Comfort in Repentance?

Lately, my thoughts have been turning toward the cross. Of course, we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith (throwback to our Advent devotions- yay!). However, as the rhythm of the church year carries us through Christ’s life, we reach a point at which we turn our faces to Jerusalem, as did our Lord. Because of His great love, we will never endure what He did; but led by His Spirit, we continually live in repentance.

But it’s never fun to examine one’s life and see what sins might be lurking. It’s hard. So hard.

But this is part of what we’re called to do as Christians. We don’t allow the devil a foothold as we strive to follow Christ. The funny thing of it is, though, that it isn’t something we can do. Even repentance. It’s something that God grants us.

Hang on. Repentance, and the guilt that precedes it, is a GIFT?

I don’t like that kind of gift. It’s not comfortable.

But how necessary! To remain blind to the thing that’s killing me—that’s a terrible place to be.

In that vein of thought, I invite you to join me this Lenten+ season in examining this gift of repentance. And in the process, we pray that God will guide us to a fuller understanding of repentance and a deeper relationship with Him.

Repentance (1)

How it will work:

Every Tuesday and Thursday (beginning with the Thursday, the 15th of February), we will be examining a different aspect of repentance. Each day will focus on a verse that mentions it, describes it, or tells a story about it. It won’t be terribly long, but I pray that the time spent will guide us all to a deeper understanding of repentance and a more thorough examination of what God is doing through the repentance that He gives. If you’d like to receive these posts directly to your email inbox, be sure to subscribe to the blog via email!

For thought and discussion: What comes to mind when you hear the word “repentance”?

 

+Lent, or the Lenten season, is a part of the church year where we focus on Jesus’s temptation in the wilderness, as it corresponds to the Israelites’ time in the wilderness before reaching the Promised Land, and also as it corresponds to our own temptations and sins, remembering that it is for those sins that He died. During this time, we are also looking ahead to Holy Week, the week preceding Easter—it holds not only the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, but Maundy Thursday (Last Supper, when Jesus gives His disciples “a new commandment” {hence the “maundy”—it comes from the same root as “mandate”} to love one another) and Good Friday (the day remembering Jesus’s crucifixion). Lent ends with the triumphant celebration of the Resurrection, on Easter Sunday.

Broken Christmas?

I bought a Christmas cactus this year. I was so excited to bring it home, but after I did, I noticed that it was pretty droopy (maybe that’s why it was on sale for such a good price?), and then about two weeks before Christmas, it bloomed. Not really how I was imagining my Christmas cactus to behave, how I thought it should be.

It seems as I get older that Christmas is just never quite the same as it was when I was a child. The wonder and excitement get lost in the hurry, in the stress, in the I-have-to-get-everything-done-and-done-well. My stress increases just thinking about getting cookies done and the mess they make–both in prep and in eating! I worry about having everything for the meals and whether I’ll have time to clean the house before guests arrive. It’s just considered bonus if I have time to put on makeup and fix my hair. I’m anxious about the kids being disappointed on Christmas morning. Not to satisfy their every whim and desire, but sad kids because of disappointed hopes are a bummer. Or something small happens, like my cactus blooms two weeks early.

And sometimes the things that bring us down at Christmas aren’t even as mundane as those I just listed. Maybe the usual cookies won’t be made because health concerns prevent it. Maybe there will be no guests because of a death or other loss. Maybe there are no children to fuss over.

Christmas in a broken world means a broken Christmas. It just won’t ever live up the expectations we place on it. Because our expectations miss the mark.

Christ came to us, in our broken world, because it is broken, because it misses the mark. It had been broken so long that most people didn’t (and still don’t!) recognize that it is broken besides a vague feeling of discontentment, or a sense that things just aren’t quite right.

Christ came to our broken world to turn it on its head, to set things where they should have been all along. It feels foreign and uncomfortable because we’ve lived with broken for so long that it’s become comfortable. Or at the least, familiar.

But God says, “Behold, I am doing a new thing.” See Isaiah 43:19 for the full verse. This new thing He is doing? It’s newness in Christ. It’s something unexpected. It’s making a Way for atonement and redemption and propitiation and reconciliation–so much more than we could ever imagine.My Christmas Cactus. It’s perked up since I brought it home. :)

So if your Christmas cactus bloomed too early and just looks like a blah plant this Christmas, rejoice in the gift of Life given at Christmas! If your house didn’t get quite as clean as you’d wanted, rejoice in the shelter from God’s wrath over our sin that the Christ-child gives! If your Christmases will never be the same because you’ve lost a loved one, rejoice quietly in the hope offered in Christ’s resurrection.

We’re broken now, living in a broken world, with the reality of broken Christmases. But because of that brokenness, Christ’s love shines all the brighter.

May He keep you this Christmas and always in His mercy and love.

Above All Names: Savior

Above All Names (3)

Luke 2 is the beautiful narrative of a tiny human’s emergence in this great big world. Tiny fists that would grow to bear nails meant for us. Tiny feet that would walk alongside fishermen, teachers, homemakers, farmers, business owners, tax collectors, and children. He would hold hands, start conversations, and eat among them, with eyes fixed on Calgary. It is also the narrative of a tiny heart beating wildly for those He came to save. Saving is really the work of God, of Christ, alone. He was born to save us – from death, from our fears, from our doubts. Jesus saves – tiny Baby Boy, Man convicted to death on a cross, living Savior of your heart and soul.

25

Above All Names: Propitiation

23

Some translations of Scripture use the words “all-atoning sacrifice” in place of “propitiation” in this verse. While certainly a true representation of what’s happening here, and more easily understood than “propitiation”, it loses some of the depth of what’s happening here. This isn’t merely a sacrifice, like the countless bulls, lambs, and doves sacrificed in the Temple for years. This is a laying down of Christ’s life. His sacrifice absorbed the wrath of God against a world of people entirely lost in their sin. The depth and breadth and width of such love cannot be measured, and it cannot be comprehended. But we thank and praise Him for it just the same, and rest in the knowledge that His love accomplished this on our behalf. Savior, You stand as our propitiation, welcoming us into Your loving arms. Thank You!

24

Above All Names: Prophet

22

How it must have hurt Jesus that His family, His hometown withdrew honor from Him, doubted Who He was. Mark 6:6 tells us He “marveled at their unbelief.” When we share the Word in Truth and Love, and people look at us blank-faced, perplexed, or even with laughter, we can know that the Savior Himself received the same response! Jesus, the Prophet, came and fulfilled every Word spoken of Him since Genesis, without fail. Yet, it was still difficult for those closest to Him to grasp. Lord, today we pray for all those who do not honor you and those who do not grasp you. You are Prophet, Priest, Savior, and King!

23

Above All Names: Immanuel

21

Not only is His very birth a miraculous paradox, but by His name, Immanuel, Jesus is God with Us. He is this Immanuel, who comes to sojourn with us in our weakness and humility, who takes our sin upon Himself and makes full atonement for it. Not because there was anything in us to make us deserving of His sacrifice or even presence, but His love for us was — is! — so great that He did for us what we could not do for ourselves. He rescued us on Calvary and still rescues us every day by His great love and compassion. Where do you see His rescue in your life? Even when it’s hard to see, we stand on truth – He is our Immanuel – God with us.

22

Above All Names: Great High Priest

20

In Judaic religious practice, the priest was the one who would make intercession for the people by performing the sacrifices of the offerings people brought to atone for their sins, acting as intercessor between the sinful person and Holy God. Once a year, the High Priest would enter the Holy of Holies, where he performed an atoning sacrifice for the sins of Israel, again in that intercessory capacity. Adding “Great” to that title in reference to our Great High Priest indicates the all-encompassing nature of what He has done on our behalf. Not only has He interceded for us, but He did it with His own body, broken, and His own blood, outpoured. His sacrifice and His acting as Great High Priest, has bridged the chasm between sinful humans and Holy God. Celebrate this season knowing your sins are covered!

21

Above All Names: Chief Cornerstone

19

Jesus as Chief Cornerstone certainly gives us a solid mental image of the Truth that He alone is our firm foundation. He holds up the buildings that are our lives, our families, our purpose, our worth, and our souls. However, this passage reminds us that this Cornerstone, this Foundation was rejected by men, deemed not good enough, not worthwhile. We know differently, and when the world rejects Him, we stand in the knowledge that He does not reject us. We run to Him in His Word for sure footing, solid grounding on which to build in this world. Take a moment today to hold a stone in your hand and remember His faithfulness in the midst of this world full of rejection.

20

Above All Names: Messiah + Christ

18

John 1 manages to pack many names of Jesus into one small segment of Scripture – Word, Prophet, Son of God, Lamb of God, King of Israel, Son of Man – but maybe none were as meaningful to the 12 Jewish disciples gathered around Jesus as today’s title…Messiah, that is Christ. This beautiful title comes from the Hebrew mashiach meaning Anointed One. The disciples in the New Testament would have heard about this Anointed One, promised from the Father, from the lips of their parents, grandparents, and elders. The promise of this One sent by God Himself was passed down from generation to generation. The people of Israel had waited centuries for this Messiah. So you can see that this was a massive proclamation for Andrew to make to his brother –

We have found the Messiah!

Can you hear his excitement?

He’s Here!

We get to proclaim the same this today – He’s here!

He has found us. He is here.

19

Above All Names: Bread of Life

17

When we were in Spain this fall, I watched as sweet little old women walked along the sidewalks each morning, pushing bag carts to pick up large crusty loaves of fresh baked bread. They bought just enough bread for the family, for that day. Jesus is just enough. He is just what we need for this day. As the Bread of Life, that Baby Boy sustains us. He fills us. He satisfies us. We take in His Word, and that Bread gives us everything we need to understand what is before us. And even when it feels unsure and uncertain, He knows what we do not. He is enough. So we don’t have to be.

18