New Testament

The Silent Saturday?

I’m taking a short break from the Old Testament sacrifice focus. This Holy Week is so—holy. Where else should the heart and mind be but in contemplation of the significant events and story that took place? The events that thread together to make the crucifixion and resurrection story just can’t be relegated to the “musty, dusty, biblical, Classic Literature shelf” in my mind. How could that be? These events cried out their tremendous significance then—and they cry out to impact and transform the current day and age across generations, time, and space. If we cannot embrace that, for whatever reason, we have to at least engage the reality of it. To attempt to dismiss what happened as “long, long ago, involving people dead and buried” is a weak attempt at denial, if we’re gut-level honest.

That said, I left Good Friday alone yesterday. The entire Blogosphere lit up with countless entries, post after post after post, about Golgotha, Simon the Cyrene, the biblical and medical perspectives on Jesus’ pain and suffering, and the last words of Christ. There is no need to enter into that fray for me. I wanted to discover my own life and breath in the day. I hope you managed that for yourself. If not, there is no end to the meditations you could have within the blog universe, apparently.

But, Saturday. I’m tempted to sit with the silence that is Saturday. It’s quietly sandwiched between the agonizing, torturous pain of death and the magnificent celebration of the glory of life and resurrection. The silence of the Shabbat between death and resurrection.

What were Jesus’ followers doing on that day?

Sometimes we get a feel for it. We fill in some emotion between the lines in the Gospel accounts. Betrayal led to shame that, in its full measure, led to death. Denial must have led to shame-filled regret. A hurried burial must have left a bitterly sad temporary void until all that should be could be done. Confusion must have led to fear, disappointment, or apathy. How does one rest in a Shabbat when all this has happened? For the followers, it must have been a flood of hot tears and overwhelming sadness for their friend, son, brother, rabbi, and Lord.

I quietly muse they feared for their own lives next….

What was Jesus doing?

Some of the things I’ve heard and read suggest different things. The ideas include sleeping, resting, dead in the grave, folding the napkin, and the Apostle’s Creed uses the words “descended to the dead” or “into hell.” I agree with the Creed, but cannot say if that was Good Friday or Saturday. Here’s just a cursory glance at why.

On Friday, there is that conversation with the thief on the cross at the place called “The Skull.” In Luke 23:43 Jesus answered the thief’s request to remember him in his Kingdom with a promise:

And He said to him, “I assure you: Today you will be with Me in paradise.” (HCS)

What other “today” could that mean? Who could the “Me” be but the one speaking? What a beautiful promise to a man who desperately needed hope in painfully dire circumstances.

Revelation 1:18 confirms the descent. John wrote an account in prison on the Island of Patmos:

When I saw him, I fell down at his feet like a dead man. He placed his right hand upon me and said, “Don’t be afraid! I am the First and the Last, the Living One. I was dead, but look!—I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys to Death and Sh’ol. Revelation 1:17b, 18 CJB

Sh’ol is the Hebrew term we translate hell in English. Notice the passage doesn’t place the timing, but affirms the Apostle’s Creed.

And on Resurrection Day, we know Jesus spoke with Mary Magdalene:

Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ ” John 20:17

How sweet that Mary was one of the first to see the Risen Christ. She was a woman who deeply and wholeheartedly loved Jesus and knew all about grace!

Thankfully, where I rest with this is a good place for me, though it may not do the same for you. It seems to fall in the realm of silence from Scripture. The silent Saturday (in anticipation of Sunday) makes more sense to me now than it did. And, really—I like that. I desperately need answers to life’s questions and hard life experience difficulties. More than that, I need to know there are things I don’t know, either not yet or not until I meet the Lord face to face. God must be bigger than I can figure. It’s important for me to search the Bible, but I can’t make up what isn’t specifically said. It’s a fine line. People would like to say something about Jesus’ itinerary between Friday and Sunday, but I won’t make stuff up.

Whether Jesus was shaking Sh’ol with his presence, I cannot say. I can only imagine what that must have been like! 

I like that I don’t know.

Silence.

Anticipation.

And then came Sunday….

~Jennifer

As always, I invite dialog about these things. Please share what you may have found.

Dear Me: It’s not about you.

It’s been a while since I’ve been to my little corner of the blogosphere. Some seasons are more challenging than others, as you know, and the last few months have been just that. Like a lot of bloggers, I’ve done some introspective searching recently. If I were to take a look back at the last twelve months, I’d have to say there’s no love lost for 2013. Sure, there were precious events tucked into the folds of the fabric, but there also seemed to be endless, surprising bumps, dips, cliff-like drop offs knocking me off kilter. Life is like that, isn’t it? My set of circumstances aren’t unique. My struggles are common and perhaps lightweight in comparison to some. In retrospect, I’ll cherish the sweetness in the year and learn from the bitter realities that built character in me.

Isn’t that what most parents say? It all “builds character,” doesn’t it?

*sigh*

So, what lesson built the most character in me? Not that this is a “done deal” or a “finished work,” but I might say the hardest reality I’ve faced has been: it’s not about me. Is anyone else learning this hard-knock life lesson, too?

The sneaky little beast! I didn’t see it immediately. It came in the prettiest package. First, it was the message from the culture whispering attractive words:

SelfishMe

What did it look like? Simple. It was as obvious as communicating, “Me! Me! Me!” in socially acceptable terms:

“You offended me. You should know that would set me off!”
“I don’t have to accept that kind of talk from you.”
“No one listens to me! Hear me, and I’ll act differently!”

I’m not proud of those statements. I said them, truthfully; and they sounded flat-out ugly (after I said them, unfortunately). Someone brought it to my attention. I was beyond communicating needs appropriately and leaning into demanding my needs be met inappropriately.

The little “beastie” could also be as stealthy as showing interest in others, crafting the whole conversation around my experiences, interests, and eventually circling back to me, me, me. Sure, it looked like taking interest in others at first, but nothing strangled the life out of relationships more than hogtying the conversation with my established parameters.

I know there’s a fine line near legalism here, but there were moments I could see glimpses of reality. It was all about me.

It didn’t occur to me. I’d become rather comfortable steeping in the culture around me. Doesn’t any tea variety permeate the whole mug’s water quite nicely with a little time and warmth? Exactly. However, we are called to be “blameless and pure, children of God who are faultless in a crooked and perverted generation, among whom you shine like stars in the world” (Philippians 2:15 CSB). That’s a stark contrast. Yet, I found myself looking more like everyone else around me (not a bad idea, depending on who is nearest).

The standard set for me is not the average Joe in closest proximity. It’s far, far more than what I’ll see on a normal day in my little world. It’s not about me at all. It’s much more selfless than that!

God, my Abba, loved me so much, he sacrificed everything for me (John 3:16). Jesus, of infinite worth and and deeply loved by the Father, imparted that worth to me when he sacrificed his life on the cross. Me, ugly and self-centered as I can be, was given the kind of gift that can never be accurately appraised. Love and life. Forever.

We can understand someone dying for a person worth dying for, and we can understand how someone good and noble could inspire us to selfless sacrifice. Romans 5:7
 

When I try to work that one out, I have trouble. I didn’t get what I deserved, and I didn’t deserve what I got. That’s mercy—and grace. Sweet, fragrant grace! Because of the precious worth that has been imparted to me through Christ, it’s not about me anymore.

Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God. Romans 12:1-2
 

It’s comes back to the central theme embedded in the Christian faith, my faith. He has sacrificed for me. Because it isn’t all about me, I live my life in a way that is a “living sacrifice,” a day-to-day, moment-by-moment response to the love and life gift I’ve received.

Life will be difficult. People will treat me in ways that are painful, even excruciatingly so. The culture will continue to offer my ego sumptuous morsels I’ll be tempted to nibble. In all of that, I am responsible to know what is “good, pleasing, and perfect” in the eyes of God. Thankfully, the love and life gift I’ve been given is not without power.

And do not bring us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. [For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.] Matthew 6:13
 

Trusting…

Do you have interesting life lessons you’re thinking about right now? What was the “character-builder” in your life from 2013, if you don’t mind sharing?

Thanks for reading along!

 
~Jennifer

Grace: Still Amazing After All These Years?

I read a Paul Tripp piece that popped up in my Facebook newsfeed the other day. It was a fabulous little read, but it sure was attention-getting! He titled it No Longer Amazed by Grace; you can read it HERE. For those in ministry, this is a must read, I think.

Tripp’s article caused me to think. Maybe it’s done the same for you. The question begs to be answered honestly in our hearts with God as soon as possible. Is grace still amazing after all these years?

I wonder if that’s the reason behind my blog, if I’m honest.

Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Revelation 2:4

Have I forgotten my first love? No, I haven’t; I know I desperately love the Lord! But, has my view of grace over twenty years become faded, nostalgic, or a little “antique” when I think about it? Maybe I seek to overwhelm my senses with Fragrant Grace because, when I am intensely focused on the grace of God, I remember. The process of celebrating graces 20 years or 20 minutes old breathes vibrant life into the amazement I hope to feel in every part of my soul!

In my forty years of life, I can tally endless moments of forbearing grace; active, “in the moment” grace; and “long time later blessings” of grace. I’m sure most of us could, if we took the time. These beautiful words should overwhelm us:

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 1 John 4:10

We love because he first loved us. 1 John 4:19

Now, take these three verses (this paltry three of thousands) and contrast it to your “life list” of moments. You can certainly pick a few and narrow the list. Then ask some deeper questions.

When did your Abba forbear your offenses until the right time? “While we were still sinners…” echoes in my mind over and over when I think of the loving, patient response to the offensive choices on my list.

When did Jesus bear them? He was “an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” One single moment two thousand years ago impacted my entire life, past, present, and future. Every single second of the entire span. Every single offense.

Do you count the “long time later blessings” you’ve received? He loved me first, and I am strongly equipped to love as a response to his gracious, merciful love. I tend to think this is an after-effect kind of thing because I become increasingly aware of the incredible depth and breadth of his love over time, even if it dawned brightly the moment I chose to trust and follow Christ.

I hope grace never gets old, musty-dusty, or mundane. That just might be the same moment I start to believe it was both free and cheap. It was freely given, but more costly than I can grasp! I hope my eye on grace is always sharp, in focus, and searching for the grace-filled moment that just was, or shortly will be. Grace over the years is precious and beautiful, but I don’t want my amazement to fade with time and distance. Grace is fragrant and fresh!

Prayer:
Dear Jesus, your sacrifice was the fulfillment of grace at the cross. I can never thank you enough. Where words fail, I hope the Holy Spirit will help my heart convey the emotion behind the thankfulness I feel. When I consider your forbearance, your immediate presence, and your long term blessings through the lens of grace, it is simply amazing! May it always be! Give me a sharp eye to see and appreciate the various graces you lavish on me every minute. If I miss one, please point it out. I always want to be thankful and offering praise for the things you do. It’s my act of worship, and you are worthy of it!

I hope you enjoy this version of Amazing Grace performed by Il Divo. It is one of my favorites, though this song rarely disappoints when someone sings with heart, soul, and humility. Certainly skill helps, too, I suppose.  

Thank you for stopping by and taking the time to read. I’d love to hear your thoughts about grace! Is it still amazing after all these years in your life? Have you found ways to infuse thankfulness and joy into your perspective of grace, too?

~Jennifer

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Video Credit: This “Amazing Grace” video is not this author’s creation or property. All rights and accolades should be given to the artists and producers of this video. In addition, this blog author does not condone or recommend any comments by third parties at the YouTube site hosting this video.