Not alone in the land of now-but-not-yet.

not aloneThis morning I continued studying through Romans 8, picking up again with the reminder that, along with this broken world, we groan. We wait.

26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.

28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

Here in the land of now-but-not-yet – here in my brokenness, my fallenness, my fears, my shortcomings, my daily struggle – God is at work.

I groan, but the Spirit groans with me.

I do not know how to pray, but the Spirit intercedes on my behalf.

I am locked in my limited, temporal view, but God sees all things and is working for my good… not for my ease, or my comfort, or according to my liking, but according to the Father’s will that I be conformed to the image of the Son.

I am loved, pursued, and held in the grip of a triune God.

I am not alone.

Jesus weeps with me.
The Spirit groans for me.
The Father has a plan for me.

In that I can rest in the midst of this broken world.

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The groans of Wednesday.

WednesdayJesus paid it all on Friday.

The tomb was empty Sunday.

He is gloriously alive – and therefore I am alive, forgiven, redeemed, justified, reconciled, made new!

But today, the Wednesday after resurrection Sunday, doesn’t feel so glorious. I physically don’t feel well. My patience is short. My children are little sinners, following in their mother’s footsteps. The sky is overcast, my eyes heavy.

Why does Wednesday groan when Sunday shouts hope and new life?

“For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.

And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” (Romans 8:22-23)

Today, this dreary Wednesday, I find myself living in the now but not yet.

I am redeemed, adopted into the family of God. I see the first fruits of the Spirit’s work in my life – He is remaking me to look more and more like my dear Savior. And yet I battle with my fallen flesh and wait impatiently for the end of the story.

The MacArthur Study Bible notes, “The process [adoption] which began with God’s choice (Eph. 1:5) and included our actually becoming his children at salvation (Gal. 4:5-7) will culminate with our glorification – the full realization of our inheritance (Rom. 8:29-30).” We wait for the redemption of “not the physical body only, but all of man’s remaining fallenness.”

We are redeemed now, but also not yet.
We are new creations now, but also not yet.

But the empty tomb fills us with HOPE that one day we will see all things made new. (Revelation 21:4-5)

My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. And so, as the Wednesday-doldrums groan and I squirm in the land of now but not yet… I wait. I wait for the glorious culmination of all things made new.

I wait, but I wait in hope.

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Real resurrection hope.

This week has been much too rushed, much too full from my perspective.
Oh, how we struggle to be still in order to see the holy.

Last night we cleared our schedule and chose quiet. I don’t want my kids to miss the wonder of  Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday in the midst of too much busy. I don’t want to miss it, either.

We’ve done so many different things in past years to help our kids to know and understand the profound truths we observe during holy week. This year, we had one still night set aside… how could we help these amazing truths stick? How can we help them not just know the account of what happened at Calvary and the tomb, but really KNOW that it matters. Oh, how it matters.

AG is 8 and LB is 6. They are both old enough now to grapple on some level with the brokenness of the world. We’ve studied the fall of man and the effects of sin, we’ve talked about disease and death and depravity. And now, they need to start to internalize the real hope of the resurrection in the reality of a sin-marred world.

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Last night we took them to a cemetery. Their grandmother is buried just a few miles from our home, but we had never taken them there. They were too young when she passed away to come with us to the funeral and burial, and although we’ve spoken frequently of Grandma being in heaven with Jesus, we didn’t talk much about her earthly body. Because what’s there, in the ground, is not really her.

Over dinner we opened up 1 Corinthians 15. We talked about what it means that Jesus Christ is the “firstfruits” of the dead. LB chimed right in – He was the first to be alive again! Yes, yes! The first. Which means there are more to come!

We talked about what it means that “in Adam all died” – AG explained that Adam’s sin brought death and sin into the world. We talked about how through Jesus we have life. Hope. And one day, Grandma will have a resurrection body – somewhat the same, but better – imperishable. Free of cancer, free of death, free of sin.
 

When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:

“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
“O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”

Jesus conquered sin and death. He is restoring us spiritually now, and one day, one glorious day, He will restore us physically as well. Death has been swallowed up in victory.

Did they fully understand? Probably not. But they got a glimpse. We got a glimpse.

The resurrection matters. It really, really matters.

If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. (1 Cor 15:19)

The resurrection means real hope. Real life. A hope that will not disappoint, a faith not in vain.

But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Cor. 15:57)

Amen.

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Walk the Line

This morning as I read through Romans 1, these words in verse 8 jumped out at me -

I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world.

The Christians in Rome lived in the epicenter of the known world, and their faith was vibrant and influential. My MacArthur study Bible states in the footnotes that “The testimony of the church in Rome was so strong that in A.D. 49 the emperor Claudius expelled all of the Jews because of the influence of “Chrestus,” which was undoubtedly a reference to Christ.”

It made me wonder… as we find ourselves in the most technologically connected time in history, where in one stroke on a keyboard we can share our words with the world… is it our faith that is proclaimed? Are we honoring Christ with our online presence? I fear that all too often the answer is no.

As words are flying around the blogosphere about World Vision, this seemed like an appropriate time to share this post again (originally written in the midst of the Chick-fil-a controversy in August 2012.)

It’s a tricky time to have internet access.

Social media has given us an unprecedented platform with wide arrays of people whose lives have intersected with our own over the years. In my facebook stream, the thumnail images of church members, extended family, high school buddies, college roommates, long-lost childhood friends, former co-workers, and new acquaintances mingle in a strange virtual social mixer. We all barrage one another with pictures, status updates, location check-ins, game scores, and song lyrics and think of it as connecting with one another. It’s like a virtual friendship form of speed dating with hundreds of people, without ever having to look someone in the eye.

Now let me just say, I love facebook. This week I reconnected (in person) with a friend I haven’t seen in almost a decade, meeting her husband and boys for the first time. Without facebook I wouldn’t have known their names, seen their pictures, or even have known that we were going to be in close enough proximity to meet up for a brief but sweet reunion. As a person who has moved several times in my life and lives far away from family and dear friends, social media is a real gift.

But sometimes, social media can be incredibly destructive. We hunker down behind our laptops and feel less inhibited to throw out words without weighing consequences. Like that obnoxious person at a social gathering who likes to throw out political or theological jabs just to stir things up, we can quickly become caustic and biting, forgetting that those little thumbnail pictures on the screen represent real live human beings with baggage and wounds and emotions that we simply cannot even come close to understanding without face-to-face, eyeball-to-eyeball communication.

No doubt, every person who has a facebook account, twitter account, and/or personal blog has learned the hard way that words can be interpreted in a host of unintended ways once they are posted online. We have wounded, we have been wounded.

Social media and online interaction of all forms can be a tremendous way to share truth. But we must never forget that we are commissioned to share truth in love. We must walk this line carefully, for we are all prone to fall off toward one extreme or another. Love without truth is destructive and misrepresents our God and His revealed Word. Truth without love leaves carnage in our path as we rip open festering wounds of hurting people – and the danger of online interaction is that we can rip open a wound with a status update, close our laptop, walk away, and never see the mess we left behind.

Whether it’s a status update about Chick-fil-a, or the upcoming election, or a host of other potentially explosive topics, we must beg God for the wisdom to know how to walk that line. How to use social media as the powerful tool for good that it truly is, and avoid needless offenses that simply layer larger callouses on wounded hearts, closing them off even more from the Gospel they so desperately need to hear.

The Gospel is inherently offensive as it lays open our souls and exposes us for what we really are. People will be offended by us if we live like and speak like Jesus – His peers hated Him enough to kill Him. But may they be offended by the truth we lovingly present, and not by the haphazard way we wield the sword of online communication.

Lord, teach us to walk the line.

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