A Gracious Place

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

John Owen & The Queen

I had an opportunity to preach last night at sixtythree our midweek service at HBC. Inspired by the following quote from John Owen, I chose to talk about the Queen of Sheba.

The queen of Sheba had heard much of Solomon, and framed many great thoughts of his magnificence in her mind thereupon; but when she came and saw his glory, she was forced to confess that the one half of the truth had not been told her. We may suppose that we have here attained great knowledge, clear and high thoughts of God; but, alas! When he shall bring us into his presence we shall cry out, “We never knew him as he is; the thousandth part of his glory, and perfection, and blessedness, never entered into our hearts.

The greatest thoughts you’ve ever had about God are still very small compared to the glory of his splendor! Take heart! The Trinity will far exceed your best expectations, and all the reports you’ve ever heard of His goodness.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

He Is Risen!

Friday, April 14, 2006

Good Friday

I wonder if any of us, after the passing of time, will ever look back on the worst day of our entire lives and call it “Good.” Certainly as the disciples were going through the crushing grief, disappointment, fear and agony of that Bad Friday, they would have had no sane conception that it would ever be called “Good.”

Christians call it “Good” because the criminal death of Christ took place as a substitutionary death. The wrath of God I justly deserve for being a rebel against my Holy Creator fell on Christ instead of me. If you’re on death row, and fully expecting to suffer the just wrath of the state, and suddenly they let you off, and someone takes your place, you too may eventually call that day “Good.”

We are so finite, so small. Sometimes only the passage of time will give enough perspective to allow us to begin to see how God was using this pain, this disappointment, this tragedy for anything that could remotely be called “Good.” Indeed, the purpose for many of our hurts may never be explained on this side of glory. However, one of the great hopes of the Saints is that ultimate vindication is coming.

Today, twenty-seven years ago, my mother was in the worst pain she had ever experienced in her entire life. It was not a “good” day. Yet, on the anniversary of that day, every subsequent year, she celebrates and reminisces with fondness the day she became a mother. The joy of the end eclipsed the pain of the beginning.

The Resurrection makes Bad Friday “Good.” Our hope in this present pain is that the end of the story will somehow redeem today.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Maundy Thursday

Today is Maundy Thursday, the Thursday before Easter. Today we contemplate the Last Supper. Maundy is a strange term. If you’re curious as to its derivation, click here.

This, my “first Maundy Thursday post-Israel adventure” reminds me of our time in the upper room. This holy site is not the actual upper room. I believe the building dates to the Crusader period. However, the geographical location is close, and the site has a long history of Christian visitors. The cool thing is to gather together, and read the story in an upper room in Israel. It is quite helpful to actually see the distance from and relative positions of the Room to the Garden, to the Temple Mount, to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, etc.

A ton has been written, and could be written about the Last Supper. It’s loaded with significance. To me, the continuity of the Last Supper with Passover and with The Lord’s Supper is kind of new, and altogether fascinating. A few months after returning from Israel, our group gathered for a Seder at our professor’s house. We had a wonderful night learning about Passover, and the theological significance of the various cups, especially as they are fulfilled in the Redemption Story.

Perhaps you will celebrate the Lord’s Supper with your community of faith sometime this weekend. Consider the tender words of the Savior, His humble service. As we eat the bread and drink the cup we remember that day. We also consider the present, just as we depend on food and drink, so also we daily depend upon His work on our behalf. Finally, we long with joyful hope for the day we will feast with Him at His banquet table. We come as beggars, are clothed in His righteousness, and are made coheirs with Him! That’s Good News!

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Palm Sunday

It’s Palm Sunday. Perhaps you enjoyed seeing the little ones make Palm Branches out of construction paper and hearing them say, “Hosanna” everywhere they went. I used to love that as a little kid!

So, we kick of Holy Week celebrating great Messianic expectations, only to have them dashed on the sober drama that unfolds Maundy Thursday, continuing into Good Friday. The irony is rich. That first Palm Sunday must have been a great day of hope for the disciples, a day that faded into bitter disillusionment by Friday.

Yet with the advantage of 2000 years of reflection, we Christians do celebrate Palm Sunday with great messianic expectations, not as the disciples, who expected a conquering King to free them from Rome, but as their children in the faith, who see clearly now that the first advent of the King meant suffering, and atonement for sins. The climax comes on Sunday, when bitter disappointment turns into glorious rejoicing. Death is conquered by the One whom the grave could not hold.

Now, for me, this Palm Sunday fills me again with messianic expectations-not for a suffering servant, but for a King with a Sword. I cannot help but think about our time in Jerusalem last summer. We stood on the Mount of Olives and gazed at the eastern side of the Old City. Jesus stood there a long time ago cried out for his beloved city, just a short time before he entered on the foal of a donkey. Though his view was different from ours, (He saw the Second Temple in all its glory, we saw the Dome of the Rock) it was profound to me to think about him coming back even as I stood there, this time as the conquering King the disciples were looking for. May this Holy week bring you much joy as you reflect on the Awesome provision made by the Father, who sent His Son to be the Savior of the World, and this great Savior, who did not leave us alone, but sent the Counselor to be with us, even in us!