Advent at the Chapel: A Show of Inexorable Love

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“God has paid us the intolerable compliment of loving us,
in the deepest, most tragic, most inexorable sense.”

~C.S. Lewis

 

The preparation for Christmas begins long before the season of Advent: it is part of my daily bread, feeding me when I am empty, illuminating this world of darkness we all inhabit.

The Lord in heaven and the Son who comes to earth shows me relentless, unstoppable, inescapable, inevitable, unavoidable, irrevocable, unalterable, unceasing love.

It has always been, is now, and always will be an intolerable compliment as nothing I have done warrants such a gift.

I’m discovering what it means to slow down and rest in Him by accepting and receiving  such a gift of grace.  I need inexorability too –nonstop and continuously through the Holy Spirit– in my own expressions of gratitude, forgiveness, and loving.

Never ending and unrelenting —
not just one day out of the year,
not just one month of Advent,
not just one year of my life,
but every single day I live and breathe,
I gratefully say:
Thank you, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
for coming to dwell among us bringing Light to the darkness.

~Emily Gibson

 

 

 

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Chapel Thanksgivings: Wonder of Wonders

shared by Cutzi Jobes

 

From “The Magician’s Nephew” by CS Lewis
“But please, please – won’t you – can’t you give me something that will cure Mother?”
Up till then he had been looking at the Lion’s great feet and the huge claws on them; now, in his despair, he looked up at its face. What he saw surprised him as much as anything in his whole life. For the tawny face was bent down near his own and (wonder of wonders) great shining tears stood in the Lion’s eyes. They were such big, bright tears compared with Digory’s own that for a moment he felt as if the Lion must really be sorrier about his mother than he was himself.

The True King

Why do the nations rage,
And the people plot a vain thing?
2 The kings of the earth set themselves,
And the rulers take counsel together,
Against the LORD and against His Anointed, saying,
3 “Let us break Their bonds in pieces
And cast away Their cords from us.

9 You shall break them with a rod of iron;
You shall dash them to pieces like a potter’s vessel.”
Psalm 2: 1-3, 9

For when one man sinned, all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. So it has always been, whether one person or entire nations and/or their rulers. The whole of human history has been a story of obedience or rebellion to God’s rule in their lives. Over and over we are given stories of good kings and rebellious kings in the Old Testament. They believed God and obeyed and lived and prospered or they rebelled and died. Nothing has changed, we still have nations and rulers today.

Every king or ruler of any nation should consider the entire 38th chapter of Job to see if he measures up to its standard of rule and power:

 “Have you journeyed to the springs of the sea
    or walked in the recesses of the deep?
17 Have the gates of death been shown to you?
    Have you seen the gates of the deepest darkness?
18 Have you comprehended the vast expanses of the earth?
    Tell me, if you know all this.

Finding themselves far short they should throw themselves on God’s mercies and ask for wisdom and humility to rule with the authority given to them by Him.

If any king uses his power to enjoy the oppression of his people, grasping for power of life or death; then like Hitler, Pol Pot, Stalin, Napoleon, Genghis Khan and countless others, “Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.”

And after that comes judgement.

What is the desire of a king? What does he desire to hear? He will live a life and give himself two choices in the end: “Well done, good and faithful servant,” or, “Depart from me, I never knew you.”?

In either scenario all kings and nations will bow to the True King.
“The King’s under the law, for it’s the law makes him a king…For this is what it means to be a king: to be first in every desperate attack and last in every desperate retreat, and when there’s hunger in the land (as must be now and then in bad years) to wear finer clothes and laugh louder over a scantier meal than any man in your land.”

The Chronicles of Narnia, The Horse and His Boy, by C. S. Lewis

Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter now into your Master’s rest.
~Chris Lovegren

The Cross of Jesus

When asked if I would like to do a second topic for the Lenten meditations I decided I would not…..until the next morning’s reading in my devotions and the insight I believe the Lord gave to me from it. Then I knew that, yes, I must, and address the next topic which was “the cross.”

The passage given me was John 13:34-35 where the basic message is that Jesus’ love is love that takes upon itself the cross that is love that is for us as we are.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s devotional, “God is on the Cross,” says “Even today I can believe the love of God and forgive my enemies only by going back to the cross of Christ, to the carrying out of the wrath of God. The cross of Jesus is valid for all.”

If I’m forgiven, then how can I not forgive someone else? I have long felt the weight of that fact!

But, it was a passage in Luke 23:26 that I read that morning that prompted me to write this today. The passage says: “And when they led Him away, they laid hold of Simon of Cyrene, coming in from the country, and placed on him the cross to carry behind Jesus.”

I was stopped in my tracks as the passage jumped off the page to me, a passage that I have read hundreds, perhaps thousands, of times in my lifetime but didn’t spend much time thinking about.

This time, I heard someone asking:

“What cross has been placed on YOU?”

I thought of the many passages where Jesus told His disciples; “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me,” such as in Matt. 16:24 or Matt. 10:38.

For some, “the cross” is cancer. It could be a rebellious child, a spouse that abandons the marriage or is hard to live with, a regular struggle to retain what is studied for a test at school, a fruitless job, depression; you fill in the blank with your cross.

I believe the book of James even teaches that our “crosses” (trials) WHEN they come (not IF they come) are custom-made for us individually, but that’s another meditation for another day.

What struck me is this GOOD NEWS!

“While I may be compelled to carry a cross in my life………I will never be NAILED to it.”

Jesus DID THAT for ME!
~Lee Mielke

Forgotten Mercies

21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”  Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.  Matthew 18:21-22

In answering Peter’s question about forgiveness, Jesus tells a story to illustrate the truth he wants the Disciple, and us, to understand in his brief response, “not 7 but 70 times.”

He tells of a servant, who owes his King an enormous debt, pleading with his Sovereign to give him time and he will repay the debt. Knowing that such is impossible the King in an act of great mercy forgives the debt.

Now one would think this was such an overwhelming and undeserved act of mercy by the King the servant in like manner would extend mercy to any and all who might in any way be indebted to him. Not! The first person he sees who owes him a few dollars he has him tossed into prison, even though he cries for mercy.

It was a case of forgotten mercies. He forgot, as one writer puts it, “our first task is not to forgive but to but to learn to be forgiven.” This is just what the servant in the story failed to do, and Peter was inadvertently speaking to this truth in his question to Jesus.  Jesus made Peter face this truth in his reply.   What Jesus tells Peter is, “There is no need to ask that question if you know the Father’s forgiveness, there is no number.” Peter lost sight of God’s forgiving  mercy and grace.

Every time you and I fail to be forgiving we have lost sight of the Cross, we have forgotten God’s great mercy and love in Christ Jesus, the sent Son, Savior and Lord. “To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a Kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father — to him be glory and power for ever and ever Amen.”

To be a Christian C.S. Lewis wrote, “means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in us.”  And how can we do that? Lewis gives us the answer in these words, “Only, I think, by remembering where we stand by meaning our words when we say in our prayers each night, ‘forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors,” clearly remembering, we sinners are not forgiven because we repent but because Christ made good for us.  Forget not his mercies.

~Pastor Jack Matheis

Be Hatched

It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad.
C.S.Lewis

There is certain comfort in incubating in the nest, snuggled warm under a fluffy breast, satisfied with the status quo. I tend toward perpetual nesting myself, preferring home to travel, too easily contented with the familiar rather than stretching into uncharted territory.

But eventually the unhatched egg gets the boot, even by its parents. When there are no signs of life, no twitches and wiggles and movement inside, it is doomed to rot. And we all know nothing is worse than a rotten egg. Nothing.

So we must chip away and crack open our comfy shell, leaving the fragments behind. Feeble, weak and totally dependent on the grace of others to feed and protect us, we are freed of the confinement of the sterility of the commonplace and loosed upon an unsuspecting world.

Eventually we will fly, the wind under our wings.

~E. Gibson

The Invitation

When he takes it all away, will we love him more than things, more than health, more than family, and more than life? That’s the question. That’s the warning. That’s the wonderful invitation.
John Piper in “I Was Warned By Job This Morning”

The warning of the Book of Job is that it could happen to us too–everything we have strived for, cared about, loved and valued taken away. If we are stripped bare naked, nothing left but our love for God and His sovereign power over our lives, will we still worship His Name, inhale His Word like air itself, submit ourselves to His plan over our plan?

I know I fall far short of the mark. It takes only small obstacles or losses to trip me up so I stagger in my faith, trying futilely to not lose my balance, falling flat-faced and immobilized.

When I’ve seen people lose almost everything, either in a disaster, or an accident, or devastating illness, I’ve looked hard at myself and asked if I could sustain such loss in my life and still turn myself over to the will of God.

I would surely plead for reprieve and ask the horribly desperate question, “why me?”, girding myself for the response: “and why not you?”

The invitation, scary and radical as it is, is from God straight to my heart, asking that I trust His plan for my life and death, no matter what happens, no matter how much suffering, no matter how much, like Christ in the garden, I plead that it work out differently, more my own choosing that it not hurt so much.

The invitation to His plan for my life has been written, personally carried to me by His Son, and lies ready in my hands, although it has remained untouched for years. It is now up to me to open it, read it carefully, and with deep gratitude that I am even included, respond with an RSVP that says emphatically, “I’ll be there! Nothing could keep me away.”

Or I could leave it untouched, fearing it is too scary to open. Or even toss it away altogether, thinking it really wasn’t meant for me.

Even if, in my heart, I knew it was.

~E. Gibson

There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done.’ C. S. Lewis