Tag Archives: God

95 Million Seconds of Gazing

When I returned home from studying abroad in Rome, Italy in December of 2008, a lot had changed.  In a lot of ways, it felt like I had been gone far longer than four months.

In many ways I had finally begun the agonizingly, well, agonizing process of “growing up.”  As with many, wrapped up in that process was a sense of jadedness.  The world seemed like an superball in a blender spinning at warp speed.  I would lie awake at night staring at the ceiling, feeling as if my world was moving at an uncontrollable pace while I was in super slo-mo.  My days were disorientingly slow and at the same time blazingly fast.

Making decisions in that fog was nigh impossible.  Good ones, at least.  Imagine you are a kid on a merry-go-round (not to be confused with a carousel…look it up, it’s important), and you are standing in the middle as it is being spun around.  Soon you’ve fallen down, and you have no chance of moving (come to think of it, that seems like the most dangerous thing you could possibly put on a playground).  Well, I felt like that kid.

Then, one day, it stopped.  The world stopped spinning quite so fast, and I stopped moving quite so slow. 

 

In Rome, I had spent time reading Scripture.  It was really the first time in my life that I found myself doing it when I had free time.  It wasn’t out of curiousity, it wasn’t compulsory, it wasn’t to fact-check.  It was to read.  In that season I was often drawn to the Psalms.

In my journal, I wrote that the day the spinning slowed to a stop, I recalled one verse in particular that I hadn’t ever noticed before in Sunday School or while emotionalizing the vespers services at Bethel.  It was a simple verse in the midst of a seemingly simple psalm.  David, constantly surrounded by enemies who wish upon him only destruction, praises the Lord by proclaiming his trust in Him.  In my Bible Psalm 27 is subtitled as a “Psalm of fearless trust in the Lord.”

In one line of verse 4, this perplexing phrase appears:  “…to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord…”

I can’t say how or why it came to mind in that circumstance, but it did.  And it drove me to read the rest of the Psalm.  How would I possible “gaze upon the beauty of the Lord”?  That just seemed like a flowery statement without meaning.  I can’t see him, right? 

Shortly though, I began to.  I began to realize what the gospel I had spent my whole life hearing and never learning actually meant.  Redemption.  The forgiveness of sins.  I find it easy to forgive others when they misspeak, or when they accidentally knock my glass off the table.  But when others knowingly sin against me, forget it.  I don’t think I’m alone in that.  But that is what the Lord did for me.  Whew.  Things began to change (and are still changing) when I realized the depth of that phrase in Colossians 1:14.  Redemption, the forgiveness of sins.  That is beauty.

There was a time I wasn’t interested even in dating.  I knew I was called to marriage, but not for quite awhile.  And then, almost as soon as I had come to that conclusion, my conclusion was proved flawed.

Beauty has a way of overcoming even the most strongly-held convictions, and when it is the beauty of the Lord, forget about it. 

One day I was hanging out with a new friend named Laura (and others) and I began to notice that I cared for her more than I had previously realized. 

Fast-forward about 18 months and there I was standing on a stage and much of my family and friends were looking away from me, and they were looking at the same thing that I was.  Well, I don’t know if they were seeing what I was seeing, but they were looking in the same direction.

Because on June 4, 2010, when the wedding march started playing, I truly understood more than ever before what it was to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord.

On that day the Lord gave me a precious gift, second only to His Son, and it was the privilege of entering into a soul-binding covenant between myself, My God, and my bride.

 

Laura Louise Rima is literally a manifestation of God’s grace every day of my life.  There is no other way to put it.  I am a mess of a man, and she is to me, a shining example of Christ.  When I talk to others about Laura, I often joke about her task-oriented nature, or her obsession with Christian rap.  Sometimes I’ll reference her nerdy love of sappy Christian movies, or her newly aquired love of all things blended.  But those who know Laura, know that her love for the Lord is what truly describes her.  Her desire to know him and make him known.  Her desire to see young women read the Words of God in Scripture and allow them to change their hearts. 

I see the Laura who journals at least one page every other day, not about the tedious details of her life, but about God’s Word.  Her journal is filled with prayers for students, her friends, her family, and me, but also with prayers for her heart to be shaped not by its desires but by its Redeemer.

 

When I see my wife, who I have now had the privilege of being married to for 3 years, I see a testament to God’s grace.  I gaze upon the beauty of the Lord.  I am so incredibly grateful to have spent 3 years, or 1,095 days, or 26,680 hours, or 1,576,800 minutes, or 94,608,000 seconds, gazing at beauty.

 

Here’s to 2,428,272,000 more.

 

I love you Laura Rima 🙂

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All Our Stuff vs. The Weight of Glory

Last Tuesday I woke up at 6 AM and took off for Louisville.  The vehicular trek from Minneapolis to Louisville is between 11 and 12 hours of driving depending on if you go through Chicago or not (I didn’t).  I had to leave that early because driving at night is not ideal with my vision issues.  My vision comes to bear on a lot of my life, but it’s become second-nature at this point.  I wanted to post a brief update on my vision because I’ve been asked about it quite a bit recently for whatever reason, and it’s been a little over a year and a half, so I’m sure some have wondered how it has been going.

I realize that a post like this could easily come off as self-centered, and that is not my intent.  I don’t want to post this simply because I think my life issues are at the forefront of other people’s minds…I know they aren’t.  And they shouldn’t be.  In reality, a large part of it is putting it into words.  I’ve written in my journal about it before, but there is something different about preparing an explanation that you know will be read by others. 

That said, there is one journal entry that explains in a very simple way how things are with the eye in particular.

“Dryness and a sense of being out of place or irritated.  A lack of balance.  The extra few moments it takes to focus.  Frustration.  Is there someone behind me?  Did I miss a spot along my right jawline?  Stare, stare, and stare some more…still periphery.

It’s interesting to think about that…periphery, that is.  In reality I know that its a familiar experience for many people, so it’s probably a pretty easy idea to relate to.  On certain days, at certain times, with certain subjects, that way of living where things are seen but not clearly enough to grasp what they are.  The overwhelming anxiety as you see something SO clearly and cannot tell what it is.”

 

Even reading that now, I find it to be true.  There is just something profoundly affecting about the experience that God has granted me…the recognition that I will never, as things stand now, see anything “easily.”  I say that because nothing about vision feels purely natural anymore.  For one thing, there is a noticeable oddness about the eye as it sits in its socket.  It may not look like it from the outside but I feel it.  All the time. 

Of course I can still drive, and I can still play basketball, and most sports I can pick up as long as I have time to adjust to the depth perception issues that accompany those sports where distance is measured in the blink of an eye for most.  This is not a plea for special privileges, certainly not the privilege (curse) of pity from outside sources, it’s just a recognition of fact. 

There are moments that I reflect and become discouraged.  I realize many have much more difficult circumstances, and I realize that I could have very easily simply been killed in a hunting accident rather than just slightly injured.  I am forever grateful for God’s mercy in allowing me to see Laura’s face when I arrived home, allowing me to keep the eye itself (which, oddly enough, is one of the difficulties I deal with, haha.  More on that later), giving me the incredible blessing of being able to see for myself children that we will have, and sunsets, and another round of game-winning shots in March.

I get discouraged that my life is different, and it will never be the same.  I wish I could say that I never did, but I do.  I think we all have those things that we bemoan in our lives at times.  Thankfully, there is always a cleft in the seemingly sheer rock face of despair, and more often than not, I find that cleft in God’s Word.

2 Corinthians 4:17,18 says this: “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen.  For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”

Oh man.

Yesterday I was reading a sermon that Martyn Lloyd-Jones gave in Pensacola, Florida in 1969.  He focused on this passage and it struck me to my core.

Think of a table in front of you.  Atop that table you find an old-fashioned scale with two plates on opposing sides.  In the life of the Christian, it can be easily discouraging at times as we see objects constantly added to the plate labeled “Afflictions.”  Injury, broken relationships, mistakes that cannot be taken back, words that cannot be unsaid, insults spat in your direction, the loss of ones you love, flat tires, constant pain, migraine headaches, divisiveness within family and groups of friends, war, famine, genocide, unthinkable atrocities, and more.  These are swiftly piled up, one on top of the other, until the weight is unbearable, we can no longer even see the table underneath it all, surely hope is crushed somewhere at the bottom of that pile.

And yet.

Paul says that it is “light.”  The weight of these is light in relation to this “glory” that is “beyond all comparison.”  I would urge you not to see those as words on a screen, and more as an idea, a notion.  The idea of a glory that is beyond ALL comparison…is, well, is there a word for it?  The notion that regardless of whether our afflictions weigh 20lbs or 20 trillion tons, the weight of glory makes them seem insignificant, is a pretty incredible thing to reflect on.  And that is precisely what I needed to hear.

Lloyd-Jones shared a portion of a poem in conjunction with the sermon and it summed it up beautifully.  I will carry this with me for the rest of my life.  Truly the written word is a gift from God.

“The eternal glories gleam afar,
To nerve my faint endeavor…
For I am His, and He is mine,
Forever and forever.”

-James Grindlay Small

 

May your afflictions seem to be smoke in the wind as you study God’s Word.

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God Loves Nerds

As a student of history my entire life, I have always been as fascinated by what occurred in the past as what could occur in the present. There was never a seminal moment where I realized the value of history; I’ve had a healthy appreciation for it since birth. I never received a book as a child that I recall giving me that. I suppose what I’m trying to say is that since I can remember, I’ve loved placing myself in the footsteps of those who have walked before me.

From the beginning, I was engrossed in books about anything from Abraham Lincoln to the ’92-’96 US Olympic Basketball teams. My Dad recalled my having memorized George H.W. Bush’s cabinet members and I remember absolutely LOVING my ruler with all the Presidents listed on the back. I used to keep a white board in my room that I updated daily. On this whiteboard you would find a feast of useless information; I kept track of how many days I had my basketball shoes, how many days til my birthday, how many days til Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, NBA season, the Super Bowl, etc. I remember looking forward to taking Stats class in High School because I thought that it would basically be a class where kids brought their baseball cards in and we decided who had the best cards. At one point, I embarked on a journey to discover how many total HRs/RBI/SB and what the overal batting average was of all of my cards combined. Yes, I was that kid.

I didn’t just love the numbers, but what they entailed. Those numbers were meaningful, in the sense that they represented a moment in time. I have the same fascination with numbers and historical figures and dates now, although I try to keep it to a socially acceptable level on the surface.

The purpose of this post though, is not to belabor the fact that I’m a massive nerd (although check and checkmate on that, I suppose), but to point to the fact that lies behind the ministry leader’s admonitions to spend time reading the Bible. The fact is, that the Bible is not JUST inspired by God, but it also actually happened.

Unfortunately, we often read the Bible as a handbook for daily life…which in a sense it is. But labeling it as that alone is doing it a ridiculous disservice. I recently was struck by that fact again on vacation this past week. I spent ten wonderful days with my wife at her Grandma’s condo in Naples, Florida. It was an incredible blessing, and it gave me the opportunity to do something I generally struggle to find time for: read a book for fun. Well, sort of for fun. As part of my New Testament II class, Dr. Pennington at SBTS recommended that if we had some time, it would be worth our while to check out Paul Maier’s book, The Flames of Rome.

It is set during the years before and during Nero’s reign as Emperor of Rome; this time period is interesting to me in particular, as it is around this time that Paul and Peter are thought to have been martyred in and around Rome. Maier portrays the events that were occurring in Rome with historical accuracy and some necessary filling in of details based on educated conjecture, and does a splendid job recounting the Roman system of governance and the likely nature of their relationship with Christianity (at that time, thought of as a cult by much of Rome, which still held to the Roman mythic Gods).

It is an utterly fascinating work that is character-driven and well-paced, providing a balanced look at Christianity from afar in that context.

There is one anecdote within the work that struck me in particular, and brought to bear much of what leaders in ministry are trying to convey to the congregation (who sometimes views it as a chore) regarding the importance of studying Scripture. During his reign, Nero makes an attempt on his mother, Agrippina’s life. Maier notes that this occurred within the acceptable time and place that Paul could have been arriving from his harrowing journey with a Centurion escort to see his appeal to the Caesar heard as a Roman citizen.

This small anecdote reminded me of the historical vibrancy of the Bible, in this case, the book of Acts and Paul’s letters. These letters weren’t written in a sterile environment. History was occurring around them, just like what happens every day today. We take it for granted that historical events have enduring meaning, and we completely neglect that Scripture was recorded in the midst of them.

So what I’m trying to say is pretty simple. Embrace nerdity. God didn’t give us the Scriptures so that we could put them on a shelf. He gave us the Scriptures so that we could experience those “geek-out” moments when a solitary word makes our hair stand on end, and a smile creep across our face unbeknownst to us. God’s Scripture is His love. In words. To us.

So push those glasses up your nose and get cracking.

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Crying Wolf

Sinner:

“I can smell the death on the sheets
Covering me
I can’t believe this is the end

But this is my deathbed
I lie here alone
If I close my eyes tonight
I know I’ll be home

The year was nineteen forty one
I was eight years old and
Far, far too young
To know that the stories
Of battles and glory
Was a tale a kind mother
Made up for her son
You see
Dad was a traveling preacher
Teaching the words of the Teacher
My mother had sworn he
Went off to the war
And died there with honor
Somewhere on a beach there
But he left once to never return
Which taught me that I should unlearn
Whatever I thought a father should be
I abandoned that thought
Like he abandoned me

By forty seven I was fourteen
I’d acquired a taste for liquor and nicotine
I smoked until I threw up
Yet I still lit ’em up
For thirty more years
Like a machine

So right there you have it
That one filthy habit
Is what got me where I am today

I can smell the death on the sheets
Covering me
I can’t believe this is the end
I can hear those sad memories
Still haunting me
So many things
I’d do again

But this is my deathbed
I lie here alone
If I close my eyes tonight
I know I’ll be home

I got married on my twenty first
Eight months before my wife would give birth
It’s easier to be sure you love someone
When her father inquires with the barrel of a gun
The union was far from harmonious
No two people could have been more alone than us
The years would go by and she’d love someone else
And I realized I hadn’t been loved yet myself

From there it’s your typical spiel
Yeah if life was a highway
I was drunk at the wheel
I was seeing the loose ends
All fall apart
Yeah I swear I was destined to fail
And fail from the start

I bowled about six times a week
The bottle of Beam kept the memories from me
The marriage had taken a seven-ten split
And along with my pride the ex-wife took the kids

I can smell the death on the sheets
Covering me
I can’t believe this is the end
I can hear those sad memories
Still haunting me
So many things
I’d do again

But this is my deathbed
I lie here alone
If I close my eyes tonight
I know I’ll be home

I was so scared of Jesus
But He sought me out
Like the cancer in my lungs
That’s killing me now
And I’ve given up hope
On the days I have left
But I cling to the hope
Of my life in the next
Then Jesus showed up
Said, “Before we go up
I thought that we might reminisce
See one night in your life
When you turned out the light
You asked for and prayed for my forgiveness”

You cried wolf
The tears they soaked your fur
The blood dripped from your fangs
You said, “What have I done?”
You loved that Lamb
With every sinful bone
And there you wept alone
Your heart was so contrite

You said, “Jesus, please forgive me of my crimes
Sanctify this withered heart of mine
Stay with me until my life is through
And on that day please take me home with you”

I can smell the death on the sheets
Covering me
I can’t believe this is the end
I can hear You whisper to me,
“It’s time to leave
You’ll never be lonely again”

But this was my deathbed
I died there alone
When I closed my eyes tonight
You carried me home”

Jesus:
“I am the Way
Follow Me
And take My hand
And I am the Truth
Embrace Me and you’ll understand
And I am the Light
And for Me you’ll live again
For I am Love
I am Love
I, I am Love”

 

The song is “Deathbed” and I believe it’s an album-only song on iTunes.  It’s 10 minutes long and it tells the story of a man’s life.

What I love about this song is that it displays the glory of the Gospel.  Isn’t one of the most glorious things about the gospel the fact that it is so exceedingly simple?

I think we as Christians catch ourselves in a trap sometimes.  I know in my case, sometimes I focus so much on the idea of sanctification that I completely miss the doctrine of justification, and how truly awesome it is.  Sanctification, of course, is awesome as well.  There are few things quite as wonderful as seeing someone’s heart and life completely change in the direction of Christ.  But sometimes sanctification and justification become the same thing in our minds, and we miss out on the beauty that lies in the utterly (and instant) transformative power of Christ.  Christ does not only gradually conform us to His likeness, he also instantly makes us “positionally righteous” before God.

We’re all wolves, saved by a lamb.  Christ’s blood is on our fangs, in our fur, and yet the Lamb is who makes us clean.

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Loss

Today is the day that rolls around every year.  It’s New Year’s Eve, and it signals the end of one year (good or bad) and the beginning of another (sometimes anticipated, sometimes dreaded).  For me, it is a very bittersweet day.

When I moved to Washington a couple of months before my Freshman year of High School, I didn’t have a whole lot of hope.  It was yet another move, yet another jagged transition academically, socially, spiritually.  And although we were arriving in a state where nearly our entire extended family lived, I didn’t really hold out much hope for that being much of a salve. 

Justin was my cousin, and he was a year older than me.  I always thought he was funny, but I also thought he was probably the most intimidating person in the world.  He was not only funny, but smart, witty, savvy in just about any situation, social or otherwise, and really when it comes down to it…he was completely fearless.  That wasn’t me.

I was wracked by fears of social exclusion after spending so many years of my life playing social catch-up, just trying to become known to my peers.  I didn’t want to be invisible, but often as the new kid, it’s preferable to the alternative.  When I moved to Washington the thing I feared was falling into a void.  It seemed at times like there was this black hole that was always pulling at me through elementary and especially Junior High.  It’s not an uncommon feeling, I’m sure, but every person who feels it by definition feels alone.

At the age of 15, I met my best friend, and it was Justin.  I tend to be the last person to call someone to hang out…I think all of those years kind of got me into the habit of keeping myself busy, and not wanting to face the possibility of rejection.  In hindsight of course I know it isn’t usually the person but the timing that leads to that dreaded “Sorry, I can’t,” but I never really wanted to test that theory out.  Which was okay, because Justin called me. 

At first it was every couple of weeks, but soon it was almost every day, he would be dropping by to pick me up, or when I got my license I was making my way to his house, where we’d watch endless movies, listen to music, or play a video game.  We’d head to Alderwood Mall and he’d show me how to purchase clothing for myself that didn’t make me look like Beaver Cleaver, and introduce me to CDs I should buy…some good, some not.  But all along I could tell what was happening.  Justin was coming alongside me, and he was pulling me up to his level.  I’m not sure what drove him, but one thing I know about Justin, was that for all his brash talk and swagger, he had the kindest heart I had ever met.  He had a heart for those who were in danger of being left behind.

I was one of those kids, and Justin truly helped shape who I was and who I would become.  Of course now I can sit at the computer and say it wasn’t Justin, but his Savior, Jesus Christ, who was reaching out to me.  I didn’t have any desire to be involved at my family’s new church, and Justin literally forced me to attend Youth Group with him.  At that age, I wasn’t always hearing the teaching, or really being affected by the worship, I was being molded by the love of Christ through His people.

Justin allowed himself to be used for my edification, and gave of himself all the time for me.  I certainly didn’t always make it easy, but he never stopped, and what affects me most to this day are two things Justin taught me every time that I was with him.

1. Your closest friends, and the ones you need to keep around, are the ones who tell you the truth, even if it will be painful to you.  Like God’s discipline in our lives, it hurts for the moment, but is always beneficial in the end.

2. Of all people, we who are saved and justified in the eyes of our Father, have no need to fear anyone or anything.  I’m sure Justin was scared of circumstances and people, but he never let that define him.  He had this amazing ability to look people in the eye, no matter who they were.  You could call it confidence, but I call it a recognition that he was who he was made to be.

Only two years after arriving in Washington, we were told that we were moving to Minnesota.  What surprised me even then, was that I wasn’t really heartbroken about it, and looking back, I think that is one of the most incredible things that I was blessed with during my friendship with Justin.  God worked through my relationship with him, and gave me an ability to lean on the big picture, and not lose myself in every significant life change.  To use an analogy that Justin would punch me for using, I learned to wait on life’s curveballs (Justin was not exactly sports-oriented).

Just before I moved, Justin returned from a missions trip to Mexico.  He was very short of breath all the time.  I moved for good in October, and by that time, Justin was always in the presence of a tank of oxygen.  He of course joked about it constantly and kept things light, but you could tell he was becoming more and more aware of bigger issues.  He never told me how bad it was.  I had many nightmares, where Justin would pass away and I would hear about it over the phone.  I found myself (in the age before social media) texting him and calling him just to check in.  He always eased my fears.  Then one night I arrived home from playing basketball at the YMCA.  My aunt Candy was on the phone and she told me she was giving me my Christmas present, it was a flight to Washington.  I sat on the steps where she told me and wept, because I was glad to go back, and because it hit me how incredibly serious the situation was.

I went, and got to spend time with Justin, not as much as I would like, but it was time.  Justin needed a double lung transplant, and one night as his sister Heather and her then-husband, and our cousin Courtney and I were heading in to a movie…we got a call.  His lungs had arrived.

The ups and downs of sitting for hours in that waiting room were nearly unbearable.  Eventually, it was deemed successful, and we all shuffled home, exhausted by utterly overjoyed.  It was a long road ahead of us but the harrowing part had seemingly passed.

Justin never woke up.  Complications prior to surgery meant that he had gone a short amount of time without oxygen, which was too much for his lungs to handle, and he did not have the proper oxygen levels to his brain.  There was no doubt that Justin would never desire to live on life support in a vegetative state, and so his parents had to make the decision to remove access to the machines that were keeping him “alive.”  Of course they weren’t keeping him alive truly, and we all knew it.

Justin passed away on December 31st, 2003 at the age of 18.  I remember leaving the RV I had been staying in with my Grandparents, and asking my Aunt Janna if I could take Justin’s classic yellow ’50s Chevy Corvair out.  I just drove it around and recalled the many moments I spent with him in his car, weeping openly and screaming why it had all happened the entire time.  It was the best thing I could have possibly done. 

God never gave me an answer that day, he still hasn’t to this day.  The same can be said for the losses our family has experienced over the years since.  I have often wondered why.  The answer that “God just needed him more with Him in heaven” has never really stood up for me. 

Over the past 9 years, me and those closest to me have experienced the spectrum of joys and despair here on earth.  Weddings intersperse openly with heartbreaking divorce or infidelity, joyous births intersperse with tragic miscarriages, renewed life has gone hand in hand with the grief that accompanies death.

One thing that I know, is that God began in me at the age of 17 a very good work.  The seed of faith became a seedling, often ravaged and deprived of sunlight, but never uprooted, and that seedling has steadily grown in the form of a love for Him, and a cognizance of the fragility of life on earth.  I’ve often thought about what a sorrow it is that we must hold so loosely to the things we love so much here on earth, but God, ever faithful, soon reminds me of what lies ahead.

I take great hope in Paul’s letter to the Romans on days like today.  What a tender mercy it is to we who follow Christ, to read these words: “For I consider taht the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”

All of creation cries out to God, wordless groans and sorrowful wails, yet we have an advocate who puts our groans into words, and our Father knows them all.  We serve a God who has promised to deliver.  “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and DEATH SHALL BE NO MORE, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:4).  He will make all things new.

I take great comfort in the fact that my Father in heaven has recorded every single tear of mine in his book (Ps 56:8).  I firmly believe that on that day when we see God face to face, he won’t wipe our tears of the moment away.  He will wipe away every tear we’ve ever cried.  This is the God that I cling to.  A God more powerful than all imagining, and more tender than we could ever deserve.

I could ask why Justin was taken from this earth so young, but as with every other loss we’ve all suffered through, we must make a decision.  Each New Year’s Eve, I make a decision Justin would be proud of.  I don’t bother asking why.  I trust in my savior, who has kept every promise He has ever made.

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Soap and Lye Don’t Cut it, Mister.

Of all the innumerable superlatives that can be said of Scripture, I think I treasure most the inexhaustible nature of God’s Word. It never returns void.

I’m reminded of that again today. I taught from Luke 1:26-35; 2:1-7 and Hebrews 2:5-10 today. I challenged the students at Chapel Hill Academy to recognize the miraculous fact that Jesus Christ carried the one attribute that no human being before or since has ever had. Holiness.

Jesus’ death on the cross means nothing if not for this perfect holiness. For me, Christmas is put in perspective only when I reflect on all of the sins I’ve committed in the past year. Countless.

I’m reminded of the fact that I so often throughout my life trust in ritualistic cleansings, much like Israel’s cleansing rituals depicted in Jeremiah 2.

“Though you wash yourself with lye and use much soap, the stain of your guilt is still before me, declares the Lord God.” Jeremiah 2:22

It always strikes me how quickly I lapse into ritualistic cleansings. By that I mean, I often provide my token “I’m sorry for my sins, please forgive me God.” Prayer. The arrogance I show, genuinely believing that God doesn’t understand what I’m doing.

This is the God who has EVERYTHING under his control. Jesus Christ knew this kind of control. Everything was in subjection to him. We often don’t realize that. Hebrews 2:8 is a great reminder. We can’t hide our sin behind ritual, or behind veils.

This is why, this Christmas, I am humbled and utterly bereft of pride in myself, with God’s grace. Only by the grace of God can I understand just how useless all of my soap and lye is at the feet of a holy God. And only by the grace of God can I understand that my savior, my propitiation, my payment, my advocate, my redeemer, my hope, my salvation, my strong tower, my fortress, my deliverer, my shepherd…is holy.

He is holy. He was, is, and always will be. He didn’t start being holy. He is eternally holy. This is why his birth matters, and it’s why his life matters, and it’s why his death and resurrection matters. Let’s not forget it.

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