the community of believers (the bride of Christ). And all these we can demonstrate in our marriages.

Valerie and I just spent 48 hours celebrating that. We were at a highly popular vacation destination--the Oregon coast--where it rained and blew and stayed below 55 degrees virtually the whole time. The picture is very representative. (It's also the only one we took!)

But, horrible weather notwithstanding, we just enjoyed being together without responsibilities for a couple of days.

I still can't believe she fell for me. But I'm glad.

I'm really glad.