Nov 23 2012

He Kept His Scars

Carrie and I wanted to do something new and fun together that was flexible, cheap, and didn’t involve the television.  So we decided to read a fiction book together — as in reading it to each other. About the same time that we were trying to pick a book, we watched the movie “The Hunger Games”.  Knowing that it was one of a trilogy, and figuring they’d likely make more movies we decided to read those books.  It’s been pretty fun.  Part of our nightly routine as the evening winds down has been to crawl up next to each other on the couch or in bed and ask, “Okay, should I read or do you want to?”, and we descend together into an interesting and entertaining world providing a fascinating criticism of modern culture — namely reality TV.

Anyway, let me stay focused on the point of this post: scars.

So at one point in the story one of the main characters receives a particular medical treatment that removes every imperfection from his/her skin (no spoilers here!).  During this scene, the author sort of alludes to the character lamenting the loss of some of the scars earned over the years, which is a legitimate thought, right?  Because scars tell stories.  Whatever the source of the scar, whether a good story or a bad one, our scars partially define who we are.   Scars are reminders.  Sometimes scars are conversation starters.  Some scars are on the outside and are obvious.  Some scars are on the inside and are carefully guarded.  Since that is the case, I wonder if you had the opportunity, would you erase your scars and help remove the memory, the story?  That’s exactly what happened in “The Hunger Games.”

But that’s not what happened with Jesus.

Think about it.  When Jesus paid for the sins of humanity and absorbed the wrath of God, it wounded Him deeply.  But because He didn’t deserve the payment of sin, He willingly bore it for us, by the power of God He rose from the dead, defeating death, sin and hell.  Jesus rose the Forever Perfect Victor, and soon ascended into the perfect heaven to be with our Perfect Father.  Jesus certainly had the power to also rise with perfect skin, showing no trace of the brutality and injustice that He bore to the cross.  However, He kept His scars.  He kept His scars.  Why?  He kept His scars because they tell a good story . . . more than that, they tell the greatest story that could ever be told!

Those scars tell the story of redemption and of hope.  That story enables us to realize the purpose for which we were created — giving all glory to God because we, who have been saved through what those scars represent, have seen both the Justice and Grace of God perfected.  That story couldn’t be hidden . . . it can’t be erased.  That story is meant to be proclaimed from the rooftops as well as in prayer closets.  It is to be repeated in every generation and to every nation, tribe and tongue.  Jesus showed His scars to His disciples to confirm the story in their hearts.  He commissioned them to go be witnesses of the story behind the scars.  The scars bear witness to our hearts of Jesus’ sacrifice to save us from the penalty and power of sin.  And the fact that Jesus kept His scars ought to remind, even compel us to tell the story, the greatest story ever told.

I’m so glad Jesus paid my debt, even though it gave Him scars.  And I’m so glad that He kept His scars.  Scars tell great stories.  I have scars, too, and I want my scars to echo of His, making my story bear witness of His story.

Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.  But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. (Isaiah 53:4-5)

Fix your eyes on Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.  (Hebrews 12:2-3)

I love to tell the story of unseen things above,
of Jesus and his glory, of Jesus and his love.
I love to tell the story, because I know ’tis true;
it satisfies my longings as nothing else can do.

I love to tell the story, ’twill be my theme in glory,
to tell the old, old story of Jesus and his love.
( Hymn: I Love to Tell the Story, Katherine Hankey, 1834-1911)


Oct 26 2012

Rejoicing Over Glorious Things

One of the verses from the sermon passage this week is Luke 13:17 > When [Jesus] said this, all his adversaries were ashamed; and all the people rejoiced for all the glorious things that were done by him.

Though the work is often long and hard — this work of being a disciple, husband, father, pastor in a world straining its back against the leadership of Jesus — I have seen Jesus do glorious things.  He constantly renews my heart and my strength to face each new day and each new task.  He fills my house with joyful laughter, and I see the way He loves and provides for my family.  He continues to build His church in C!C, strengthening His disciples and growing their influence.  He gives me hope for the day when He calls all of His people to our final home in heaven.  In that day we’ll step away from whatever work is left to be done and we’ll finally surrender all before the Author of our Salvation, the Glorious One.  And we will rejoice like we’ve never done before.

I came across this great set of songs of praise in Isaiah 12; they are hearty songs of rejoicing in light of a great deliverance:

In that day you will say:
“I will praise you, O Lord.  Although you were angry with me, your anger has turned away and you have comforted me.  Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid.  The Lord, the Lord, is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation .”
With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.

In that day you will say:
“Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done, and proclaim that his name is exalted.  Sing to the Lord, for he has done glorious things; let this be known to all the world.  Shout aloud and sing for joy, people of Zion, for great is the Holy One of Israel among you.”

Amen.  Spend some time today remembering and rejoicing over some “glorious things” that Jesus has done for you.  Offer some hope-full praises for the glorious things that are yet to come.


Mar 14 2012

reflection on beauty — today and “tomorrow”

Upon meditating on some of the truths from this past week’s sermon (available online), I’ve been somewhat smitten by the reference to God’s people in Isaiah 61:3, that they “will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.”  Reflecting on this Splendor has brought up vivid memories of bountiful gardens and opulent displays of the finest shapes and colours nature has to offer.  I thought of the harvest that my garden produces, bright and plump.  I thought of the rainbows of the Tulip Festival at its height.  I thought of the vast intricacies of the Butterfly House at Atlanta Botanical Garden, on and on.  Then I thought about the vast differences between each person’s life and journey with Jesus.  I thought of how Scripture seems to describe us as this carefully crafted exhibit where we each present a unique aspect of the manifold beauties in the Character and Acts of God – a “planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.”

I thank God for the work He’s done and continues to do in my life.  I praise Him for putting my friends, and particularly C!C, in my life so that together we display a portion of his splendor.  And yet, what’s more is the thought that all of this is but a shadow of the beauty in store in Glory.  Reflecting on the promise of future beauty brought me across some prophecies and a C. S. Lewis quote that I’d like to share.  Enjoy. (And feel free to read it a few times to let it sink in.)

Awake, awake, O Zion, clothe yourself with strength.  Put on your garments of splendor, O Jerusalem, the holy city.  The uncircumcised and defiled will not enter you againIsaiah 52:1

Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.  See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you.  Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawnIsaiah 60:1-3

But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings.  And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stallMalachi 4:2

The city [Heaven’s Jerusalem] does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp.  The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it.  On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night thereRevelations 21:23-25

“God has given us the Morning Star already: you can go and enjoy the gift on many fine mornings if you get up early enough.  What more, you may ask, do we want?  Ah, but we want so much more – something the books on aesthetics take little notice of.  But the poets and the mythologies know all about it.  We do not want merely to see beauty, though, God knows, even that is bounty enough.  We want something else which can hardly be put into words – to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it.  That is why we have peopled air and earth and water with gods and goddesses and nymphs and elves – that, though we cannot, yet these projections can, enjoy in themselves that beauty, grace, and power of which Nature is the image.  That is why the poets tell us such lovely falsehoods.  They talk as if the west wind could really sweep into a human soul; but it can’t.  They tell us the “beauty born of murmuring sound” will pass into a human face; but it won’t.  Or not yet.  For if we take the imagery of Scripture seriously, if we believe that God will one day give us the Morning Star and cause us to put on the splendour of the sun, then we may surmise that both the ancient myths and the modern poetry, so false as history, may be very near the truth as prophecy.  At present we are on the outside of the world, the wrong side of the door.  We discern the freshness and purity of morning, but they do not make us fresh and pure.  We cannot mingle with the splendours we see. But all the leaves of the New Testament are rustling with the rumour that it will not always be so.  Some day, God willing, we shall get in.”   C.S. Lewis, from The Weight of Glory