Living Through Loss

After living with less the Shummanite woman faces loss–something so common we expected it and yet at the same time long for more. It was her rejoicing turned mute: going cold, dark, and dead—as we actually begin …

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Living Through Loss (2 Kings 4:18-20, 25-28) 18 The child grew, and one day he went out to his father, who was with the reapers. 19 He said to his father, “My head! My head!” His father told a servant, “Carry him to his mother.” 20 After the servant had lifted him up and carried him to his mother, the boy sat on her lap until noon, and then he died. A miraculous birth now amounts to a mountain of pain! Alfred Lord Tennyson famously penned, “Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all… 25 So she set out and came to the man of God at Mount Carmel. When he saw her in the distance, the man of God said to his servant Gehazi, “Look! There’s the Shunammite! 26 Run to meet her and ask her, ‘Are you all right? Is your husband all right? Is your child all right?’” “Everything is all right,” she said. 27 When she reached the man of God at the mountain, she took hold of his feet. Gehazi came over to push her away, but the man of God said, “Leave her alone! She is in bitter distress, but the Lord has hidden it from me and has not told me why.” 28 “Did I ask you for a son, my lord?” she said. “Didn’t I tell you ‘Don’t raise my hopes’?” Continue reading “Living Through Loss”

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Thieves on the Cross- Part 3

The first criminal on the cross rejected Jesus. The second criminal repented of his former way of life, in hopes of being reconnected to Jesus, and finally in the passage we hear from Christ. His first words come in our text from Luke 23:43: “Truly I tell you; today you will be with me in paradise.” 12 simple words constructed in such a way that they must have sent shock waves through the 2nd thieves heart more violent than any nail through his flesh. Although biblical commentators argue about the timing of the unity between criminal and Christ, to spend too much energy on a common- (Truly I tell you today, or Truly I tell you, today) is to miss the point. There are contentious pieces of text that we struggle to find the exactly meaning, but in our lack of clarity, let’s be sure we never miss the overarching truth laid bare before us!

Paradise throughout scripture is the place which alludes to the garden, where the saints rejoice in renewed relationship with God. The truth of Jesus’ statement makes more sense when we see that to be in paradise at its most basic level is to be in relationship with God again! To enjoy such intimacy that he lives in us as he lived in Christ, that His Spirit would dare find a home in our calloused hearts, that his Spirit could work such miracles as to anoint not just our head, marking us for service, but our hearts marking us for heaven.

Christ’s promise when amplified to the countless lost throughout the centuries is just as ground breaking. It is a promise that cannot be beaten, smashed, crucified, or entombed. It takes each of us who has known the distress of sin, the pain of loss, the grief of death and replaces the hopelessness with new life! Through the darkness of death, we see the new light of life and the words from that sweet hymn come to fruition–“And He walks with me, and He talks with me, And He tells me I am His own.”

He Is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!

Radical Assurance

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If you have been following along in the series, we have looked at the servant’s heart, the need for radical conversion, and finally the result for Christians to find radical assurance. Paul’s words in Romans 8:16-17 apply directly to the radically converted. They apply to the life of a man who went from trying to crush the church, to one who was willingly to be crushed (stoned, shipwrecked, beaten, etc) in order for the church to be sustained. 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

The Spirit testifies to the spirit of man, giving peace in place of pain, power in place of ride, and progress in place of the pit of despair. Yet, so often we confuse the power of the Gospel for weak alternatives. Christian singer Matt Maher captures the alternatives in his song, “Hold Us Together” singing (about the Good News) it “won’t buy you a home in Beverly Hills/ won’t fix your life in five easy steps/ it ain’t the law of the land or the government/ But it’s all you need!”  The Gospel is all we need because it is through the act of sacrifice that Christ allowed himself to become man in every way so that when God judges man, we are seen in the light of his righteousness instead of clearly through the shards of our brokenness. The result is nothing short of miraculous—just as the Son of God was resurrected by the Holy Spirit–we see the Gospel resurrect our lives, resurrect our hearts, resurrect our dying churches, resurrect of splintered families, resurrects the ultimately mission. More fully, the Gospel is a picture of total restoration.

When my wife and I lived in a river city, sometimes we would go down by the Mississippi River and people watch. One warm summer night as some walked, ran, biked, or roller skated, a father and his young son (probably 6) slowly strode by enjoying the night. Suddenly about 10 feet ahead of the bench we were sitting on the son looked up at the father and said, “I love you daddy!” and the father pulling the boy into his arms, embraced him saying, “I love you too son!” It was a Kodak moment if there was ever one. Yet for a moment consider their relationship. Before the man picked up the boy and said anything, he was legally, biologically, and relationally the father’s son. Yet it was when the father stopped and picked him up that the son was absolutely sure of the father’s love!

Romans 5:8–shows us the same radical assurance through our heavenly Father, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us! There is no more radical assurance than God sending Christ into the world to save you! There is nothing more that could be done. Now all that is left is putting on the crown! Remember though, it is a crown of service, not pride; a crown of sacrifice, not self-service, and it is a crown of life through sonship, rather than of death through sinfulness! It fits just right!