Three Questions and Three Answers

Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?  –Luke 24:26

Michael Card, a Christian musician and author, has some amazing thoughts about the crucifixion.  This very articulate writer has 37 albums, 27 books, and over 19 #1 hits.  And yet his goal in life has always been to “simply and quietly teach the Bible.”  I love his writing; it’s powerful in his unique, close relationship with our Lord.  He wrote the delightful book, Joy in the Journey, from which the following quotes came as he explained his song-writing process for one piece in particular.  These words are profound, in my opinion.

The trappings of the crucifixion had always puzzled me.  Why was it necessary that a close friend betray Jesus?  Why the crown of thorns, that grim tribute to humor?  Why the cross–wasn’t there some other way for him to die?  I had been playing with those three questions, trying to make them sound lyrical, in other words trying to make them sound pretty.  But they aren’t pretty questions.

I had finished three verses of a song incorporating the questions.  I had planned to write one chorus which would answer all three.  That proved to be as impossible as the questions themselves.  So I did the only thing a committed seeker of the Truth could do:  I gave up and put them away in a drawer!

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  –Hebrews 12:2

Weeks after I gave up and put away my three song verses, I was awakened in the night with three separate choruses going through my mind, something that had never happened before and has never happened since.  To my trilogy of vain, cynical questions the Lord gave three unexpected answers:

Why did it have to be a friend?  Because only a friend comes close enough to cause such pain.

Why the thorny crown?  Because  in this life, the only kind of crown the world would give such a Lover is a crown of thorns.

Why did it have to be a cross?  Because the cross is the place for a thief.  And Jesus had come to steal the world’s heart away.

Now each time I listen to the song, I hear two separate voices:  my own pessimistic voice asking the meaningless why questions, and another gentler Voice speaking the wonderful answers.  –Michael Card

 

Advertisements

Selah

There’s a word in the Hebrew Bible that is unknown.  Nobody knows what it means or really how it should be pronounced.  It occurs usually at the end of a verse, but not always.  In some places it comes in the middle of a sentence or verse.  See Psalms 55:19 and 57:3; and Habakkuk 3:3, 9, and 13.  There are many speculations about what it might mean.  Since the Psalms were set to music, it may be a musical or literary term.  Here are some of the ideas about its meaning:

  • “stop and listen”
  • “pause and think”
  • a break in the song
  • a change in rhythm, melody or instrumentation
  • “amen”
  • “forever”
  • “hang” (as in measuring an item’s weight)
  • “always”
  • a change of thought or theme
  • “lift up,” “exalt,” “cast up”
  • “loud,” “fortissimo” (cymbals please!)
  • voices hushed; musical interlude

It’s been used in modern applications, too, from Rastafarian to U2.  I don’t know what it’s supposed to mean, but I know what it means to me.

Selah.  Stop.  Think. Listen.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot this week as I’ve come across special verses and quotes (in any book) that are meaningful to me.  Usually I grab my notebook and write them down quickly and move on.  But God is saying “Selah” — stop and think about what you just read.  Listen to Me.  Wait.  Hang with Me a few more minutes.  Rest.  Selah.

Let’s do that this Easter week.  Let’s stop and think; wait and listen, be quiet, be still, and exalt Him.

Someone suggested this very useful idea:  spend a few moments each day just being still and quiet before God.  No thoughts (she said, when they come just flick them away like little boats down a river).  No prayers.  No reading.  Just be still.

“Be still and know that I am God.”  “Here I am Lord.”

When He speaks it may be in the form of an invitation.  If you are thinking, “I should be doing this,” or “I shouldn’t have said that,” just flick those thoughts away.  God’s voice will come in the way of an invitation — “Come away with Me and relax,” or “Don’t be afraid,” or perhaps a friend’s face will appear in your mind and you’ll know how to join God in loving them in some way.  We don’t initiate these invitations; God does.  And sometimes we hear nothing from Him at all; that’s OK too.  But it’s worth it to stop and sit quietly before Him, especially if you’re trying to make a decision or stressed about something.

Selah.  Stop.  Rest.  Relax.  Wait.  Be still.  Exalt.  Listen.  Pause.  Think.  Selah!

Trust

I have found a Christian author that seems to articulate so much that I have been thinking about lately.  He’s really focused on God as our sovereign ruler and King, ever present and powerful.  Here is an excerpt, including two scriptures and a quote from another author, followed by a prayer:

Who has understood the mind of the LORD, or instructed Him as His counselor?  Whom did the LORD consult to enlighten Him, and who taught Him the right way?  Who was it that taught Him knowledge or showed Him the path of understanding?  — Isaiah 40:13-14 (NIV)

Who instructed God?  Whom did He consult?  think of what we’ve learned about the design of the human body–the amazing intricacy and efficiency of a single cell, the sheer magnitude of the connecting fibers between nerve cells in the brain.  Who could have served as the Lord’s consultant on a design task like that?  Could you or I?

It’s an absurd question, isn’t it?  Yet we continually want to be God’s adviser in His providential workings.  We continually want to tell Him how certain circumstances should be changed.  Or worse, we question God’s wisdom when we can’t understand what He’s doing.

How fathomless the depths of God’s resources, wisdom and knowledge!  How unsearchable His decisions, and how mysterious His methods!  For who has ever understood the thoughts of the Lord, or has ever been His adviser?  Glory to Him forever!  — Romans 11:33-36 (Charles B. Williams Translation)

To this end may the following words from J. L. Dagg encourage us:

It should fill us with joy that infinite wisdom guides the affairs of the world.  Many of its events are shrouded in darkness and mystery, and inextricable confusion sometimes seems to reign.  Often wickedness prevails, and God seems to have forgotten the creatures that He has made.  Our own path through life is dark and devious, and beset with difficulties and dangers.  How full of consolation is the doctrine that infinite wisdom directs every event, brings…light out of darkness, and, to those who love God, causes all things, whatever be their present aspect and apparent tendency, to work together for good.  — Dagg, Manual of Theology, pg. 91.

So with joy and consolation let us stand in awe of the infinite wisdom of God manifested in creation, providence, and redemption.  But let’s do more.  One of the marks of a God-fearing person is to trust in the Lord:  “The Lord delights in those who fear Him, who put their hope in His unfailing love”  (Psalm 147:11).  To hope in His unfailing love is to trust Him.  As we stand in awe, let us trust Him, even when we don’t understand what He is doing.

O infinite God!  Who has understood Your mind or instructed You as Your counselor?  Before the universe was created it existed in all its intricate complexity in Your vast mind.  Even the tiny cells in our bodies testify to the sheer brilliance of Your creative genius.  But while we marvel at Your creation, we confess that we often wonder at Your providence.  Help us to learn that You ways truly are higher than our ways, and that You are always working for our good despite the many things we don’t understand.  May we fear You by trusting You.  And may we ever praise You through Jesus our Lord and Savior.  Amen –Jerry Bridges, The Joy of Fearing God, pg. 94-95

Are any of you struggling with life events right now?  Do you wonder how things could go so “wrong?”  If you are trusting Jesus for salvation, you need not fear.  God is sovereign and working all things together for good (Romans 8:28-29).  We don’t have to try to control, manipulate, worry, be anxious or force anything to happen.  It all comes together in His time and way, completely beyond our understanding, or weak efforts to control.  Wait and trust; watch and see what God will do!  Listen for His voice of calm, wisdom, instruction and assurance; trust Him, rather than trusting yourself.

Perfect Peace

Today I’m sharing more of my favorite quotes from my journal.  Some of the quotes contain my Word of the Year — Joy — but some don’t.  These words are uplifting, positive and true.

Hallelujah!  I give thanks to God with everything I’ve got — wherever good people gather, and in the congregation. God’s works are so great, worth a lifetime of study–endless enjoyment!  — Psalm 111:1-2 (MSG)

You will keep him in perfect peace all who trust in You, all whose thoughts are fixed on You!  — Isaiah 26:3 (NLT)

So turn to me and be helped — saved! — everyone, whoever and wherever you are.  I am GOD, the only God there is, the one and only.  — Isaiah 45:22 (MSG)

The commandments of the LORD are right, bringing joy to the heart.  — Psalm 19:8a (NLT)

Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sins are put out of sight.  Yes, what joy for those whose record the LORD has cleared of sin.  — Romans 4:7-8 (NLT)

 

Surprised by Joy

One of my favorite authors is C. S. Lewis (who hasn’t been stunned by his words in the book, Mere Christianity?).  What a deep, wise thinker he is!  I managed to find an old, used copy of the book, The Joyful Christian, which has 127 readings from C. S. Lewis.  The forward, by William Griffin, had this to say about Lewis:

If there is one word to describe Lewis’ life, it would be joy.  The harmonizing of himself with the rest of the created world, the process that led him from atheism through theism and pantheism to Christianity, he has described as joy.  His lectures and books, the ones dealing with things theological, can also be described as a sort of joy in that they attempt to attune the modern intellect to the facts and truths of Christianity.  His marriage in 1957 was an intense, if very brief, joy of a different sort; Joy Davidson was her name; she died of cancer three years later.  And since 1963, when he died at the age of sixty-five, he has no doubt been about the serious business of heaven, which he fully expected to be joy.  — The Joyful Christian, pg. xiii

Lewis himself was a convert.  It happened on the way to a zoo.  His brother was driving a motorcycle; he was riding in the sidecar.  At the beginning of the trip he did not believe that Jesus Christ was the Son of God.  Somewhere along the way–he was not blinded like St. Paul on the road to Damascus nor was he sprung from the sidecar by a piece of piano wire divinely strung across the roadway–he was, as he recounts in his autobiography, “surprised by joy.”  At the end of the trip he found himself believing what he thought he never could.  — The Joyful Christian, pg. xii

In commanding us to glorify Him, God is inviting us to enjoy Him. — C. S. Lewis, quoted in Patches of Godlight, Jan Karon, pg. 21

It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak.  We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered to us… — C. S. Lewis, Weight of Glory, pg. 26

Joy is the serious business of heaven.  — C. S. Lewis, The Business of Heaven, pg. 13

No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it.  Those who week find.  To those who knock it is opened.  — C. S. Lewis, The Business of Heaven, pg. 142

Shout for Joy!

I’m taking a short break again from the posts on Amsterdam, but never fear, I will return to them in a couple of weeks, because there’s much more to share!  I also have tons of great quotes in my journals that need to be shared, so here are some from my “Word of the Year” — “Joy.”

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth, burst into jubilant song with music; make music to the Lord with the harp, with the harp and sound of singing, with trumpets and the blast of the ram’s horn — shout for joy before the Lord, the King.  Let the sea resound, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.  Let the rivers clap their hands, let the mountains sing together for joy.  –Psalm 98:4-8 (NIV)

Well done, good and faithful servant.  You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much.  Enter into the joy of your master.  –Matthew 25:21 (NLT)

The “stars that do shine” and the rest of creation around us have all been embraced by different groups as idols to worship.  After all, they are beautiful gifts from God.  But their beauty is only a shadow of His beauty.  If embracing them gives a certain joy, how much more joy would come from embracing Him!  –Michael Card, Joy in the Journey, 1/18

 

 

Purpose

My final quote in this series of Great Quotes is this next one, straight out of the Bible.  How amazing is it to know that, no matter your situation or struggles, talents or insecurities, failures or successes, you don’t have to “measure up” or “finally arrive” at some expected place of “being good enough.”  It’s all about our Savior, not about us.

I do not consider myself to have “arrived,” spiritually, nor to I consider myself already perfect.  But I keep going on, grasping ever more firmly that purpose for which Christ Jesus grasped me.  My brothers, I do concentrate on this:  I leave the past behind and with hands out-stretched to whatever lies ahead I go straight for the goal–my reward he honor of my high calling by God in Christ Jesus.  All of us who are spiritually adult should set ourselves this sort of ambition, and if at present you cannot see this, yet you will find that this is the attitude which God is leading you to adopt.  It is important that we go forward in the light of such truth as we have ourselves attained to…But we are citizens of Heaven; our outlook goes beyond this world to the hopeful expectation of the Savior who will come from Heaven, the Lord Jesus Christ.  He will change these wretched bodies of ours so that they resemble his own glorious body, by that power of his which makes him the master of everything that is.  — Philippians 3:12-21 (PHI)