Saturday, December 29, 2012
This bitterness can be very damaging to one's spirit. Sometimes it comes from very real pain within ourselves. However, in this kind of mindset, it can be seen that in many cases it is the results of our own lack of wisdom, our weakness, bad choices, and the fault of chosen sin. We compound this by reversing the roles and ourselves sitting in judgment of God. We accuse, evaluate, and find fault – we who are dust point fingers at the Sovereign God of glory.
This is a heavy observation. It is really in us all to some degree or another. The human heart by itself has never wanted repentance or discipline. Instead we “eat and drink, for tomorrow we die” (Isaiah 22:13b) and every way of a man is right in his own eyes (Proverbs 21:2b).
How many of us have reached out in love and concern to a friend, a family member, or a spouse, to instead be rejected? To be ignored, or even actively pushed away? It grieves us deeply. Imagine the heart of grief in God, who offers Himself in pure love to us. We rob ourselves of this precious gift by such bitter attitudes. The outstretched arms of Christ are there to bring us in. Yet, we turn away. We push those hands away.
I have often heard people blame God as the cause of their suffering, bitter that there is no hope to be had in their life. God is not the cause, He is the very hope we will find nowhere else. God is not the problem; He is the only one who cares for us with no agenda, unconditionally, where we are right now. We make a mistake when we credit God with the attributes of mankind, of those people in our lives who have harmed us, as if He reacts or causes situations as we ourselves would. We can not bring a Holy God down to our own level, both in moral terms and in terms of pure love. He is not among those who would reject us, throw us away, or vindictively hurt us and cause us pain. He does not act as we do to each other. He is the very hope for those deeply hurting, in pure holiness and compassion.
The Bible describes the reality of Jesus Christ as the gift of this awesome love, and that His own Son, very God and very Man, willingly gave Himself for us. Yes, gave. Jesus’ life was not taken, but given. The world sees Jesus as having been killed on a cross, yet He Himself said He was doing so quite willingly in God’s provision to bridge the gap over sin – because He loves us that much. What love!
How tragically we turn away from the only Hope there really is. And even still, He loves us.
“Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!” Matthew 7:9-11.
Friday, December 14, 2012
As we celebrate Christmas, we rejoice in the meaning of the Christ Child.
We treasure in our hearts Immanuel, with adoration knowing He does not remain forever a child in a manger. For Christ lived among us, ever shines His light as living Lord on us, and gave Himself utterly on the cross for us.
What a wonderful gift. A gift of the highest joy. We rejoice this season for the most glorious and liberating love.
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. John 3:16.
May the comfort and
Grace of God shine on you this Christmas,
Jeffrey M Green
The Highest Love
As we gather with friends and family and celebrate the joys of this season, what is it really all about? Many may be familiar with the Christ Child and know this is somehow a religious aspect of Christmas. But who is this baby Jesus? What does this really have to do with anything?
As Holy God looked upon us in our sin, separated from Him and the joys of knowing His tender care – in His utmost compassion and love for us, God sent His very own Son to us. Jesus, the Son, who being very God and Man, stepped out of Heaven and actually lived in human history in the flesh. In this we see the sublime wonder of truth, not mere religion or Holiday Christmas card sentiments. On Christmas we celebrate the birth of the Christ.
Though God is utterly holy, full of glory and pure righteousness, He is not aloof. He does not look down upon us in disinterest. God not only loved us so much to give the ultimate gift of His Son, this gift is a love beyond anything we could imagine. Many people have been hurt so much in life, that it is hard to understand that God loves us on a very personal level. God cares deeply for you, by name, in your life at this very moment.
Christ came to us, dwelt with us, and lived with us. He hurt with us and wept for us as lost sheep. Jesus gave entirely of Himself by dying and suffering for our sin and separation from God. All of this was placed on Him on the cross. He who was Holy and pure in every way took our sins on Himself - for us, with the greatest love of all. He then conquered sin and death by rising from the dead. By dying for us and raising from the dead this separating chasm of sin was so removed that in Scripture (Ephesians) we read it was literally put to death. This was Christ’s purpose, absolute love. You can not count very many things in modern cynical life as absolute these days, but you can count this love that way.
Yes, this love gift, Jesus, is who we celebrate. We celebrate His virgin birth of Mary. Jesus, Immanuel, God with us, the most gloriously treasured gift of all. We see in the Christmas passages of Scripture in Luke chapter 2, the angels proclaiming this joy, “good tidings of great joy which will be to all people” (Luke 2:10b). This is wonderful joy and a profound message of Salvation. This is what Christmas is all about to those whose hope and trust are in Jesus.
What love! He loves you where you are, personally, this much. God’s love is not in the background to be casually admired, He literally seeks to actively love you. Like any gift, it must be received and opened to know its blessings. That is my wish for you this Christmas.
Monday, December 10, 2012
The branches of a vine can not live of themselves. They receive water, sustenance, nourishment, very life from the vine. When the connection to the vine is whole and healthy, it lives with this life flowing into it.
Jesus also said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). That, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). The Grace of God in Christ is much abounding in this joy and sustaining of life at the core of ones being.
Unlike a vine in the natural world, where the branches can be maimed, broken, or even severed, once we are truly His we abide in true life which He holds secure now and forever. As He said, “neither shall anyone snatch them out of my hand” (John 10:28). Jesus went so far as to say that “for without Me, you can do nothing” (John 15:5). This is a frank assertion that we can not achieve or merit Heaven , or continued growth in Christ, in our own striving efforts - that God’s grace is a free gift given. That in our flesh nothing good dwells, true overcoming life is bound and finds its source in Him. The closer we walk with Him, we also find that we would have it no other way, for to somehow do anything without Him would be emptiness.
We rejoice in life. Life of healing, life of the deepest innermost longings and yearnings filled beyond anything we could imagine, abiding in the True Vine.
The Lord is the strength of my life. Psalm 27:1
Tuesday, December 4, 2012
With all the wonder of the most towering mountains, the deepest seas, and the petals of the most precocious flowers, these are but a glimpse of God’s true character. God's beauty is a sublime beauty that fills my heart with a yearning ardent feeling I can not describe with words. A love in the deep parts of the soul. Yes, God is beautiful in holiness and glory. We can not truly see His beauty fully on this earth with our finite minds - yet in Colossians we read that Christ is the image of the invisible God (1:15), that in Him all the fullness dwells (1:19), and that in Christ dwells the fullness of the Godhead bodily (2:9).
Praise Him in the Son, for He is truly wonderful in tender care and awesome beauty!
But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. Hebrews 11:6
Throughout the entire Bible we see in God's relationship to humanity that faith is vital. In fact we see we can not even please Him without it. It is a vital component of our relationship and love with Him.
Sometimes we go through extraordinarily deep trials. We grow anxious, weary, disheartened, and full of angst and turmoil. In our minds and heart we can become so discouraged at times. This discouragement is a weight that bears us down heavily. The Psalms are filled with such hearts outpouring. I long for a faith that is beyond any personal securities of any thing, circumstance, or person one seeks as a comfort and safety in life. To put my utter trust in Him in complete fullness alone. It is very hard when the heart is strained or discouraged to feel I am seeking that. I worry that I then fail to follow, that my inner battle somehow defines me. How can we have such faith?
As God gives us unmerited favor in Salvation in a moment of time, in our day to day lives His grace alone carries us as well. I have come to know my own striving is misguided, unhealthy, and so very often sinful. Though I long for more faith and see so much of what I lack, is this not the case of all things in ourselves? We lack, but He supplies abundantly above all we can imagine. He gives us faith as a gift Himself that we merely give back to Him. It can come no other way in our walk with Christ. For both profound growth and the simpler things are not only unobtainable ourselves, but would be completely empty without Him.
So often I let my emotions define me. I feel discouraged, I feel bad, I feel disheartened, or feel angry, upset, withdrawn. Then I panic as though suddenly things in life or within me are different, experiencing an accompanying fear that I have become unworthy or am failing to grow in His love. At times I let these very human emotions affect my behavior as though they define the moment. If I am anxious, all is terrifying to me. If I feel discouraged, all is awful to me. Yet feelings themselves do not really define life when it comes to living in Christ. God's tender care never changes. His Word is always true. He is always trustworthy. The storms come at us from without and within - through them all His love is beautiful.
We read in the Scriptures how He has blessed countless souls through the ages. Why not you, why not me - today
Saturday, December 1, 2012
With this piece I also reflect on the passages in Scripture concerning Gideon. In the book of Judges is related how the Angel of the LORD appeared to Gideon and greeted him in a most unusual way. Indeed, compared to any other man in the Bible. He says to him, “The LORD is with you, you mighty man of valor!” Quite remarkable. Afterwards He says, “Go in this might of yours” and “Have I not sent you?” Was it Gideon’s own might He was proclaiming, that Gideon was a bold hero God was impressed with? Gideon in fact was hiding in the wine press at the time, and revealed in his character in later passages that he was a man of anxieties. The key is that the LORD was with him and would bless him.
God called a timid, fearful man hiding from the Midianites, whose people were being oppressed by them, the complete opposite of what he was. While others of stronger character or personality, such as Moses, were taken to task for doubts or complaining in timidity, with Gideon God had very wide latitude of compassion and tender care. Not to coddle him or excuse him. To give Him courage and His strong guiding and upholding support.
Later in the story of Gideon we see this played out boldly. The LORD would be his strength so much, and it was God’s intention to use him in this way to such a degree, that God literally removed 22,000 of the Israeli army gathered to fight the Midianties, to fight with only 300 men with Gideon - and win. Just 300 against a great army. Since when do we send our armies home so just a few can go to fight a foe of hugely superior numbers? Most armed forces seek to overwhelm the enemy with numbers, or at least to meet the number equally. They certainly do not send an already mustered force home or say "we have too many"! This is opposite the conventional wisdom of the world or military planning. God had Gideon send them home as a striking picture to him and the Israelites that He was their strong hand alone. That he could trust God utterly.
It says much to me in my own lifelong struggle with anxiety. That God is my strength and I am in His wonderful care. Weakness is strength in Him, for it removes our own striving so God can work within us and in our lives. I know what I see before me may be daunting, but I trust Him who carries me and enables me.
And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9a.
Friday, November 30, 2012
...is to use my art to reflect life by focusing on beauty and the uplifting. Art admires Creation, adoring the sublime hand that created it in all its wonder. Art has proven to be healing for some and a hearts outlet of this wonder of creativity for those who struggle deeply. This is a joy God blesses us with, an expression given to us as a gift. Creativity is indeed a wonderful blessing from the Creator of all things. Yet ever as heartfelt adoration for He who awesomely created very living vibrant life out of nothing, we mere dust with feeble hands of mortality and weakness. The focus, with awe, is on Him - with what He has done so amazingly. Doing so with the joy of knowing He gave the very ability to have these talents Himself. Unlike in relationships with others, where we give to them that which we purchased or made ourselves, we give back to Him who first gives profoundly to us, in every part of our life in Him. Even the ability to do so itself is from His loving care
I had many thoughts behind the theme of the work itself. I began to see in the world around me, in my personal view, that while great strides have been made socially and institutionally, behind closed doors or in our neighborhoods, racism and the broader theme of how we esteem or value one another is still very much an issue. By this I speak of the broader aspect of how we view others around us in every day life. This work portrays an uplifting message “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39). The title embodies this value, that of respect for others. While the theme is racial healing, it is in fact much wider in the idea of relating to another.
As I created this work, my mind and heart reflected on my own feelings of having been treated as less than others by my peers in the past. Many of us have had deeply hurtful experiences of many different kinds. While my own experience could never compare to experiences in others lives in larger contexts of racism or abuse, it did provide an emotional tie to me as I created the work. I had found in it a much larger issue of human nature in how we relate to one another. It is really quite universal in all of us. In my life it had became a strong motivation to treat others with equal respect from a value that had deep meaning to me. These are expressed as personal or relational values in “Respect for Others”; it is therefore not a work that is political or sociological in intent. It is rather an issue of the heart.
While the work seems quite simple both in artistic approach and topic, the closer we look the more we find it is quite complex. I find that very much true in the human hand, as well as our experiences and the human heart.
Solomon was the son of King David, a king who was exceedingly rich in worldly riches, wisdom, and knowledge. His name is synonymous with these things. Yet, this type of “glory” is that merely of the world, merely of a man. Of how much more glory does even a flower hold – even as it is here today, and is soon gone.
We see flowers all the time. The comparison of glory here is God’s glory, reflected in one of His created wonders in the simplest way. Yet in His creative hand such a small example being exceeding beyond all the riches and glory of a great king. The meaning is profound and beyond merely seeing such a familiar flower with the eye.
Jesus speaks of God's creative glory in a matter-of-fact way that was known and appreciated then in the same way, yet has now become lost in our wandering veneers of what we esteem “knowledge”. These are my thoughts with this work, though Jesus spoke a great deal more using lilies as an illustration for a larger message. That message is God’s loving care, and our worry. I encourage you to read these wonderful words of Jesus for yourself, in Matthew chapter 6.
Let us suppose for the sake of illustration that there was a perfect Christian – of course there never will be one, only Christ was perfect. However, let us suppose there was one. This chapter stresses in a very emphatic way that even if that were the case in the utmost of striving, unless we have love we literally have nothing. We are as a clanging symbol. Just noise. That is a compelling statement from the text.
Love in today’s society is very distorted. On the one hand, it is often portrayed as sensual desire or a mask for lust. On the other, as a noble heartfelt emotion. Yet love is not just a feeling, a romantic notion, or an easygoing attitude. True love is far from easy. For love is a sacrificial act. A reaching out in genuine care for others. An action or attitude within ourselves to continually deny destructive impulses or behavior and instead bless others. This last part in myself I find the deepest struggle. So often I see within the impulses of selfishness that literally wage war against love. Jesus spoke of loving those who hate us, who seek or even cause us harm. This is indeed sacrificial love. As we seek to humble ourselves before our Heavenly Father, love becomes a behavior to live in graciousness and humbleness in relation to others.
Jesus expressed a profound love in everything He did. It was not mere emotion or sentiments. It was a sacrificial, forgiving, merciful, unfailing, and patient love. A love of compassionate grace that is very profound in its sublimity. In the gospels we see His love was ever ready to heal and bless, ever near and very intimate, as it is in our lives today as He cares for us each day. His greatest act of love was to take our sin on Himself and die for us. It is life changing transforming love in the deepest core of our needs and hurts.
How hard it is to truly love! In our day to day experience we often may not feel the emotion or affection of love. Here again, it must be stressed the misconception we hold that love is solely an emotional state or feeling. In actuality we may many times be churned up with a whole host of negative feelings for a whole host of reasons. This is precisely where God moves us to act in love, in spite of feelings we may struggle with.
We therefore see in the words and truths expressed in this chapter of the Bible a transformed way of living. A way of living that really can only come by Christ’s work in us. In the passage just before chapter 13 we read “and yet I show you a more excellent way”. This excellent way – love - is central to the two most important things we are to do as God’s children. To love the Lord with all our hearts, souls, and minds. And to love our neighbors as ourselves. What a blessing and relief to know that we do not have to manufacture love ourselves, but as we seek Him daily in our lives and read His Word, He works this within us.
In a conclusion of that which is related in chapter 13, Chapter 14 of 1 Corinthians begins with the words “pursue love”. I know in myself in almost every area of my life I need to be touched and healed this way. I so often think I know what is right, that I must have my own way. My way of expressing that can sometimes be in a blunt instrument kind of mentality to the very ones I love the most. How marriage brings to light the deepest parts that need repentance! I can not love this great love in myself. Yet I long for it so very deeply. I know even this longing comes from our loving Father Himself, as every perfect gift comes from Him. This longing is the personal motivation behind this work. The Bible chapter itself and what it conveys is of utmost importance and a lifetime continual goal in our wonderful walk in God's awesome, beautiful love. If we continually seek to see and know the bottomless love of God in Christ Jesus, He promises to fill us and mold us.