Goodness undeserved and astonishing

I write this on Good Friday. It is the Friday afternoon at the close of a difficult week. Not difficult because of difficult circumstances but difficult because of a funk and things said and a migraine and failure and sin and, well, you get the picture.

Weeks like this remind me why I need Good Friday. Today Christians remember and commemorate the death of Jesus, which is weird, if you think about it, that we celebrate death but that’s exactly what we do. We celebrate the death of Jesus because without it we come to the end of a difficult week or a difficult day or a difficult phone call or a difficult season or a difficult conversation or a difficult diagnosis and we have no hope.

It is easy and, I think, common to glance over Good Friday to get to the joy of Resurrection Sunday. Good Friday becomes incidental to the real show. Of course the Resurrection is the hope and foundation of our faith, yes and amen, glory to God. Paul says that without it, we are pitied because our faith then is in vain.

But today I feel the despair of my sin. I see my weakness and my utter depravity. I know–I know–that my sin is real and my utter insufficiency overwhelms me. I need the truth that Jesus resolutely set His face to His death, that by one sacrifice He paid it all, that here is the love of God demonstrated in that Christ died for sinners. This is the goodness of Good Friday–that Jesus, my Savior, has borne my griefs and carried my sorrows and healed me by His wounds. Yes, please, Lord.

I pulled my copy off The Valley of Vision off the shelf to put word to my need…

EVERLASTING CREATOR-FATHER,
I have destroyed myself,
my nature is defiled,
the powers of my soul are degraded;
I am vile, miserable, strengthless,
but my hope is in thee.

If ever I am saved it will be by goodness undeserved and astonishing,
not by mercy alone but by abundant mercy,
not by grace but by exceeding riches of grace;
And such thou has revealed, promised, exemplified
in thoughts of peace, not of evil.

Thou has devised means
to rescue me from sin’s perdition,
to restore me to happiness, honour, safety.
I bless thee for the everlasting covenant,
for the appointment of a Mediator.

I rejoice that he failed me not, nor was discouraged,
but accomplished the work thou gavest him to do;
and said on the cross, ‘It is finished.’

I exult in the thought that
thy justice is satisfied,
thy truth established,
thy law magnified,
and a foundation is laid for my hope.

I look to a present and personal interest in Christ and say,
Surely he has borne my griefs,
carried my sorrows,
won my peace,
healed my soul.

Justified by his blood I am saved by his life,
Glorying in his cross I bow to his sceptre,
Having his Spirit I possess his mind.

Lord, grant that my religion may not be occasional and partial,
but universal, influential, effective,
and may I always continue in thy words as well as thy works,
so that I may reach my end in peace.

-“The Mediator,” The Valley of Vision

On Easter, the Monday after, and Romans 9

It’s Monday. Not just any Monday but the Monday after Easter, the Monday after Spring Break, the Monday before a new unit of Bible study that begins tomorrow, and, oh yeah, April Fool’s all rolled into one. I will go out on a limb and predict that it will also be a Monday wherein much coffee will be consumed.

We had a wonderful day yesterday. As has been my custom in years past, I invited friends over for lunch who, like us, were unable to be with family for the holiday. There were 21 of us here for Easter lunch–including my oldest home for the weekend yes and amen–and we had a great time! We all brought food so there was plenty to eat (including my friend’s fabulous homemade rolls). We had a full house, to be sure, some of us grouped in front of the tv watching basketball, some of us out on the porch chatting about everything from dress shopping to bangs to podcasts. It was a good day. I missed being with my family but I was glad to be able to celebrate with my husband and my boys and our friends and brothers and sisters in Christ.

The goodness of our day was not only in terms of food and fellowship. Our Easter celebration at church was wonderful as well. I love my church and our gathering yesterday was marked by eager gladness and joyous worship. I think we would collectively testify with the psalmist: “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord!'” (Ps. 122:1)

My pastor has been preaching through the book of Romans, chapter by chapter, verse by verse. I know that I am probably biased but I firmly believe I have the privilege of hearing some of the best preaching and teaching there is and this past Sunday was among the best of the best. By the providence of God, the text for yesterday, Easter Sunday, was Romans 9:14-18. Surely Romans 9 is one of the more difficult and therefore most overlooked passages of the Bible. “I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion,” says the Lord, quoted in Romans 9:15. This is a difficult truth–the freedom of God in His mercy–one we want to dismiss or argue or ignore. Listen or watch as my pastor explores what it means for the Lord to have compassion on whom He will in the context of Easter, the Resurrection of Jesus, and the storyline of the Bible as a whole, as well as my salvation and your salvation.

Video streaming by Ustream

Happy Monday, friends!

Sunday Prayer: Resurrection

From The Valley of Vision,

O GOD OF MY EXODUS,
Great was the joy of Israel’s sons,
when Egypt died upon the shore,
Far greater the joy when the Redeemer’s foe lay crushed in the dust.

Jesus strides forth as the victor,
conqueror of death, hell, and all opposing might;
He bursts the bands of death,
tramples the powers of darkness down,
and lives for ever.

He, my gracious surety,
apprehended for payment of my debt,
comes forth from the prison house of the grave
free, and triumphant over sin, Satan, and death.

Show me herein the proof that his vicarious offering is accepted,
that the claims of justice are satisfied,
that the devil’s sceptre is shivered,
that his wrongful throne is levelled.

Give me the assurance that in Christ I died, in him I rose,
in his life I live, in his victory I triumph,
in his ascension I shall be glorified.

Adorable Redeemer,
thou who wast lifted up upon a cross
art ascended to highest heaven.

Thou, who as Man of sorrows wast crowned with thorns,
art now as Lord of life wreathed with glory.

Once, no shame more deep than thine,
no agony more bitter, no death more cruel.

Now, no exaltation more high,
no life more glorious, no advocate more effective.

Thou art in the triumph car leading captive thine enemies behind thee.

What could be done than thou hast done!
Thy death is my life,
thy resurrection my peace,
thy ascension my hope,
thy prayers my comfort.

Happy Easter, friends! He is risen!

Love to the Uttermost

To love to the uttermost is to love freely, without reserve or limit, and without flaw or failure. Love to the uttermost is unquenchable, unstoppable, and resolute. As we watch his arrest and trial and death unfold for eight days, we gaze on a Christ who begrudges no pain or reproach on his pathway to redeem lost sinners. This is the man who “humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8). This is love to the uttermost.

As I look toward our observation of Jesus’ death and resurrection this coming Easter weekend, I have been encouraged by Desiring God’s devotional ebook Love to the Uttermost. It’s a week’s worth of devotions that aim to “serve anyone who seeks a steadied gaze to watch our Savior as he loves us to the uttermost.” A steadied gaze. I like that. I want that.

I encourage you to download Love to the Uttermost. No matter your platform it’s available for free here. Each day’s reading is brief yet powerful as it points us to the passion of our Savior who loved us freely, without reserve or limit, with a love that is unquenchable, unstoppable, and resolute. Hallelujah, what a Savior!

Thankfulness on Thursday

Today I am thankful…

That while I was still weak Christ died for the ungodly, me.

That God shows His love for me in that while I was still a sinner Christ died for me.

That I am justified by His blood and saved by Him from the wrath of God.

That I am reconciled to God by the death of His Son and saved by His life.

That I am a new creation; the old has gone and the new has come!

That my old self was crucified and it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me.

That the life I now live I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me.

That because of the great love with which He loved me, God, rich in mercy, made me alive together with Christ even when I was dead in my trespasses

That God has caused me to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead

That though I do not now see Him I believe in Him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory

That it is by grace I have been saved through faith. It is not my own doing; it is the gift of God.

That I have peace with God through my Lord Jesus Christ and that through Him I have obtained access by faith into this grace in which I stand and I rejoice in hope of the glory of God

That I have confidence to draw near to God with a true heart in full assurance of faith with my heart sprinkled clean because of the new and living way Jesus opened for me by the shedding of His blood

That if God be for me; who can be against me?

That He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up will graciously give me all things.

That nothing shall be able to separate me from the love of God in Christ Jesus

He is risen!

What are you thankful for today?

I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart; 
 I will recount all of your wonderful deeds. 
I will be glad and exult in you; 
 I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.
~ Psalm 9:1-2

Words fail

Once again I find my words inadequate. Not only inadequate but also hard to come by. In other words, I can’t say what I want to say and what I do say doesn’t say enough. Twenty minutes I’ve been sitting here and so far: two sentences. Hello, writer’s block.

Let’s begin with the facts. Yesterday was Easter Sunday, the celebration of the resurrection of our Lord. We the family cleaned up pretty good:

Mimi, my husband’s mom, came for a visit and I think she enjoyed the time with her nearly grown grandsons:

Our church celebration began with a thought-provoking discussion in Sunday school led by my favorite Sunday school teacher. In our corporate worship we joyfully sang songs that spoke of our living Lord. We also heard testimonies of three prospective church members and praised the Lord as we witnessed four baptisms–in a horse trough!

After the church service we hosted Easter dinner for several of our friends who, like us, haven’t family close by. Good food, good conversation, good fellowship, a couple of egg hunts and several games of Baggo marked our afternoon.

Those are the facts of our day. What I struggle to tell you is how full my heart is and how grateful I am. I can’t describe to you the sadness mixed with wonder as we heard the faithful testimony of a young couple determined to trust in the goodness of the Lord despite losing their baby nor of the tears we shed as a grown man entered the baptismal trough after testifying of the power of Christ to save the most desperate of sinners. We all cried as well, I think, as a dad baptized his boy, proclaiming the joy of knowing him as a son but the even greater joy of knowing him as a brother in Christ. Spending the afternoon with friends and fellow believers was yet another sort of grace granted to us yesterday. Though I missed being with my parents and sister and brother and their families, very much so, surely among the Lord’s greatest blessings is the closeness of fellowship and community that exists between believers! All in all, it was the kind of day so full of the goodness of the Lord that the keyboard and blogger are rendered inadequate to describe it.

See, I told you: words fail. I’ve typed and re-typed that paragraph and, still, I can’t convey to you the glory of the Lord that shone ’round about us yesterday. It was a glorious, beautiful day full of boasting in the cross of our Lord and rejoicing in the blessings that are ours because of Christ. What joy is ours because of Jesus! He is Life, the indescribable Gift of God! May you also taste and see that the Lord is good and find in Him joy everlasting!