I Exist For the Sake of Christ

Jesus Christ “is the center of reality and the reason for its existence.”~~Brennan Manning

Well, good evening. It is Friday, April 18, 2014. Good Friday, in fact. Now, let it be known that I do not believe that Jesus was crucified on Friday. The math doesn’t work. But it’s not one of those “hills to die on.” Therefore, I will commemorate and celebrate with the rest of Christendom on this day that is chosen to remember the crucifixion of Jesus. As B.C. once said, “Good Friday: The only Friday truly worthy of giving thanks to God.” Well, I couldn’t find a copy of that particular comic online, but I found this one.

B.C. on Good Friday
B.C. on Good Friday

In honor of Good Friday, I won’t post any other “holidays” that might be occurring today.

It was a good day today, for the most part. I’m still feeling rather useless at work, due to lack of complete system access. I now have a “domain” and can log onto a desktop, but I won’t be able to get into their SAP system until sometime next week. I’ve finished orientation and all of the required training classes and assessments. I missed a question on one of the assessments. That really disturbed me. đŸ˜€

Christi had a little fun with a scam caller today. Unfortunately, these scam callers, however, draw in a lot of not so lucky people who aren’t wise enough to not do the things that the callers want them to do. This one calls about Microsoft errors on your computer and offers to fix them. The caller was from India (the number said “unknown”) and said his name was Dale Edwards. Mmmmhmmmm. Sure it is.

I discovered something today that was a little disconcerting. I was called upon by my pastor (as part of the Pastoral Assist Team) to participate in a group text where we were to text back our greatest challenge and greatest joy at this point in time. The challenge was easy. The joy was not. Honestly, I’m not feeling terribly joyful right now. I’m not necessarily unhappy. And I’m not feeling like I’m losing faith. But joy, at least for the moment, is lacking. I know all the right answers. “The joy of the Lo-o-o-ord is my strength,” and all that. And yes. It is. But that joy is, while not stolen, quite buried beneath a mound of uncertainty that prevails in our lives. Yes, we know “God’s got this.” We’ve said it, and we will keep saying it. Our faith is still strong. But it is very difficult to dig out from under that mountain right now. I won’t even blame it on the fact that it is Good Friday, when we are supposed to be morose and contemplative as we think about the sacrifice that Jesus made for us. (Personally, I see no reason to be sad on this day. Jesus is risen from the grave. He is NOT being crucified again every year on Good Friday!) Okay, maybe not “morose.” I looked that up, and it means “sullen and ill-tempered.” Anyway. I feel sure that the joy will return to the surface soon, maybe even tomorrow. Who knows? Right now, it’s just not so easy to find.

By the way, my answer in the text was “Hope of future grace.” We are, after all celebrating the resurrection of Christ this weekend, and we have the hope of experiencing the same resurrection one day.

Shoot, I could end this thing right now! But you wouldn’t be that lucky! đŸ˜€

(Source: Christian History Institute)

It was on this date in 1521 that this occurred. Well, the actual event, not the movie of it.

Today’s featured birthday is Leopold Stokowski, born on this date in 1882. He was a British orchestra conductor, one of the premier conductors of the early 20th century. He also appeared in the Disney film, Fantasia. But instead of that, I give you Bugs Bunny’s tribute to “Leopold.”


(From The Divine Hours)

Come, bless the LORD, all you servants of the LORD, who stand by night in the house of the LORD!
Lift up your hands to the holy place and bless the LORD!
May the LORD bless you from Zion, he who made heaven and earth!

Psalm 134
Consider and answer me, O LORD my God; light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death.
Psalm 13:3
O LORD, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me.
But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me.
O Israel, hope in the LORD from this time forth and forevermore.

Psalm 131
They are planted in the house of the LORD; they flourish in the courts of our God.
Psalm 92:13

“How firm a foundation, you saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in his excellent word!
What more can he say than to you he has said,
To you who for refuge to Jesus have fled?
“Fear not, I am with you, O be not dismayed,
For I am your God and will still give you aid;
I’ll strengthen and help you, and cause you to stand
Upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand.
“When through fiery trials your pathways shall lie,
My grace, all sufficient, shall be your supply;
The flame shall not hurt you; I only design
Your dross to consume, and your gold to refine.
“The soul that on Jesus still leans for repose,
I will not, I will not desert it to foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no, never, no, never forsake.”

“Almighty God, who has promised to hear the petitions of
those who ask in your Son’s Name: I beseech you mercifully
to incline your ear to me who have made my prayers and
supplications to you; and grant that those things which
I have faithfully asked according to your will, I may
effectually obtain, to the relief of my necessity, and
to the setting forth of your glory;
through Jesus Christ my Lord. Amen.”

I will extol you, O LORD, for you have drawn me up and have not let my foes rejoice over me.
O LORD my God, I cried to you for help, and you have healed me.
O LORD, you have brought up my soul from Sheol; you restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit.
Sing praises to the LORD, O you his saints, and give thanks to his holy name.
For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.
As for me, I said in my prosperity, “I shall never be moved.”
By your favor, O LORD, you made my mountain stand strong; you hid your face; I was dismayed.
To you, O LORD, I cry, and to the Lord I plead for mercy:
“What profit is there in my death, if I go down to the pit? Will the dust praise you? Will it tell of your faithfulness?
Hear, O LORD, and be merciful to me! O LORD, be my helper!”
You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness,
that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks to you forever!

Psalm 30
He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the LORD has spoken.
Isaiah 25:8

Then he released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, delivered him to be crucified.
Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole battalion before him. And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” And they spit on him and took the reed and struck him on the head. And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him and led him away to crucify him.
As they went out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name. They compelled this man to carry his cross. And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull), they offered him wine to drink, mixed with gall, but when he tasted it, he would not drink it. And when they had crucified him, they divided his garments among them by casting lots. Then they sat down and kept watch over him there. And over his head they put the charge against him, which read, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.” Then two robbers were crucified with him, one on the right and one on the left. And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads and saying, “You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” So also the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked him, saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him. For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.'” And the robbers who were crucified with him also reviled him in the same way.
Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” And some of the bystanders, hearing it, said, “This man is calling Elijah.” And one of them at once ran and took a sponge, filled it with sour wine, and put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink. But the others said, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.” And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit.

Matthew 27:26-50

Today’s reading in Reflections for Ragamuffins is “In Christ.”

This is just more than Paul’s normal way of signing a letter. “It was the meaning of time, the focal point of history; it contained the explanation of the universe.” Yes, it is true that God loves us, but he only loves us “in Christ.” We can only return that love through Christ. If you think you love God, and you don’t believe in Jesus, you don’t really love God. Those are harsh words, I know, but it is the truth. Jesus Christ “is the center of reality and the reason for its existence.” For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. (Colossians 1:16)

Why am I here? Why am I walking around on this planet? The answer is, for the sake of Christ. The angels must answer the same way: “We exist for the sake of Christ.” If the entire creation suddenly became articulate and began to cry out, it would cry out with the same words: “We exist for the sake of Christ!”

“He is the way, the truth, the life, the parable of the Father unraveling the riddle of existence.”

For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell.
Colossians 1:19

Father, I thank you. At this point, today, I cannot say much else. I exist for the sake of Christ. I praise you for the sacrifice that we remember on this day. The truth of the Gospel, that Jesus Christ left heaven, came to earth, died for our sins, and was resurrected on the third day, is the truth that should be resounding from the Church around the world. Instead, the Church is floundering around, crying about things like gay marriage and abortion. We should be preaching the Gospel, and nothing else. This is not “sin management!” This is about Jesus Christ bringing your kingdom to earth and giving us a place in that kingdom as adopted children! Oh, if we could all only realize this and begin to live this “kingdom life!” Well, I guess I could say more, after all. Thank you, Father, for giving me a place in your kingdom, in Christ. Now, give me the strength and power, through the Holy Spirit, to live in this kingdom. And let your kingdom come on earth, as it is in heaven. Let your will be done, on earth, as it is in heaven. Do with me as you will, I am your servant.

I pray for what is left of this day. I thank you for a good day at work. I thank you that Christi was able to fend off that scam caller. I pray that a job is forthcoming for her, soon. But we will continue to hope and trust that you have this under control. Your grace is sufficient. I thank you that Stephanie is serious about her health, and has already worked out three times today!

I pray for the Hernandez family as they celebrate Marty’s life tomorrow.

Marty and Lesia Hernandez, by Christi Bickley
Marty and Lesia Hernandez, by Christi Bickley

May we truly worship you tomorrow evening, as we celebrate the resurrection of your Son, our Savior.

Grace and peace, friends.

Disappointment and the Sovereignty of God

Good morning. Today is Thursday, April 18, 2013. And two days after the tragic bombings in Boston, a fertilizer plant exploded in the small town of West, Texas. Which is in south Texas. *scratches head* Anyway, they still aren’t sure how many people have been killed by the explosion and are estimating anywhere from five to fifteen. Last I heard, almost 200 are in the hospital with injuries, and several buildings are/were on fire. We’ve had overnight rain and storms, so rescue efforts are being impeded by the weather. Our prayers are definitely going up for everyone affected by this disaster.

I guess this “less salt” diet is working. Last night my BP checked at 126/78. It was back up to 142/72 this morning, but it seems to be higher in the morning, for some reason. That’s the opposite of what I would have thought, but what do I know? I guess I’ll be looking for some kind of salt substitute at the store this weekend. Bleah.

We got to the gym last night again, where I did my usual elliptical workout for 45 minutes and allegedly burned 560 calories.

Today is “International Juggler’s Day.” I like that, because, in just over a week, we will be going to the Scarborough Renaissance Festival, where we will see Cale the Juggler perform! Huzzah!! Check him out here! (Unless you don’t have a Facebook account, in which case, you probably won’t see anything except a Facebook signup page.)

(From Great Stories from History for Every Day)
It was on this date in 1521, in the “Diet of Worms,” that Martin Luther stood before the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V (only 21 years old at the time), and uttered those famous words, “Hier stehe ich. Ich Kann nicht anders.”

Here I stand. I can do no other.

Luther was condemned for defying the “true church” and preaching “heresy.” He would not back down as the “true church” had become so corrupt as to hardly be recognizable. The Emperor had promised him safe conduct, so did not have him seized. Luther spent the rest of his 25 years preaching that “heresy.” It should be duly noted that Martin Luther had no desire to start a new “church.” He simply wanted to reform the one that was already in existence.

I found this video clip from a 2003 movie, with Joseph Fiennes playing Luther. I think this was done very well.

Today’s birthday is Leopold Stokowski, born on this date in 1882. Stokowski was a famous orchestra conductor. He was also the subject of this cartoon.

Honorable mentions to Lucrezia Borgia, 1480, Duffy Lewis, 1888, Joy Gresham Lewis, 1915, James Woods, 1947, Jeff Dunham, 1962.

Today’s Devotional

Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker! For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. Psalm 95:6-7
So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom. Psalm 90:12
I love you, O LORD, my strength. The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies. Psalm 18:1-3

Father, I pray that you show me a vision of you during this devotional time, that I might have inspiration to live this day looking to you in all circumstances that come my way.

In Touch magazine: “When We Feel Disappointed”

. . . so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:17-19

We are quick to quote Romans 8:28 to others when they experience disappointments. A lot of people know this verse by heart (even though the majority tend to leave off the second half): And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. One reason I like the ESV (quoted here) so much is that the verse is rearranged so you can’t omit the part about “for those who love God,” which is a condition to the promise. Anyway, like I said, we are quick to quote that verse to others when they have disappointments, or even failures, in their lives. But are we as good at applying this concept to our own lives? “Do we have faith that God is engineering our circumstances–no matter how uncomfortable they may be–for our ultimate benefit?” I believe that Jesus is the Messiah, and that he will return to earth. I believe that my salvation is by grace alone. But what happens when some big disappointment comes along in my life? Do I start crying out, “O God! Where are you? Why is this happening to ME??” These disappointments don’t mean God doesn’t love me! They don’t mean that he has stopped paying attention to me, either, or that he has, even for the briefest of times, abandoned me. I must remind myself of the truth of Romans 8:28, and then focus on the verse at the top of this passage, and KNOW that, even in disappointment, God is with me. Remember . . . God is not surprised or disappointed at anything, because he is omniscient (all-knowing). There is nothing that I can do that will surprise him. And it has recently been brought to my attention that, since he doesn’t have any false expectations of me, I can’t disappoint him, either. Now there’s something to chew on!

Father, as I prepare myself to face this day, I recognize that there have been disappointments in my life, some of them bitter. But you have always been there, directing the course of my life, and fulfilling the truth of Romans 8:28. I confess that there have been times when I mistakenly thought that you had abandoned me/us. Emphasis on the word “mistakenly.” I know that you are there, always. I also know that you are engineering my circumstances for my ultimate benefit. But perhaps the most shocking revelation of all is that you aren’t even disappointed in me. My feeble brain cannot fathom this. It makes logical sense, considering your sovereignty, and all. But I never really contemplated it, logically. I just always assumed that, when I sin, you are disappointed. But to be disappointed implies surprise, doesn’t it? And there is nothing that I can do that can surprise you. I have to meditate on this some more.

I am also glad to be reminded of the passage in Ephesians 3, which I have added to my daily prayer regimen that I pray for the friends that you put in front of me each day. I pray that all of my brothers and sisters in Christ will be rooted and grounded in your perfect love, that love which casts out fear, and that we may all be able to comprehend (hah!) the breadth and length and height and depth of the love of Jesus Christ, and to know his love, that love which surpasses knowledge. But how can I “know” something that “surpasses knowledge??” May you fill us with your fullness, Lord!

I pray your blessings on this day ahead. Keep Christi safe as she drives to work in the rain. I pray that our work day will be anxiety free, as you give us the strength and wisdom to meet any challenges head-on, by the power of your Spirit. The more I go on with you, the more I know that nothing comes my way without your permission. Let me be aware of that when I’m in the midst of circumstances that would distract me from the ultimate goal of knowing you. I pray for opportunities that may be coming.

I lift up a prayer for the people in West, Texas, who have been tragically affected by the explosion. I pray for rescue efforts to be successful, and the people will have hope and comfort from you through this. May your Church rise up and be the relief and comfort that we should be.

Your grace is sufficient.

God is sovereign. We cannot surprise him, therefore, we cannot disappoint him, either. Ponder that for a while today.

Grace and peace, friends.