Jesus Never Leaves The Station

radio

I once heard a well-known national news anchor describe his first job in a radio station.

One of his daily responsibilities was to broadcast a preacher’s message. The message came on a “record.” (Records, the dinosaur ancestors of CDs, were flat, vinyl discs the size of  small pizzas with grooves of microscopic etchings of musical or vocal sounds detected by “needles” on the arms of  “record players”, then transmitted through speakers, which in turn whipped teenagers into a frenzy, causing seizure-like gyrations with names like “The Shing-a-ling,” “The Frug,” “The Philly,” and “The Boogaloo”).

Anyway, it was the young deejay’s habit to introduce the preacher’s message, start the record, then leave the station for a cup of coffee at a nearby diner. One day as he was sipping his Maxwell House, the phone rang.  When the waitress handed it to him, he heard his boss screaming, “Get back to the station NOW!”

Sprinting to his car, he tuned the radio to his station. To his horror the needle had gotten “stuck” on the record and kept replaying the same phrase over and over again — “Go to hell, go to hell, go to hell…”

Sometimes we can feel like the Lord is “out of the station.”  Maybe he stepped out for a minute or dozed off. Maybe he’s forgotten us completely.

The truth is Jesus never takes a break.  He never slumbers nor sleeps but watches over us day and night.  His ears are ever open to our cry.  He never leaves us nor forsakes us.

“He holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them (Heb 7.24-25).

Jesus has conquered death and is alive forevermore to intercede for his children.  Day and night, he lifts you before the Father, praying almighty, perfect and effective prayers, that he might save you to the uttermost.  He never takes a break, never grows weary, never faints and will never cease to pray for you.

I’d be thrilled to know that a friend was praying for me even once a day.  But to know that Christ himself, the Lord of hosts, is interceding for me every minute of the day gives me incredible confidence, hope and joy.

Praise him today for his steadfast love and faithfulness!

photo by Roadsidepictures

Don’t Touch the Mountain

Moses probably wouldn’t do so well in my church. We sing cheerful songs and chit-chat in the lobby as we munch on chocolate doughnuts. Sometimes we get distracted. Cell phones create mid-sermon jam sessions. Babies have mid-service freak out sessions. We wonder if the Steelers are going to win the Super Bowl.

But you know what would really shock Moses? The fact that all of us draw near to God. Personally. Intimately. Daily.

Moses’ experience of God was different. Incredibly different. Out of all the Israelites, only one person, Moses himself, was allowed to draw near to God. Anyone else that came remotely close to the presence of God was playing with death.

Exodus 19:9-12 paints a frightening picture.

When Moses told the words of the people to the Lord, the Lord said to Moses, “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their garments and be ready for the third day. For on the third day the Lord will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people. And you shall set limits for the people all around, saying, ‘Take care not to go up into the mountain or touch the edge of it. Whoever touches the mountain shall be put to death. No hand shall touch him, but he shall be stoned or shot.

Don’t go near the mountain of God. Don’t touch it. Don’t even mess around the edges. You touch the mountain and you get stoned. Why? Because you’re sinful and God is holy. Moses is the mediator between God and Israel. No one else comes near.

So what changed? Why aren’t I engulfed in flames the moment I open my mouth in prayer? Why doesn’t the ground swallow me up when I open my Bible? Why am I allowed to come near when Israel was told to fall back? Because I have an infinitely better mediator. Moses couldn’t bring Israel with him into the presence of God.

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 10:16)

What would our lives be like apart from this mediator? What would prayer, Bible reading, and church look like? Jesus brings us up the mountain.

True Love From Flawed Children

child w flower

How often I get distracted when I read the Bible, pray or worship.

How frequently I serve God with mixed motives – hoping he gets glory, but also hoping I get some too.  As Jerry Bridges says, our best deeds are stained by sin.  How then can any of our puny, flawed efforts possibly bring pleasure to God?

“You yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (1 PE 2.5)

First of all, believers’ sacrifices are acceptable to God because they are “through Jesus Christ.” Our Mediator washes our sin-stained deeds in his blood and presents them spotless and pleasing to our Father.

Secondly, our sacrifices please God because he’s given us new hearts that love him. Though we love him imperfectly, we love him truly, and this love for God pleases him.  Jerry Bridges illustrates this in The Disciplines of Grace:

My wife and I moved into a house that had an unfinished garage. Every time I went into the garage I saw the bare two-by-four studs and the black feltlike undersiding. After living for 20 years in a house with a finished garage, it was rather depressing to me. Our son came home for a visit and learning of my feelings, volunteered to install insulation and drywall in the garage.

Dan had never worked with drywall before and had to learn by doing. The finished job, though very acceptable was not quite what one would expect from a professional drywall installer. But I am more pleased than if a professional had done the work. Why? Because the job was done out of love. Dan didn’t expect to get anything in return. He wasn’t trying to earn favor or manipulate me. He just wanted to show his love. Now, every time I go into the garage I see the finished walls, but most of all, I see the love that went into them. Dan’s motive was more important to me than his performance.

When a child brings her Mommy the gift of a wilted dandelion, Mommy’s pleased, not because of the gift, but because it’s coming from her child.  It’s similar with our offerings to God.  He certainly doesn’t need our worship or service, yet he looks at our hearts of love for him and he’s delighted.  Because of Christ’s mediation, he only sees the pure part of our love, not the impure parts.

What a wonderful God – he plants a genuine love for himself in our hearts, and then is delighted by our imperfect attempts to show that love.

photo by Tiggywinkle

As Pleasing As A Warthog

2 CO 5.9 So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.

Growing up Catholic I rarely felt pleasing to God.  As an altar boy I’d try to keep my back rigid and my praying hands perfectly aligned, fingers straight out, thumbs crossed over each other with military precision.  I’d try to say each word of every “Hail Mary” with complete earnestness (try doing that 50 times in a rosary) yet still didn’t feel pleasing to God.   And when I hit my rebellious teens and roaring twenties, my depraved lifestyle left me feeling about as pleasing to God as a warthog.

Then God made it possible for this warthog to please him.  He washed away my sins with Christ’s blood, and counted Christ’s righteousness as mine.  He placed me “in Christ” as his beloved, adopted child.  Through Jesus, transformed rebels and rejects bring pleasure to his heart, just as earthly children bring pleasure to their parents’ hearts.

Not only did God make it possible for me to please him, he injected my heart with a pulsing desire to do so.  I want to glorify him.  I want to make him smile.  Not out of guilt, but love and gratitude.  How can I not want to please the one who saw me from afar, ran to embrace this pig-sty mud-encrusted prodigal,  draped his royal robe on my shoulders and slid his royal ring onto my finger?

But there’s more.  He not only gives the desire, but the power to please him.  He tells me to fly, then supplies me with wings.  He tells me to run, then invigorates my legs.  He fortifies me to drive stakes through the heart of my sins.  He makes me buoyantly bounce back when trials knock me down.

And Jesus, my great Mediator, takes my sin-stained efforts, strains out the dross, and presents them acceptable to his Father.  He washes out the bad motives, and leaves the pure desires that he put there.  He takes my pathetic worship, filters out the unbelief and distraction, and offers it to the Father as sweet incense.

I want to please him whether I’m singing praises or doing dishes, devouring the Bible or decimating a burger.  That’s the aim of this warthog.  How about you?

Photo by Brian Gratwicke

What Are You Looking For In A President?

The Presidential race is in high gear, and each candidate is trying to convince us why he is the more qualified one.

Each one’s commercials trot out his own qualifications, while vilifying his opponent’s.  Each candidate is trying to appeal to what he thinks we’re looking for in a president.

We’re looking for a president experienced, wise, strong and capable, able to stride through the halls of power, yet one who feels for the the poor, the elderly, and the single mom trying to make ends meet.  We want an incorruptible president who cares about our good.

But only Christ embodies all we’re looking for in the perfect leader:

“Would you have your Savior to be great and honorable, because you are not willing to be beholden to [an unworthy] person? And is not Christ a person honourable enough to be worthy that you should be dependent on him; is he not a person high enough to be appointed to so honourable a work as your salvation? Would you not only have a Savior of high degree, but would you have him, notwithstanding his exaltation and dignity, to be made also of low degree, that he might have experience of afflictions and trials, that he might learn by the things that he has suffered, to pity them that suffer and are tempted?…

Would you have your Savior to be one who is near to God, so that his mediation might be prevalent with him? And can you desire him to be nearer to God than Christ is, who is his only-begotten Son, of the same essence with the Father? And would you not only have him near to God, but also near to you, that you may have free access to him? And would you have him nearer to you than to be in the same nature, united to you by a spiritual union, so close as to be fitly represented by the union of the wife to the husband, of the branch to the vine, of the member to the head; yea, so as to be one spirit? …What is there wanting or what would you add if you could, to make him more fit to be your Savior?”

— Jonathan Edwards, quoted by John Ensor in The Great Work of the Gospel

We should exercise our right to vote.  And we should pray for godly leaders.  But let’s be careful not to hang our hopes on any human.  There’s only One infinitely great, honorable, and worthy of trusting with our lives.  Only One almighty yet acquainted with suffering, who can relate to our struggles and temptations.  Only One who is near to God and near to us at the same time.  Only One who is God and man, and a perfect Mediator between the Father and his children – the Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Photo by chadh

Hope for Sin-stained Worshipers

As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 2:4-5

Scenario 1: Sunday morning you come into the meeting to sing to the Lord together with the saints. You’ve already had a conflict with your wife, spoken harshly to your kids and complained about the pothole in the parking lot. And when you get to your usual row there’s a college kid with azure blue hair sitting in your seat.

The first song begins and you begin to clap, noticing the worship leader is wearing tennis shoes and his shirt is untucked. Didn’t that kid’s father teach him anything about how to dress on Sunday? And he’s leading us in worship!

You begin to sing “Sing praise to the Lord, our God and King, his love endures forever…” and a few drops of joy begin to trickle into your heart. You close your eyes and lift your hands. God is so good and loving.

Then your 13-year old son walks in front of you and heads toward the back of the room. You whisper to your wife, “Where’s he going?” “To the bathroom,” she answers. A wave of irritation washes over you. “Why didn’t he go at home?”

Suddenly you realize you haven’t been singing for the last 2 minutes. You try to get back into it, but, wow are those drums loud! Can’t they do anything about that? Oh Lord, forgive me, now where was I? “His love endures forever…”

Sound familiar?

Scenario 2: Doreen, the skinny, unkempt, tooth-missing, slightly smelly lady who’s always asking you for money runs into you at the store and asks if you can help her out. You knew this was coming when you saw her. So pulling out a $20 bill, you place it, half sincerely, half reluctantly, into her greasy hand. You’d like to give freely as unto the Lord, but you know your heart isn’t 100% into it. Suddenly, Bill from church walks by, spying you slipping the bill into Doreen’s hand. You whisper a secret “Yes!” as you imagine Bill telling others, “What a guy he is – I saw him giving that poor woman money.” You imagine your photo on the cover of “Godly People” Magazine, with the caption, “The Most Generous Man Alive” next to your face.

Romans 12 tells us that for believers in Christ, everything we do is an offering of worship to God, whether we’re doing something we would think of as “spiritual,” like praying or serving in Children’s Ministry, or cooking dinner or working on a spread sheet. But our spiritual sacrifices are so pathetic, so blighted by sin – how can the Lord accept them? Our praying and singing is often distracted. Our acts of service and mercy are often flavored with self-glorification.

So how can our sacrifices be acceptable to God?

The key is that our acts of worship are “acceptable to God THROUGH Jesus.” He is the Mediator between God and man, our great High Priest. This means that Jesus takes our flawed and sin-stained offerings, washes them with his blood, and presents them to the Father as perfect.

Without our Mediator our sacrifices wouldn’t be fit for an angel, let alone the Holy One whose eyes are too pure to look upon sin. But through Christ, the Father receives our acts of worship with pleasure and delight.

Let’s praise God today for his glorious Son! Let’s offer him our lives today as his priests made holy by the blood of Christ. And thank God for the kid with the blue hair.