Monday, December 31, 2012
Scotty Smith: A Prayer about Living at the Pace of Grace
Simeon took him [Jesus] in his arms and praised God, saying: “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.” Luke 2:28-32
Dear Lord Jesus, it’s just a few days after Christmas and already many of my neighbors are taking down their lights and trees. It seems like we’re always in a hurry for the next thing. Traffic never moves fast enough, waiters don’t bring our food soon enough, and the mail isn’t delivered quick enough. I’m no exception to this harried and hurried way of doing life.
I guess this is one of the reasons I’m drawn to Simeon, a man who seemed to live at a different pace than I do. We know so little about this “righteous and devout” man, but we do know he was “waiting for the consolation of Israel”—that is, longing for the arrival of the Messiah—anticipating the fulfillment of promises God alone can keep; hoping to see you, Lord Jesus, though he didn’t know your name.
Eight days after your birth, Simeon took you in his arms—you, by whose arms all things have been made and are sustained. Whether or not he expected to die soon, the peace that resulted from that embrace changed everything.
Lord Jesus, it’s only because you have embraced us in the gospel that we have the same peace Simeon experienced; for you are God’s promised salvation for Israel, for Gentiles, and for us. There is no other name under heaven by which we can and must be saved.
In you we find the consolation which can be found nowhere else. You are our forgiveness, our righteousness, our sanctification, our sanity, our hope, and a whole lot more. Hallelujah, for such an all encompassing, all consuming, every-need-meeting salvation!
Lord Jesus, as we stand on the verge of a new year, I very much want the peace of your grace to help me live at the pace of your grace. Slow me down—center me; settle me; focus me on the things that matter the most. If I’m going to be in a hurry about one thing this year, may it be to linger longer in your presence. Everything else will take care of itself. So very Amen I pray, in your glorious and loving name.
Posted by Jim Grayson at 6:25 AM
John Piper post: Make a Fresh Covenant with Me: We Will Finish in Faith
Posted by Jim Grayson at 6:22 AM
Sunday, December 30, 2012
Scotty Smith: A Prayer for the Day after Christmas
And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. Luke 2:20
Dear heavenly Father, for some of us, yesterday was the “greatest” Christmas, ever in terms of healthy, caring relationships; incredible “eats”; thoughtful gifts—both given and received; and above all, a day centered on you for the indescribable gift of your Son, Jesus.
For others of us, it was a day marked with tension, dashed hopes, brokenness. For still others, it was the first Christmas with an empty chair where a loved one used to sit, or a day spent all by ourselves in great loneliness.
Father, my prayer today is for all of us, no matter what yesterday was like. For even our best days are in need of the gospel, and none of our worst days are beyond the reach of the gospel.
When the shepherds left Jesus’ manger, they were still shepherds. They still couldn’t worship at the temple; they still couldn’t give testimony in a court of law; they still were stereotyped as thieves by many in their community.
And we shouldn’t romanticize what Joseph and Mary did the day after Jesus was born. A five-star inn in Bethlehem did open up the next day; some of those harking angels didn’t stay around to be round-the-clock-nurses; and Mary’s body wasn’t spared all the normal pain of birthing and challenges of afterbirth. Indeed, Jesus came to save us from our sins; not from our humanity.
Father, thank you that we’re believers, not make believers. We don’t have to pretend about anything. Christmas isn’t a season in which we’re supposed to be transported into a super-spirituality, rising above reality. The gospel isn’t about denial but is about learning to delight in you, no matter what is going on. We praise you that Jesus came into a real world where everything is broken, but he did come to make all things new, starting with us.
Please give each of us the special and the common grace you gave the shepherds. Let us hear and let us see more of Jesus—even if we remain “shepherds” the rest of our lives. Enable us to glorify and praise you in all circumstances, Father. As on the night of Jesus’ birth, everything you have told us in your Word will come to pass. This is good news for shepherds and kings alike. So very Amen I pray, in Jesus’ faithful and loving name.
Posted by Jim Grayson at 6:19 AM
Saturday, December 29, 2012
Friday, December 28, 2012
Tullian Tchividjian post: Give Me Law Or Give Me Death!
Last night we went to see Les Miserables. As has already been discussed here and written about here, the contrast between law and grace is both pronounced and profound.
For me, the most powerful scene in the movie is Inspector Javert’s song right before he kills himself.
Javert embodies our natural addiction to law and our natural aversion to grace. Committed to the rigorous inflexibility of the law, Javert has been given grace time and time again from the very one he has mercilessly hunted for decades, Jean Valjean. The grace of Valjean haunts and radically disorients Javert.
Who is this man? What sort of devil is he, to have me caught in a trap and choose to let me go free? It was his hour at last to put the seal on my fate, wipe out the past and wash me clean off the slate! All it would take was a flick of his knife. Vengeance was his and he gave me back my life! Damned if I’ll live in the debt of a thief! Damned if I’ll yield at the end of the chase! I am the Law and the Law is not mocked. I’ll spit his pity right back in his face! There is nothing on Earth that we share! It is either Valjean or Javert!How can I now allow this man to hold dominion over me? This desperate man whom I have hunted…He gave me my life. He gave me freedom. I should have perished by his hand. It was his right. It was my right to die as well. Instead I live…but live in Hell! And my thoughts fly apart. Can this man be believed? Shall his sins be forgiven? Shall his crimes be reprieved? And must I now begin to doubt, who never doubted all these years? My heart is stone, and still it trembles! The world I have known is lost in shadow. Is he from heaven or from hell? And does he know…that, granting me my life today, this man has killed me, even so? I am reaching…but I fall. And the stars are black and cold, as I stare into the void of a world that cannot hold. I’ll escape now from that world, from the world of Jean Valjean. There is nowhere I can turn, there is no way to go on!
Javert concludes that he would rather die than deal with the disorienting reality of grace…and so he jumps. He chooses death over grace, control over chaos.
For Javert (as with all of us), the logic of law makes sense. We love the “if/then” proposition: “If” you do this, “then” I will do that. We love “what-goes-around-comes-around” conditionality. It makes us feel safe. It’s easy to comprehend. It makes perfect sense to our grace-shy hearts. It’s makes life formulaic. It breeds a sense of manageability. And best of all, it keeps us in control. We get to keep our ledgers and scorecards.
The logic of grace, on the other hand, is incomprehensible to our law-locked hearts. Grace is thickly counter-intuitive. It feels risky and unfair. It’s dangerous and disorderly. It wrestles control out of our hands. It is wild and unsettling. It turns everything that makes sense to us upside-down and inside-out. Law says, “Good people get good stuff; bad people get bad stuff.” Grace says, “The bad get the best; the worst inherit the wealth; the slave becomes a son.” This offends our deepest sense of justice and rightness. We are, by nature, allergic to grace.
As I was watching that scene last night, I couldn’t help but think of the many inside the church who, like Javert, have no idea what to do with the disorientating unconditionality of grace and reflexively fight it at every turn and in every way without even realizing what they are fighting or why.
We are so deeply conditioned against grace because we’ve been told in a thousand different ways that accomplishment precedes approval. So, when we hear, “Of course you don’t deserve it, but I’m giving it to you anyway,” we wonder, “What is this really about? What’s the catch?” Internal bells and alarms start to go off, and we begin saying “wait a minute…this sounds too good to be true.” By nature we’re all wary of grace. We wonder about the ulterior motives of the excessively generous. What’s in it for him? After all, who could trust in or believe something so radically unbelievable?
Life the way we’ve always known it to work doesn’t make sense anymore if grace is true.
Robert Capon articulates brilliantly the prayer of the grace-averse heart:
Lord, please restore to us the comfort of merit and demerit. Show us that there is at least something we can do. Tell us that at the end of the day there will at least be one redeeming card of our very own. Lord, if it is not too much to ask, send us to bed with a few shreds of self-respect upon which we can congratulate ourselves. But whatever you do, do not preach grace. Give us something to do, anything; but spare us the indignity of this indiscriminate acceptance.
As I was falling asleep last night and thinking about Javert’s struggle, I couldn’t help but wonder if the church has too often chosen death over grace. Fearful of what kind of chaos would ensue if we abandoned ourselves wholly to the radicality of grace, we cling to control–we stick with what we know so well, with what comes natural.
It is high time, in my opinion, for the church to embrace sola gratia (grace alone) anew. “For many of us the time has come to abandon once and for all our play-it-safe, toe-dabbling Christianity and dive in” (Dane Ortlund). No more “yes grace, but…”. No more fine print. No more conditions, qualifications, and footnotes. And especially, no more silly cries for “balance.” It is time to get drunk on grace. Two hundred-proof, defiant grace.
It’s scandalous and scary, unnatural and undomesticated…but it’s the only thing that can set us free and light the church on fire.
Posted by Jim Grayson at 6:54 AM
Thursday, December 27, 2012
David Mathis post: The Day Heaven Kissed Earth
Jesus Is No Superman
There is a tendency in our minds to think of Christ as a “superman.” That is, we fail to believe adequately that he is ‘very God of very God’ (autotheos — God of himself), equal in every way with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Viewing Christ as a sort of ‘superman’ also prevents us from appreciating his true humanity. (Mark Jones, Pocket Guide to Jesus, page 5)
The Uncomfortable Truth of Christmas
Christmas for Our Benefit
Nails, spear shall pierce him through,
The cross be borne for me, for you.
What’s Better Than His Benefits
In Goodwin’s view, the benefits procured by Christ “are all far inferior to the gift of his person unto us, and much more the glory of his person itself. His person is of infinite more worth than they all can be of.” Therefore, God’s “chief end was not to bring Christ into the world for us, but us for Christ . . . and God contrived all things that do fall out, and even redemption itself, for the setting forth of Christ’s glory, more than our salvation.” (Pocket Guide to Jesus Christ, page 3)
Made for the God-man
In your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Psalm 16:11)
Posted by Jim Grayson at 5:55 AM