Glory and Death

I see the cloud, I step in
I want to see Your glory as Moses did
Flashes of light and rolls of thunder,

I’m not afraid
I’m not afraid

Show me Your glory, show me Your glory, my God

Jesus Culture

__________________

Something about this song makes me tremble, and it’s not just Jesus Culture’s bass heavy mix. The worrisome thing to me is the sheer audacity of the request in these lyrics; a prayer, the same as Moses’ in Exodus 33: “Show me Your glory.” Do we know what we’re asking for? God’s answer in Exodus 33:20 is: “you cannot see my face, for a man shall not see me and live.” To see God’s face is to die. And yet this song not only asks for it outright, but boldly declares: “we’re not afraid”… of the glory of God.

I don’t mean to pick on Jesus Culture here. There are tons of songs saying essentially the same thing, “I wanna see you face to face / I wanna know you more,” things like that. But the more I’ve learned about the absolute holiness of God the more songs like these make me almost cringe. God’s glory is a weighty thing (recommended reading: C.S. Lewis’ Weight of Glory), not something to be trifled with. Seeing the glory of God means you die.

Now wait a second, you say, we’re Christians! This is not “the men of Beth-shemesh” or “Uzzah and the cart,” Tricia. We live in the New Testament era–Jesus tore the vail, man! We can enter boldly into the throne room and be directly in God’s presence without fear of danger. I’ll sing it loud: “I’m not afraid! Show me Your glory God!” We get to see it and not die!

Aaah, but can we? First of all, who is worthy to ascend the hill of the LORD? “He who has clean hands and pure heart,” right? (Psalm 24:3-6). That’s Jesus. You’re right, he did tear the veil. And he is the one mediator between God and man because he lived with perfectly clean hands and a perfectly pure heart and then died as a substitute for us. He’s the only reason we aren’t struck down when we see God face to face.

Since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a great hight priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
(Hebrews 4:14-16)

Secondly, why do we Christians think we can see the glory of God and not die? Yes, Jesus came in the flesh. Yes, he was the very image of God the Father. Yes, people were able to look at him and not be struck dead. But what did Jesus say about his true followers? “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matt 16:24-25). And what did Paul say about “life” in Christ? “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” (Gal 2:20a). Dietrich Bonhonhoeffer said rightly: “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”

I would still contend that everyone who sees the face of God dies. Looking upon the glory of God in Christ kills our old selves, which is why we must continue looking at him. Once again, you’re right: this is New Testament era. But that doesn’t mean we can ask to see His glory and not die. We ought still to tremble at the weight of the glory of God and say, “I am afraid, but for Christ.”

Glory

~~~

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
(2 Cor 3:18)

Thankful Thursday

ThankfulThursday

Today I join with other bloggers who devote space on their site each Thursday to gratefully acknowledge the Lord’s providences and blessings of the past week. I thank the Lord for…

  • Elders. Last night we had the most wonderful meeting at church. We called it an “All Community Group Gathering” where everyone in a small group was invited to come to the church together for some food and fellowship, worship and testimonies, and prayer for one another. It was so incredibly encouraging to hear what God has done in peoples’ lives through community groups. My husband and I just joined a young adults community group and as a group we decided we’d do a “joint testimony” where each of us stood up and honored a specific elder in the church who has influenced and been a Godly example to us. Tears abounded. It was beautiful. I honored one of our senior members who is continually praying, especially for the sick, and visiting them in the hospital. How grateful I am for our elders!
  • Social Media. I, like many of you, tend to have a love/hate relationship with social media most of the time. But this week it has blessed me. Many people have encouraged me through Twitter and Facebook. You’re probably seeing this post right now through one of those social mediums. It really is a gift from God when used properly and for His glory.
  • Snow. Yes, it annoyed me when it kept coming down, but I know our high-&-dry state needed it badly. I’m thankful for increased snowpack that hopefully will keep us wet through the summer. Droughts affect everyone.
  • Children, specifically babies. I love hanging out with my niece and nephew whenever I get the chance. They are hilarious. Also a couple in our church recently (well I guess not so recently, November) had a new baby girl and her mama dresses her so cute every. Single. Weekend. This couple usually sits behind us in church and it’s a joy to hear her little gurgle noises during the sermon. It just sounds like life, you know? And I’m thankful for new life, both physically and spiritually.
This is me with that sweet baby on Easter. She's really not fussy; this was posed. Maybe not really...

This is me with that sweet baby on Easter. She’s really not fussy and I didn’t really panic; this was posed. Maybe not really…

  • Food. Have I mentioned that I love to eat? Some people would argue otherwise because I’m rather skinny (I’ve always been that way…sorry?) and I tend to have a small appetite as far as portions go. BUT that doesn’t stop me from loving good food. I’ve been enjoying Aimee Byrd’s posts at Housewife Theologian as she reads through The Ongoing Feast; so many wonderful themes of feasting with Jesus! I may have to pick that one up. Anyhow, I’m thankful for the common grace of scrumptious food.
This was our first attempt at baked eggs for breakfast. That's a portobello mushroom filled with prosciutto and a baked egg topped with parsley. Actually looked better than it tasted (kind of earthy) but still good. recipe from paleospirit.com

This was our first attempt at baked eggs for breakfast. It’s a portobello mushroom filled with prosciutto and a baked egg topped with parsley. Actually looked better than it tasted (kind of earthy) but still good. Recipe from paleospirit.com

So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone,
and especially to those who are of the household of faith.
Galatians 6:10

What are you thankful for today?

To Kill a Mockingbird: Book Reflection

mockingbird

I believe the last time I read this book was middle school or early in high school. I didn’t retain much except for “something about Boo Radley and a tree.” Not quite the paradigm shifting human dignity message Mrs. Lee was trying to get across. What really prompted me to read it again was Paige Benton Brown’s “In the Temple” message (start listening around 13:00). The context is the cloud of God’s glory in the Old Testament: how it is both revealing and covering who God is and although Israel was His chosen people, they needed to be reminded of His complete holiness. She quotes the portion where Scout is reminded to stand up upon Atticus Finch’s exit from the court room. Paige says of Scout and her father: “He was already her father and she already loved him a lot, but she needed to be reminded of who. He. Was.” Just like the Israelites in the desert and at Sinai. I love this analogy. So I dusted off the book and put it in my “to read” pile.

Since it’s a classic and a favorite of almost everyone I know, I will just give a few of my favorite quotes and themes. I tweeted several of these as I was reading:

Summer was our best season: it was sleeping on the back screened porch in cots, or trying to sleep in the treehouse; summer was everything good to eat; it was a thousand colors in a parched landscape; but most of all, summer was Dill.
-Scout

People in their right minds never take pride in their talents.
-Miss Maudie

It’s not necessary to tell all you know. It’s not ladylike.
-Calpurnia

Real courage is when you know you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what.
-Atticus Finch

I think there’s just one kind of folks. Folks.
-Scout

(On the injustice of Tom Robinson’s conviction): They’ve done it before and they did it tonight and they’ll do it again–seems only the children weep.
-Atticus Finch

And perhaps my favorite quote of all, which occurs several times throughout the book:

It’s not time to worry yet.
-Atticus Finch

That last quote captures the essence of the story because I agree with Miss Brown: this story is ultimately about a little girl’s relationship with her father. Even though she and her brother respect him from the very beginning, their relationship deepens throughout the book. As a father, Atticus is like God in that He sees a bigger picture than his kids. He’s constantly reassuring them, telling them he’ll let them know when it’s “time to worry.” Of course he never actually says this because when danger finally arrives, he’s present to handle it with them. Turns out there is never a time to worry.

If you’ve never read Harper Lee’s classic novel, I don’t know what you’re waiting for. Clicking the picture at the top will take you to Amazon so you can order yourself a copy (and if you order from my website, I get a little tip!) It’s a fantastic read for young and old.

Salvation’s Tense

I was saved, am being saved, will be saved by grace
I was saved before epochs or eras
In The Word who was with God and who was God, I was saved

I was saved by grace 
I was saved by Emmanuel, The Word in sinew, muscle, and skin–and breath
I was saved in a life of obedience culminating on a bloodstained cross
While I was dead in sin, Jesus, Messiah, the only Son of God, died for me; and I was saved

I am being saved by grace
I am being saved as my inner being is daily renovated
I am being saved by walking in and with the Light; The Word’s breath still breathes
And being saved can be so

                                      Painfully

                                                           Slow

 

But I will be saved by grace
I will be saved unto an utterly cleansed nature
I will be saved: wholly and holy
After epochs and eras end, along with creation, I will be saved

I was saved, am being saved, will be saved

By grace

_________________________________

“Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.”
1 John 3:2

Dear Church Kid

Dear Church Kid,

I’m writing you this because I love you and because I relate deeply to your situation. I have to tell you something awful and wonderful that will likely rock your cozy little world:

You are not doing Jesus any favors by pretending you have it all together. You are failing your brothers and sisters in Christ and worse, those outside of Christ, by being a good person. You are actually a bad person, just like the rest of us (see Romans 3:10-11, 23, & Ephesians 2:3).

I know your deep-seated protest: you’re not as bad as “that guy.” I know you consider the Boston Marathon bombing a tragedy and the Kermit Gosnell case an atrocity. I know that if someone asked you if you thought you were better than those guys you would give a nervous laugh and say, “Well, the Bible says we’re all sinners, you know…”

Did you know that you functionally deny the reality of our need for grace in Christ when you put on your church kid mask? As soon as you’ve placed yourself on that ladder of goodness above the Boston Marathon bombers but still below Mother Teresa, you’ve just spat on grace. You are the Pharisee in the parable who prays, “God thank you I’m not like that guy”–even if you tack on “And help me to one day live up to that guy,” that’s not humility. Humility is considering Christ more precious than your good works. Humility is considering Christ to be the only thing worth considering. In Mere Christianity C.S. Lewis said, “True humilty is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less,” and I would add to that: and think of Christ more. The wonderful news is that Christ’s righteousness is enough! You don’t have to work so hard to keep that church kid mask on, you can just admit that you’re not worthy of God or heaven. Jesus’ good work counts as yours!

Church kid, please don’t be like me. Don’t come to church week after week and gather information about how to be better and then apply it and become simultaneously gooder and prouder. If we are living out the principles we learn in God’s word (read: if we are outwardly better than that guy), then we must be all the more vocal about the grace of God in our lives. We must explicitly tell people what Christ has done for us and how, lest they think we were simply “born Christian.” Do what I did not do for my unsaved peers and neighbors: tell them you’ve been saved by grace alone and not by your goodness or your fortunate circumstances of growing up in a Christian home.

Despite your pleasant, suburbian, nuclear-family oriented, even home-schooled upbringing, you do not have a boring testimony. Hear me church kid: your testimony can be one of the most powerful and profound of all. You may be dismayed to hear that your testimony will have to consist of deliverance from self-righteousness. Not as glamorous as drugs and alcohol you say? Think again. Paul’s testimony to the church in Philippi was about his deliverance from his “goodness,” not his “badness.” In Philippians 3:3-6 he lists off his resume of goodness: “circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.” Pretty impressive right? But then he hits you with the kicker:

But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith.
(Phil 3:7-9)

See church kid, your testimony can and must be the same as Paul’s. And it is one of the most breathtakingly miraculous kind there is! Pastor Byron Yawn, in a fantastic articleput it this way:

When a heroin addict repents everyone says, “Well, that makes sense. He really needed Jesus.” When a really good kid from a really good family repents even heroin addicts take notice. When that kid stands in the waters of baptism and declares the Mercy of God in his life, everyone looks a little deeper. If his goodness isn’t good enough then whose is?  (emphasis added)

Allow grace to kill your pride! Living in light of Jesus’ death and resurrection for your sins will free you to be truly humble. And then you’ll be more inclined to tell people about it. And then they’ll see that grace is for ALL PEOPLE. Grace is for the terrorist and the Salvation Army volunteer, for the prostitute and the worship leader, for the drug addict and for your pastor. Of course you know that because you’re a church kid, but I beg you to live it out. And no, I’m not talking about being a “living testimony” or remembering that “you are the only Bible some people will ever read” or “preaching the Gospel at all times and if necessary use words.” I’m talking about using words. Open your mouth and tell them they need grace. Just. Like. You.

Love from one of your own,

Tricia

My baptism at 8 years old with my children's pastor.

My baptism at 8 years old with my children’s pastor.

Post baptism, my senior pastor with the microphone.

Post baptism, my senior pastor with the microphone.

Why We Sing

Song

Some folks may be weirded out or confused about why we insist on singing in church services. It is a rather unique aspect of Christianity and I don’t blame people with little to no exposure to church for questioning why it’s necessary. Some people aren’t particularly musical so why do we “force” these people to sing?

There are tons of reasons why we sing and even more reasons why we structure liturgies the way we do. Each church does it a little different but pretty much every evangelical church has a time for congregational singing. I don’t claim to have insight into every churches’ justification for their liturgy, but I was struck by something this week: a big reason why I sing and a good reason why we sing in church.

We sing about what we love, at least I do anyway. I make up nonsense songs all the time and one of the more frequent subjects of my songs is my dog. Maybe it’s because she doesn’t really understand that I’m admiring her, or maybe it’s because she does, but I will often break out in song when I see her. The songs go something like this:

She’s a girl, she’s a girl

She’s a little Wendy girl

She’s a dog and a girl

She’s a sweeeeet Wendy giiiiiiirl

Brilliant, I know. She usually sits with her head cocked looking at me like I’m crazy. What am I doing in my song? I’m naming her attributes: Girl, little, dog, and sweet were the attributes that spontaneously came to mind to praise. I noticed myself singing a spontaneous song to her the other day which contained the lines:

You’re the only Wendy dooooog!

There’s only one!

Here I was praising her uniqueness. And that’s when it struck me that this is what we’re doing, or what we should be doing, when we sing to God. Because His is infinitely praiseworthy! He has ultimate uniqueness–in fact He is entirely holy (other).

When we sing about God we name His attributes. It should spontaneously bubble out of our hearts to sing about His goodness, His sovereignty, His Trinitarian nature, His justice, His love. We should find ourselves amazed by his uniqueness and sing:

You’re the only God in the universe!

There’s only One!

And then we go a step further to thank and praise God for what He has done, especially in redeeming us through Jesus Christ. See, my Wendy dog hasn’t really done anything for me to speak of. I could perhaps sing:

Wendy, you have licked my face

And your fur is spread far and wide!

But I’m not especially grateful for those things, certainly not enough to sing about it. What God has done in Christ is the greatest gift of all time and causes my heart to spontaneously leap in song!

God, you have freed me from sin

And your grace is spread far and wide!

Furthermore, my impromptu songs to the dog usually conclude with smothering her in cuddles and belly-rubs. I don’t know about your church, but sometimes the end of our songs get a little loud. There’s clapping, shouting, jumping, and arm waving. What in the world are we doing? One way to look at it is an attempt to “smother God” in affection in the same way I conclude my spontaneous love songs to my dog.

Perhaps you think this all very simplistic and maybe even blasphemous to compare singing to my puppy to singing to God. What I’m trying to say is that the heart motivation of our singing is genuine affection. If your heart is not stirred by God in any way, you probably will have a hard time singing in church. If you find yourself weirded out or annoyed by the amount of singing you’re forced to do in church, take stock of your heart and see where your affections lie. Pray that your praise would be directed toward One who is infinitely praiseworthy and then lift up your voice with the saints! He is worthy!

WendySong