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    Why I Don't Want to Be #Blessed

    Why I Don't Want to Be #Blessed

    I don’t want favor, or to be #blessed. I want Jesus. And I will take whatever else that comes with.

    Recently, I was talking with someone about this and they asked me this,

    “If I look at someone’s life and I see what looks like ‘blessing’ or ‘goodness’ in relation to their life should I call it God’s favor, should I assume God is favoring them?”

    I responded, “Nope.”

    So, I am going to come right out and say it (or I guess write it?) that I want that word to go away forever. And honestly the whole idea too. 

    #notblessed
    #notfavored

    It is so easy to assume that when “good” things happen it is God’s favor. 
    And when “bad” things happen it is the guy in the red pantsuit with the horns that made it happen. But this sort of belief system sets us up for failure and confusion and a ton of heartbreak when God doesn’t favor us as we believe he should.

    Let’s take a look at Paul..
    I think it is safe to say that Paul is the greatest missionary the world has ever seen.
    I would venture to say he was pretty deserving of favor…
    He lived a good life.
    He was a good person.
    He wrote the majority of the New Testament.

    He was by all estimates the greatest Christian the world has ever seen. 

    If God was a fan of favoring his people based on their relationship with him or because that was their right, or because that is what he did, then we would all agree that Paul would have been, should have been #blessed.

    He would have lived the favored life that we all hope for. Nothing bad would have ever happened to him. 
    Paul writes this about his life:

    Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one—I am talking like a madman—with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant? If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. - 2 Corinthians 11:23-30
    So, yeah, Paul’s life sucked, at least when it comes to external circumstances. He got the snot beat out of him on a daily basis as he travelled preaching the gospel. 
     
    If we assume that the good things we experience in life, success, wealth, health, job growth, a general sense of things going well, if we assume all of these things happen as a result of God’s favor then what are we to assume about Paul’s life?
     
    We would have to assume that Paul did not have God’s favor. 
     
    But if we assume that then we have to wonder why? 
    Why wouldn’t God want to favor Paul and bring him blessings in this life if he was such a valuable disciple of his?
     
    Maybe Paul wasn’t really that great of a guy and God needed to discipline him.
    Maybe Paul was actually quite terrible. 
    Maybe God didn’t like Paul. 
     
    Or maybe… the circumstances in our life do not tell us a single thing about our relationship with God. Maybe we aren’t supposed to look at our external circumstances and judge whether or not we are blessed or favored or in right standing with God?
     
    Here's the reality: God doesn’t work in the same currency as we wish he did. 
     
    See we work in the currency of success.

    The currency of money.
    Beautiful people.
    Rest.
    Relaxation.
    Comfortable.
    Nice houses.
    Cozy couches.
    New car smells.
    The easy life.
    That feeling of, “Ahhhh. Life is good…”
    Cocktails by the pool.
    Netflix binges 'cause why not?
    Spring break and careless nights.
    Rocking chairs & porches and lemonade.
    Dying old, in your sleep, with all your teeth.
    Every country song ever.
    You know.. the good life!

    God doesn’t work in that currency. We wish he would. But he doesn’t. God doesn’t have much desire or time to think about our short sighted currency of today. He thinks about tomorrow. He thinks about what is actually important.

    He thinks about himself and us getting more of him. 

    See, God is the greatest blessing you and I can have or experience.
    It isn’t money, or success, or easy living. It is himself. It is knowing him, like really deep down in our bones, knowing him and then one day our hope is that we see him face to face and truly know him. 

    This is what God calls favor or what he would consider #blessed.

    This is why Paul looked like he wasn’t favored because his God doesn’t use the currency we use. He doesn’t look to make us feel favored or blessed as we want to, he looks to actually bless us. And actual blessing, like real, long term realized abundant life comes through suffering. And hardship. It might feel like not a good thing in our minds, but we don’t see God’s plans.

    What we call suffering and hardship and shipwreck, God calls love. God calls discipleship. 

    God calls it favor.
    God calls it #blessed.
    (Actually no, he probably doesn’t because God probably thinks hashtags are dumb.)

    My son is almost 2 years old and we work hard every day for him to understand discipline and respect and all that. It isn’t easy all the time. We have to be consistent. He doesn’t speak in sentences yet but let’s imagine if he could, he might be pretty frustrated with how often we make his life difficult or we make him suffer.
     
    “Ugh! Why do you make my life so difficult?! I don’t want to come inside even though it’s raining! You are the worst.”

    “AHHH! Stop trying to change my diaper. I hate when you change it.”

    Our son, if he could talk, might say we make his life difficult, but that’s because he’s an infant. He doesn’t understand why he has to get his diaper changed. He doesn’t understand that it’s probably not a good idea to be outside in the rain, even though it might be fun. Infants are pretty terrible judges of what the good life is. He might call getting his diaper changed “suffering”. He might refer to it as something other than being blessed.
     
    But he’d be wrong.

    It is in those difficult times for my infant that we are caring for him. It is in those times that we are loving him really, really well.

    We cannot look at our lives, and when we see the good things that everyone else sees, and everyone else calls good and say, “God has favored that person…”

    God’s love and care for us is not measured by the goodness we experience in this life in material things, but rather it is measured by our nearness to Him.

    Our desire should not be to have more of this life’s good things, but rather the ultimate Thing which is God himself. That is our greatest good. God is our greatest good. We should seek to know Him more no matter what circumstances we go through.

    I don’t care what comes of it, I want more of Jesus. If I have to go through hell to get more of Jesus, give me hell, give me hardship, give me death, give me sickness, give me whatever I have to go through, I want more of Jesus.

    And if I get more of Jesus, and my life is a mess, say what you want, that’s the sort of favor I want.

    TETELESTAI - What Does It Mean?

    TETELESTAI - What Does It Mean?

    After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.”  A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth.  When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” (τετέλεσται) and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

    John 19:28-30

     We usually like to connect a blog post with the release or the highlight of a new design. But with this design in particular, we wanted to write a blog post not because we felt like we should but we honestly couldn't help it. 

    This word τετέλεσται, Tetelestai, "It is finished" is so exhilarating, so overwhelming, such sweet, sweet honey for the tired soul that we couldn't help it. We are bursting at the seems to write about this word.

    “an ocean of meaning in a drop of language, a mere drop. It would need all the other words that ever were spoken, or ever can be spoken, to explain this one word. It is altogether immeasurable. It is high; I cannot attain to it. It is deep; I cannot fathom it. IT IS FINISHED is the most charming note in all of Calvary’s music. The fire has passed upon the Lamb. He has borne the whole of the wrath that was due to His people. This is the royal dish of the feast of love.”

    CH Spurgeon

    So what is finished?

    First & foremost, the wrath of God towards his people. 

    No one likes that word. But it is a word that we have to come face to face with. And when we do, we can really see the beauty of what Jesus did. 

    In the Old Testament, God's future wrath towards sin & wickedness is often referred to as the cup of wrath. Jesus when he is praying in the garden before the cross he asks God to let this cup pass from him. This cup is the cup of wrath that Jesus drank down like a rowdy twenty something and slammed the cup on the table and exclaimed "It is finished." 

    I finished it.
    I drank it down.
    I drank it in.
    It is finished.

    When Jesus went to the cross, he went to drink down the cup that the sin of the world had been pouring since Adam & Eve. The cup is empty now.

    This is what Tetelestai means. It means that it is finished. The cup of God's wrath has been finished.

    But do we really believe this?

    I know I struggle to remember and believe this, like really believe it.
    Like believe it deep in my bones.

    Here is the reality -- The wrath of God towards his people, towards you, those who trust in Christ, has been finished.

    THERE IS NO MORE WRATH LEFT.

    Yeah but, you don't realize what I did...

    No, THE CUP HAS BEEN FINISHED.

    There is no wrath left. God has spent all of his wrath on Jesus. He poured every ounce of it out onto Jesus' shoulders. What wrath could he come after you with? What could separate you from the Father?

    Christian brother, sister - Look to Jesus. He is a good savior. He didn't kind of save you. He didn't potentially save you if you are good enough. He fully, completely, ultimately saved his people. It is totally finished. Not 99% finished.

    Not almost saved. Fully saved.
    Not almost finished. Fully finished.

    There is nothing left for you to do but rest in the Cross. 

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    This video is a beautiful reminder of the gospel. Go watch it & be reminded that Christ is enough.

    Christ in Creation: Part 3&4 - Incarnation & Concursus

    Christ in Creation: Part 3&4 - Incarnation & Concursus

     

    God knew the limitation of mankind, you see; and though the grace of being made in His Image was sufficient to give them knowledge of the Word and through Him of the Father, as a safeguard against their neglect of this grace, He provided the works of creation also as a means by which the Maker might be known.

    (St. Athanasius)

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    Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

    (Isaiah 7:14)

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    To be incarnate means to be “in the flesh.” When we speak of the Incarnation, we are talking about God in the flesh. The whole of our Old Testament is anticipating a Christ, a chosen one, a messiah who will set things right. The trouble is that the Christ had to be both man and God. The Christ had to be man because sin is man’s problem, but He had to be God because only God could remedy the curse of sin. The Christ had to be man because man’s death, not God’s, had to be defeated, but He had to be God because only God is sovereign over death. The Christ had to be made, completely, out of the stuff of man, and He had to remain, without exception, the fullness of God. 

    In our New Testament we have four witnesses that recount the story of the long anticipated Christ. They are Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. They each tell us, in their own way, with their own vocabularies, and their own stories the same thing, that Jesus is the Christ. The eternal Word entered creation in the dust of earth.

    The Christ of Creation is not only God with us, but God of us. A flesh-bearer submitted to death. A skin-wearer rose from the dead. A blood-bleeder covered our sin. A saliva-spitter gave us new eyes to actually see God. The Christ of Creation was, at one point, Christ in Creation, and this, whether we realize it or not, means the world to us. The bodies we wear are corruptible. One day, sooner than any of us care to think, these bodies will be dead, recycled back into the ground, and returned to dust. Not so long after that, though, we will be raised to life in new, incorruptible bodies. We will be more truly ourselves than ever before. The Incarnation reminds us, if Jesus rose, so will we.

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    Part 4: Concursus 

    So Heaven meets Earth like a sloppy wet kiss.

    (John Mark McMillan, from How He Loves)

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    “The Arrival”

    Like a tide it comes in,

    wave after wave of foliage and fruit,

    the nurtured and the wild,

    out of the light to this shore.

    In its extravagance we shape

    the strenuous outline of enough. 

    (Wendell Berry, from The Country of Marriage)

    ___________________________________

    Wendell Berry’s poem, “The Arrival,” is part of a big metaphor that covers an entire collection of his poems. He says that a farmer’s care over his land is the picture that all of humanity should strive to copy with creation. He believes that our relationship with the land will tell us much about our relationship with God. In other words, how we treat the gift says something about how we value and honor the giver. In this poem, something is arriving. Whether it is a new crop of black eyed peas or Christ’s second coming is left to your imagination. Either way, it is both beautiful and it is enough.

    Concursus is an idea more than it is a word. It’s harder to translate ideas than it is to translate words. Concursus, though, captures the idea of a wedding between time and eternity. It is not only where God breaks into the created world, but where God dresses Creation as His bride. Concursus is the essence of the scene in Revelation 21:1-4.

    Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

    Jesus spent his life in ministry proclaiming the Kingdom of God. He said it is here. He said it is coming. And we are left to live in the tension of this already/not yet kingdom. It is here because the gospel is advancing and because death has been defeated. It is coming because, though death has been defeated, it has not been eradicated. God’s kingdom will irrupt, totally, into this world. Concursus assures us that, on that day, creation will never again, for all of eternity, be plagued by death.

    Christ in Creation: Part 2 - Theophany

    Christ in Creation: Part 2 - Theophany

    Theophany

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    noun (plural theophanies)

    a visible manifestation to humankind of God.

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    God enters and is present with us in the conditions; he doesn’t abolish the conditions. The conditions stay the same. From Exodus on, save/salvation is the distinctive and miraculous work of God among us that he works seriously and savingly with us in our troubles and difficulties, our sicknesses and addictions, our devastations and disappointments, through assault and opposition… Creation and salvation are juxtaposed. (Eugene H. Peterson)

    When God reveals Himself by means of His own creation the supernatural occupies and inhabits nature itself, and the word we use for this is Theophany. The Exodus journey is full of such creation-centric pictures of God. The burning bush, the ten plagues, the pillar of cloud by day and fire by night, the parting of the Red Sea, and the thunderous overshadowing of Mount Sinai are all examples of God revealing Himself in the natural order of creation. These are all instances of Theophany.

    If you asked an Old Testament Israelite about what “salvation” was, she or he would immediately tell you about the Exodus. They would point back to Moses, how God called him from the burning bush to lead the people out of Egyptian chains and into Promised Land glory. For the Jews “salvation” was physical, but today it seems as if we have flipped the script. In our minds “salvation” is primarily spiritual. We think of sin as a spiritual problem rather than physical. We don’t offer animal sacrifices anymore. We even look at Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, not as physical graces, but as signs that point to spiritual truths.

    I wonder if we have missed the point. I wonder where and when Christians stopped seeing salvation as physical, as a grace connected to creation. The truth of the matter is that salvation has always been, and will always be, physical. Redemption is for all of creation. Theophany assures us that God saves people in the concrete and tangible world. Theophany gives us hope that our bodies, real flesh and blood bodies, will be raised incorruptible from the dead in resurrection. Theophany reminds us to take off our shoes every once in a while and to remember that we walk on holy ground. (Exodus 3:5)