Hidden Beauty

Rob mows the yard and pasture about once every ten days or so right now. In the summer it will more than likely be a weekly event. What I have been amazed by is how very quickly the clover pops back up. We get large patches of them all over our property and I enjoy their sweet smell.

I did recently learn something new about the plant. I thought the flower was the puffy white part and it sort of is but actually each one of those “petals” is considered an individual flower. Pretty cool, huh?

I am fascinated by wildflowers in general. I had noticed some tiny little purple flowers growing in the field while walking the dogs and grabbed my camera and extension tubes real quick so that I could photograph them before Rob and the mower made their way over to do their thing.

It’s like a whole secret world tucked away in grass and you might miss it if you aren’t trying to figure out if your dog is eating worms and such.

There were also tiny white flowers.

I really love moving in so close and creating such a narrow point of view…isolating such small details. I think what intrigues me the most is the knowledge that God creates such hidden beauty knowing that it isn’t always noticed or appreciated. Yet, he made them anyway and drops them in random fields. But they’re there declaring his goodness and beauty.

It’s Holy Week and it started by a declaration war. We tend to view Christ riding into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey humbly and graciously accepting the praise of the people. Our idea of the beauty of this scene is a soft and gentle watercolor.

In truth, he came riding in declaring himself victor of a war they didn’t even realize was about to be fought. They would see no beauty in the twisted crown of thorns or the jagged wooden cross but their seemingly unholy loveliness would pierce the darkness of sin and death to reveal the greatest beauty ever seen…the empty tomb.

God is the master Creator and from the beginning of time his delight has been to tuck beauty into the most uncommon and unexpected places. There is a beauty and truth and goodness in every circumstance you may be facing because he is there. Look for it. Look for him. And rejoice that your King lives and reigns.


Hidden In Christ

Recently I was challenged to consider where my mind is when I am in the midst of suffering. The question came in the middle of our study in John dealing with the crucifixion of Jesus.

I can honestly say that I have only faced true suffering two times in my life. Obviously there have been hard times, difficult times, but only two seasons of what I would call true suffering. In the grand scheme of things not much and after really considering those passages of  John, surely nothing that compares to the suffering of  Christ. 
His suffering covered every  realm of humanity. 
Physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. No part of Him and no part of mankind was left untouched by suffering. The beatings, the betrayal of friends, the weight of sin and the wrath of God, that perfect fellowship with the Father and the Spirit being broken. While we may suffer in some of these realms at some point in our lives, He suffered in them all at one time in a magnitude that we aren’t capable of experiencing.
But when we read of that time in His life it is completely clear where His mind was. 
When Judas was preparing to betray Him, Jesus was washing His feet.
When the disciples could not even stay awake to pray with Him, He was crying out before God the Father on their behalf for protection from the world and the evil one.
As the soldiers pinned His arms down to pound nails into His flesh, He literally asked God to forgive them.
Stripped naked and laid bare before all, with soldiers casting lots for His clothes and the crowd hurling insults, He granted forgiveness to the thief next to Him.
In the midst of such physical agony He looks down and sees His mother and makes provision for her care.
In the midst of His suffering He wasn’t thinking of Himself, His pain, the unjustness of His situation but of those around Him, family, friend, and foe.
Remember when Jesus came upon the blind man and His disciples asked if the blindness was the result of the man’s sin or that of his parents? Jesus’ reply was that it was not a result of sin but rather “…so that the works of God might be displayed in him…”
There are horrible things that happen in this life. There is pain and suffering that for many of us is unimaginable yet it takes place in the lives of others every day. But no matter how great or how small our suffering may be we are called to take on the mind of Christ and suffer as He suffered. 
What He shows us is that even in the midst of suffering we are to look outward, to those around us, and minister to them so that the work of God may be displayed in us just as it was displayed in not only the blind man but perfectly and completely in Christ, in whose life our lives are hidden. 

Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews

“Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” John 19:19

When a person was sentenced to death by crucifixion it was customary for a sign of some sort to be made and posted detailing the crime of the condemned.  Pilate went a few extra steps and had those words inscribed three times,

 “…and it  was written in Aramaic, in Latin, and in Greek…” John 19:20
Needless to say the religious leaders were less than thrilled with Pilate’s diligence and demanded repeatedly, to no avail, that the sign be changed to say that Jesus claimed to be the King of the Jews. Pilate stubbornly declared, “What I have written I have written.” His proclamation of the Kingship of Christ was declared before all of mankind and recorded for all time. 
It’s been noted that Aramaic was the language of the Jews and as such represented the covenant and God’s law. 
Latin was the official language of the Romans, denoting human government, power and conquest. 
Greek was the language of wisdom, art, and commerce.
The inscription in these three languages insured that absolutely any person who happened by at the time of His death would know what crime Jesus had committed and for which He had been sentenced.
It also left no aspect of humanity untouched by the declaration that Jesus was indeed the King of the Jews.
Three days later an empty tomb would also bear witness and attest to His Kingship over everything, even death.

Tonight we’ll gather for Maundy Thursday. Simply put it means we will be exhorted to love one another, and we take part in the Lord’s Supper.

Tomorrow evening we will join with a sister church for a Good Friday service and we’ll sing psalms and hymns and read Scripture. At the end the lights will symbolically go off and we will leave the room without speaking, a way of marking the darkness that fell as Christ, the Light of the world, took on the wrath of God.

But on Sunday…

On Sunday we will rejoice in the risen Savior! We will feast and celebrate that which should govern everyday of how we live.

Christ the Lord is risen! Indeed He is the King of Kings.

This Week ~ The Yes and Amen of God’s Promise

This week is obviously of major significance in the life of the church and has profound implications for all creation. 

It is during this week that Jesus enters Jerusalem as a triumphant King, weeps over Jerusalem, inspects the temple for the second time and condemns it, and prophecies the destruction of Jerusalem (A.D. 70). 

During this week he deals with the disciples’ arguments over who is the greatest, he washes his disciples’ feet, he identifies his betrayer, institutes the Lord’s Supper, gives the commandment of love, predicts Peter’s denial and gives some of his major discourses (the Olivet Discourse and the Upper Room Discourse).
It is in this week that he prays his high priestly prayer in Gethsemane, and is betrayed by Judas Iscariot and is arrested. 

He is brought before Annas and Caiaphas who declares that it is expedient that one man should die for the people. 

He is abused through the night, is denied by Peter three times, and is formally condemned by the Sanhedrin. 

Judas commits suicide. 

Jesus is tried before Pontius Pilate and Herod, is scourged and mocked by the Romans, and hears his own people cry out for his crucifixion. 

Pilate gives him over to be crucified, setting the criminal Barabbas free. He is led away to be crucified.
Jesus is crucified, dies, and is buried in a tomb by Joseph of Arimathea with the help of Nicodemus (from John 3) – this is Friday. He will lay in that tome until Sunday when he is discovered to have been raised from the dead.
The events of this week are the crescendo, not only of Jesus’ life and ministry, but of the entire history of everything up to this point, and bring into reality and fulfillment all of the promises of God.

~From Rob’s sermon on Palm Sunday

Premeditated Generosity

Several years ago our family, following the leading of our church, began to orient our lives and seasons by the Church calendar. We began to recognize and mark time according to seasons and life of Christ.  It has been a wonderful way to very purposefully create opportunities to reflect and engage in various parts of our faith and the things we confess as believers.

Today, we move into a new season of our liturgical year. For many in our evangelical circles, Lent is mostly viewed as a very high churchy, old fashioned thing done by catholics. It comes on the heels of Fat Tuesday and is a time of some kind of penitence.

But really Lent is a time of preparation for Easter as Advent is for Christmas.  This journey of darkness, this time of reflecting upon our staggering need for grace, for salvation makes our celebration of Easter fuller and more robust. We confront our own lack, our own need, for something more than we can do for ourselves. We cry out knowing that we need a generosity of grace that comes from somewhere else, somewhere outside of ourselves.

For many it becomes a time of giving something up, a time of sacrifice and while this is not necessarily bad the danger is that it can become a morbid introspection with the focus on self. As a church, and within our family, we have never observed Lent as a time to fast. Rob has taught neither against it or for it.

But this year he has issued a challenge of sorts to us all. Basically, over the next forty days we are encouraged to do at least one act of generosity towards someone. Writing a note, preparing a meal, some act of kindness given to someone else, friend or stranger. It’s in doing some thing that requires something from us for the benefit of someone else that we, in a very small inadequate way, are mindful that we needed Someone to do for us something we were and are unable to do for ourselves.

Self denial, whether the giving up of something one enjoys or giving of something for the good of another, is not meant to be an end to itself. It is meant to drive us closer to Christ, to know our own need deeper. It is recognize how big the separation was between God and man, and what He did to bring us into fellowship with His Son.

Pastor Steve Wilkins puts the purpose of Lent this way,

Lent is the “winter-time” of preparation before the “spring-time” of the resurrection. Just as death leads to life, so the cross leads to glory. Lent helps us learn this lesson. It deepens our joy and love for the Savior who has given us eternal life by His willingness to die in our place. And reminds us that when we follow Him, losing our lives for His sake, we will end in joy and blessedness with Him. So here’s the goal of Lent: to see afresh the deep, deep love of Jesus, and by the Spirit to be transformed into His image so that we can follow Him and live to the glory of the Father.

Christ Is Risen!

St Chrysostom resurrection image
Is there anyone who is a devout lover of God? Let them enjoy this beautiful bright festival! Is there anyone who is a grateful servant? Let them rejoice and enter into the joy of their Lord!
Are there any weary with fasting? Let them now receive their wages! If any have toiled from the first hour, let them receive their due reward; If any have come after the third hour, let him with gratitude join in the Feast! And he that arrived after the sixth hour, let him not doubt; for he too shall sustain no loss. And if any delayed until the ninth hour, let him not hesitate; but let him come too. And he who arrived only at the eleventh hour, let him not be afraid by reason of his delay.
For the Lord is gracious and receives the last even as the first. He gives rest to him that comes at the eleventh hour, as well as to him that toiled from the first. To this one He gives, and upon another He bestows. He accepts the works as He greets the endeavor. The deed He honors and the intention He commends.
Let us all enter into the joy of the Lord! First and last alike receive your reward; rich and poor, rejoice together! Sober and slothful, celebrate the day!
You that have kept the fast, and you that have not, rejoice today for the Table is richly laden! Feast royally on it, the calf is a fatted one. Let no one go away hungry. Partake, all, of the cup of faith. Enjoy all the riches of His goodness!
Let no one grieve at his poverty, for the universal kingdom has been revealed. Let no one mourn that he has fallen again and again; for forgiveness has risen from the grave. Let no one fear death, for the Death of our Savior has set us free. He has destroyed it by enduring it.
He destroyed Hades when He descended into it. He put it into an uproar even as it tasted of His flesh. Isaiah foretold this when he said, “You, O Hell, have been troubled by encountering Him below.”
Hell was in an uproar because it was done away with.

It was in an uproar because it is mocked.
It was in an uproar, for it is destroyed.
It is in an uproar, for it is annihilated.
It is in an uproar, for it is now made captive.
Hell took a body, and discovered God.
It took earth, and encountered Heaven.
It took what it saw, and was overcome by what it did not see.
O death, where is thy sting?
O Hades, where is thy victory?
Christ is Risen, and the evil ones are cast down!
Christ is Risen, and the angels rejoice!
Christ is Risen, and life is liberated!
Christ is Risen, and the tomb is emptied of its dead; for Christ having risen from the dead, is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.

Christ is Risen, and you, O death, are annihilated!
To Him be Glory and Power forever and ever. Amen!

Spring Break 2013

We’re on Spring break! A whole week of not getting up at 5 am. A whole week of not having anything that must get done. I’m already melting into a relaxed puddle of laziness.

We actually had Good Friday off and spent it at the beach with some friends. 
Perfect day.
The weather was gorgeous. The beach was gorgeous. Perfect I tell you.
My best girlfriend and her three kiddos are coming into to town today to spend the week with us so even if it is supposed to rain some this week we’re going to have a great break.
Blogging may be a bit sporadic but I haven’t forgotten that it’s April so the autism post will be coming up along with the usual recipes and photo sharing.
Happy week y’all!

He Is Not Here!

The darkness had come in the middle of the day with grief trailing behind, 
weaving and winding itself into their minds hiding His words.
But in front of the grave light dawned and suddenly they remembered what he had said. 

Mercy and joy burst from the tomb like a deep belly laugh from the mouth of a child.
Victory danced down the halls of time turning all of creation on its ear.
He had won.
Death, the greatest enemy, had been defeated.
New life, everlasting life, had dawned.
Hallelujah, Christ arose!

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