Inheritance

inheritanceOnce there was a father with vast accumulated wealth. He was a fickle, eccentric old man who told his numerous children that, in order to be inherit his riches they would have to make him proud. They would have to come for monthly visits to his home, get good jobs, maintain a clean lifestyle, have a public image in accord with their birthright and, ultimately make him proud. His children were anxious to get their hands on his wealth, so they behaved accordingly, becoming model children and successful pillars of society: an example for all to follow. Their family gatherings were friendly, frequent and shallow, often involving petty arguments and sibling rivalry.

Down the street there was another father who was pretty different, eccentric and very misunderstood. He told his many children that he would shower them with wealth regardless of what they looked like or accomplished…just because he loved them. His children went in all sorts of directions. Some loved by society and some dreaded. Their family gatherings were on and off, but usually becoming ending in a wild exciting party with laughing, crying and everything in between. The kids couldn’t quite figure out the father, but they loved him with all their being as they blundered their way in their attempt to “make him proud”. They weren’t an “ideal” family, but they loved each other.

The first family behaved beautifully, but had no love.

The second was spotty in their behavior, but had more love than they knew what to do with. Most of us treat God as the first father. He has rules and regulations that he requires of us, and we obey because we should and, ultimately, because we want what he has to offer us. But the second Father is the Father of the Gospel. Because Jesus already perfectly obeyed, His love is lavished on us despite our behavior…just because he loves us. But because we are confident in His love, our behavior grows. We love him back and love each other because we are loved, not because we “have to” in order to get his riches. We begin to love Him, not what He offers.Do you want Jesus? Or what Jesus offers? Do you treat him as the fickle inheritance giver or the generous eccentric Father who just can’t stop loving you regardless of whether or not you make the “family” proud?

Fortress

fortress2 When I was a kid growing up in Austin (before it was Austin) there were actually empty lots and freedom to be a ridiculous kid. And I was.

Across from my house along a creek my friends and I made a sweet tree-fort. Three stories tall with a secret entrance so that all the bad guys couldn’t get to us. It was glorious. I loved making forts in trees or out of blankets in my bedroom or whatever.

I still love making forts, but they look different now. I make protective forts out of things like reputation, money, morality, health, looks and family.

So what is a fort? A fort for me is something I build to bring me personal heart-safety. It’s where I try create and secure my identity and hope. Something that will protect me from insecurity and pain. The problem is that forts don’t work. The enemy of pain keeps sneaking in and stealing my value and hope. But I keep making them, thinking that maybe this next one will do the trick.

King David did the same, and he faced some nasty enemies. He tried making forts out of armies, riches and reputation, but they repeatedly failed him. But he also moved into The Fort that alone could offer shelter. He writes about it a lot, but let’s look at Psalm 18:1-3 where he realized what REALLY brought him deliverance.

1 I love you, O Lord, my strength.
2 The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,
my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge,
my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
3 I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised,
and I am saved from my enemies.

It is the same but different for us. Our “enemies” are likely not bad people seeking to do us harm but ourselves and the sin that is so pervasive…or the nasty enemies of this life like death and disease. God in his infinite glory, power and sacrificial love sent Jesus to fully “save” us from the Greatest Enemy we will ever face: Sin. And in so doing he has set HIMSELF up as our fortress. By no means does this mean that our lives will now be sappy and happy. Quite the contrary. But our hope is no longer is comfort and ease (which are unattainable), but in HIM (who is perfectly attainable). And HE cannot be taken away, nor can we be taken away from him. When our “enemies” attack, we are not alone. When we are in despair, we hurt but are joined by the Great Comforter, the Holy Spirit.

John 16:33
I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

Double Inheritance

Matthew 27:25
And all the people answered, “His blood be on us and on our children!”

bloody thorns

How do you resemble your parents? Do you have her nose or his hair? Her artistic ability or his gifting for math? Her quick temper or his greed?

What do you hope to inherit one day? Her jewelry or his classic car? 

Matthew 27:25 is an incredibly ironic verse. This verse comes right after Jesus’ illegal trial where the people were asked if they’d rather free Jesus or Barabbas. Of course they chose Barabbas. But still Pilate couldn’t rationalize sentencing Jesus to death, so he “washed his hands” and told to riotous crowds to do as they pleased. And they said these unbelievable words “His blood be on us and on our children.”

And here is the irony. In one sentence they declared the essence of the Gospel.

On the one hand they all, and we all, are guilty of His bloodshed. Like inheriting your dad’s bad habits, we have inherited the guilt and penalty of sin. We are just as fully responsible for the death of Jesus if we were the ones to literally nail his hands to the cross. So the GUILT of his blood is truly on us and our children.

But on the other hand, we are also offered the HOPE of his blood. The very act that brought Guilt also brings Life; what they intended for evil, God intended for God, and the salvation for all who believe.

And this is my prayer for myself and my children…and for you too. That we would admit our guilt in his blood while also receiving the forgiveness that his blood offers. You can’t have one without the other.

Out of Darkness

RICOH IMAGING

So my parents just got back from Alaska to see the Northern Lights. Apparently God decided to put on a wild show. Just before they got there the sun threw out some wild solar flares, hitting our atmosphere just in time. This picture seems surreal and other-worldly. But it isn’t actually my favorite one.

 

This is:

RICOH IMAGING

Impressed aren’t you. It would seem that my dad forgot to take off the lens cap. But actually this picture captures something extraordinary.

 

 

 

This:

RICOH IMAGINGJust highlighting the behind-the-scenes in photoshop (no other doctoring at all!) reveals what couldn’t be seen: brilliant show with the North Star leading the way.

 

 

And this is Good Friday, leading up to Easter. As Jesus hung there bloody and dying, every reasonable person was either cheering or crying because Jesus and his mission was snuffed out. But he wasn’t. It was the darkest of times that turned into the brightest. The exact same moment was the worst time in history and the best. The death of Jesus was brutal, and freeing; horrible and glorious; infuriating and loving.

So my heart needs to visually be reminded that God works in paradoxes. He turns evil into good, and he does it for, in and through me because he did it foremost to and through his Son so that my worst can be turned into best.

And so Jesus could say with confidence: “It Is Finished” (Jn 19:30). Because his death has brought me life. And now as I wait for Sunday when we celebrate the resurrection, I can also wait expectantly for my resurrection when all things will be made new. But even now in the in-between time, I can live with hope, knowing that God’s hidden paradox is at work right now in my life.

Speed Gracer

speed gracerWay back in the late 70’s my big brother and I were at my mom’s softball game. She was quite the athlete and holding down left field like a champ. The problem was that my brother was painfully holding me down like a champ with our parental referee at a safe distance. Somehow in the struggle I was able to break free and fled to the only safety I knew: my mom in left field. To the naked eye it looked like I was running out to congratulate my mom on a game well played (though apparently this is usually frowned upon in the middle of the inning). But actually I was just tired of getting beat up and I wanted my mommy, even if it was bad timing and publicly embarrassing.

And this is exactly what Jesus wants for and from me. In my regular life I get hammered by lots of bullies. I work in a church which is, by definition, filled with those who need lots of grace. And sometimes we really aren’t nice to each other. Sometimes I get bullied in my own family or among my friends (as well bully them back). But to be honest I think that most of the bullying that I endure comes from inside of me…that nasty bully called sin that leaves me bloody far more often than I care to admit. In any case…and I mean ANY case…Jesus wants us to immediately come running to him. Even if the timing is awkward and we look silly. We have no other safe place. We have no other hope. We have no other power. Jesus himself came down and was bullied like none other. Even though he was infinitely perfect, he allowed himself to be beat, ripped apart, spat upon, belittled, illegally tried and brutally murdered….so that not only would he understand and empathize with us when we are going through the trenches (though that’s nice), but so that he can HEAL us and give us HOPE in the trenches, even carrying us back home. He has run down to us. Now he carries us back with him. Stop carrying this load alone (stop carrying it all). What Jesus wants is for us to be Speed Gracers.