April 23, 2014

Brew Tea. Minister to People.

I loved my older-mentor friend Kelly the day I walked into her kitchen and she offered me a cup of tea. She pulled out this tin from her cupboard overflowing with a dozen of different options to choose from. Coffee gives my heart those pitter-patter, joyful feelings just the same. Tea and coffee are a love language... the one that Dr. Chapman mistakenly left out of his famous book. 

Sometimes we over think what ministering and loving on others has to look like. We get stuck into thinking it has to look a certain way or that it has to have a program format and flow to it. Great things have come from ministry programs; I think we should keep many of them going. 

But sometimes we just need a warm cup of tea people, and to be present with another human. Nothing more. 

Microwaving tea is totally sacrilegious and scandalous. Tea ought to be brewed in a kettle on the stove. Not really because it makes it taste better--what am I saying? Of course it tastes better that way--but because brewing a pot of tea forces you to linger. It teaches you how to sit and just be.

I get so caught up in doing at times. For weeks that's been my life. Mainly because I'm a Senior and I'll be student teaching in the fall, so this was like dead-line season for practically everything I need to graduate in December. I have not been ministering to others well during this time. I have not let others minister me well either. Socializing has been paltry. Yesterday was my last day: I turned in major projects, hundreds of pages long added up collectively, and I sighed some relief, because there's been a lot of tears shed and hours of sleep lost. (And if I have to hear another person rant and complain about teachers not working as hard as everybody else... just don't even go there...)

You know what I need? Tea. Good company and conversation. I just need to be, and I think so do you. Three small acts, and nearly at no financial cost, but a possibly enormous opportunity to minister to one another. Some of the most life-changing moments in my life have happened at a table across from someone else, with a mug of steamy goodness--nothing more, nothing less, and nothing fancy.

Sometime this week, let's do that. Whether it's you allowing someone else to minister to your heart and soul, or you providing the space for another to be ministered to. Keep it simple: Brew tea. Minister.

April 20, 2014

In Him--Newness of Life!

...it was a great work of power to raise Jesus from the dead. But it was more than a miracle of power, for all the attributes of God united their glory in the resurrection of Christ. God's love came there, and opened those closed eyes; his delight bejewelled those deadly wounds; his wisdom set in motion that pierced heart. Divine justice claimed his loosing from the grave, and mercy smiled as she lit up his face with an immortal smile. There and then did Jehovah make all his glory to pass before us, and he proclaimed the name of the Lord. If you ask where God's glory most is seen, I will not point to creation, nor to providence, but to the raising of Jesus from the dead... In his resurrection the glory of God was laid bare. The veil which concealed the sacred presence was rent from top to bottom; and the glory of the Lord was seen in the resurrection of Christ from the dead. ~C.H. Spurgeon

April 18, 2014

Christ's Purpose & Promise Paid in Full

Without Christ the holiness of God had to be protected from us. He would have been dishonored, and we would have been consumed because of our sin. But now, because of Christ, we may come near and feast our hearts on the fullness of the flaming beauty of God's holiness. He will not be dishonored. We will not be consumed. Because of the all-protecting Christ, God will be honored and we will stand in everlasting awe. Therefore, do not fear to come. But come through Christ. ~John Piper
After Moses had lead God's people out of Egypt, he was commanded by God, on Mt. Sinai, to build a mobile tent where worship would take place. The home of the tabernacle. Later a temple made of stone would replace the tent sheets. But, God's presence was pleased to dwell in the special place called the Holy of Holies within this house of worship. A curtain was hung to section off this dwelling place of the Lord, this room; 60 feet in height, 4 inches in tapestry thickness. A curtain was hung to protect the people from God, for God is Holy, Holy, Holy, and we harbor sin separating us from Him wholly.

There came that appointed time in history though: Christ took on flesh, was born, breathed air through his lungs, ran with laughing children, discipled men, cared for women... lived as a human, though being fully God at the same time. His Father's presence dwelled in the Holy of Holies, a place we could not enter, but here, here with Christ, we could know Him, touch Him, hear Him. Christ came, because we would never be able to fully know the Father without first knowing him, Jesus, Son of God. This was the purpose he lived for while he walked among us. And it's the promise he came to fulfill.

Outside of Jerusalem the ugly, gory death of Christ was taking place. The final sacrifice being made. Christ's blood shed on a gnarly, wooden cross, and God above poured the wrath we rightly deserved on His perfect son. All this was happening outside of the city. Then Christ breathed his last. 
And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many. When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, "Truly this was the Son of God!" ~Matthew 27:51-54
When I place myself in the story, I wonder if I'd be like the women who sat near the foot of the cross (no doubt having their hearts wrenched out of their chest cavities), because there's a part of me that would've preferred to have been in the temple that day while the priest was making the yearly sacrifice (who no doubt was oblivious that it was already taking place outside the city's walls). To have seen that massive curtain torn into two. The protection gone, because it was no longer needed. Jesus Christ makes for better protection than a piece of fabric regardless of how strongly it was weaved. 

Good Friday, is the day we Christians often take to reflect upon these truths. The price paid in full. The curtain is gone. The utter freedom in our relationship with God. Let's revel in it to the fullest.

April 16, 2014

The New Covenant

And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, "This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood..." ~Luke 22:20 NASB
Despite the fact that an average American wedding now roughly amounts to a whopping, heart-attack inducing twenty-five grand, back in the day, God's people--the Israelites--really knew how to throw a wedding bash. Our weddings look rather small and undramatic compared to theirs.

In the Jewish culture there was a 3-4 step process to become married: pledging, betrothal, ceremony, consummation. Pledging was the groom gifting the bride and her family with money; the buying of the right and the opportunity to propose to the girl. This was completely the opposite of other middle-eastern cultures and countries, where it was the bride's family who was expected to pay a dowry to the groom. Israel didn't roll that way. Instead Israel, quite beautifully I think, reflected God's order and heart in having the groom pursue the bride. A reflection and reminder to honor, cherish, and treasure God's daughters (not sell them off to men like property).

Betrothal, a twofold process, then marked the point of the couple's binding commitment to one another: First, it was a promise, the creating of a covenant, and vowing to keep it. The groom would pour a glass of wine, drink from it, then put it before his bride, who would either reject his proposal, or drink from it herself, signifying her acceptance. It was the initiation of their marriage covenant.

Throughout all of scripture Christ is called our heavenly bridegroom; the lover and husband of our souls. We are his individually as sons and daughters, and collectively as the church, the bride of Christ. And on the evening before his death he proposed to us. He gathered his disciples, his followers, together and they shared a meal. Jesus reached for a cup, poured the wine, drank, then gave it to those with Him, initiating the new covenant.

To this day, in church and in fellowship with our brothers and sisters in Christ, we partake of communion. We echo as well as respond to that covenant--the betrothal--we've entered into in our relationship with Christ.

Remember how I said betrothal was twofold? First came the promise, but then came the preparation. After the two drank the wine they would part ways for a period of time: She'd go back home to wait, and he would go back home to begin building a room off of his father's house as their new home. It was only until his dad checked all the boxes off the home inspection could the groom go get his girl. She had no clue when or what day it would occur, and the only means of communication with one another was usually through a male friend of the groom (the best man essentially) who'd run messages back and forth between the two.

Finally, when the home was done and approved, the groom would gather up his boys, they'd run to his bride's home, and blow these trumpet-like instruments, shofars, to announce the groom's coming and the start of the wedding. Everybody would party it up like crazy for days. Note the plural there: Days! The couple would have the ceremony, and finally to seal the marriage, the groom would take his bride back to their new home where they'd consummate their relationship. (And simultaneously, enact the threshold covenant as well, hence the tradition of carrying the bride over the threshold... fun fact for you.)

We, the bride of Christ, are still in that season of waiting while Jesus is preparing a place, a home for us...
And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. ~John 14:3 ESV
It's a promise we hold onto until Christ returns for His bride, us, in splendor as told to us in the book of Revelation. Then we too will hear the shouts and trumpeting of His coming, our heavenly Bridegroom. And at last, the marriage supper of the Lamb will take place.

Until then, we have His best man with us in our waiting this side of heaven that He has sent us: the Holy Spirit (see Luke 24:49 and John 14:26).

April 14, 2014

Extravagant Love

Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table. Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. ~John 12:1-3
If there's a woman in scripture I'm jealous of it would be Mary, because she gets it. Like she genuinely, with her whole heart gets Jesus. Even more than Christ's band of brothers, the disciples, ironically enough.

At this time in history only four people were anointed: kings, prophets, priests, and the deceased. And how perfectly did Christ fit all of these? He is the King of Kings, our great High Priest, THE prophet, and the shadow of the cross, of His coming death is casting itself at this dinner party to honor Jesus. And Mary knows this.

There's something about this moment though for our girl Mary here. It's here that she is so overcome by her love for Christ, her Savior, that she takes the most extravagant, costly, valuable thing she owns, breaks it before Jesus feet, and pours it all out upon Him. A significant, tangible way to express this generous, precious kind of love for Him. This was the love He'd shown her, which beget the same love from her to Him. Love begets what it sows. None of that oil would be left when she was finished, because true love gives it all to the recipient.

To the onlookers this was a ridiculous display of oneself. For Judas it was impractical, illogical, and wasteful. But God's view of what is practical and logical is always seemingly different than our own. And nothing, nothing poured out for Christ goes to waste. It was ridiculous by all Jewish traditional accounts, for this was an act only servant preformed. And it most certainly would've been seen as inappropriate at this time, because only promiscuous women would've let their hair down. It's an uncomfortable scene for these onlookers because of it's sensual undertone really. (Perhaps there's a great deal to be said here in regards to feminine sensuality... but I'll save that for another time.)

Two things: Jesus wasn't uncomfortable with this extravagant, truly female and emotional, act of worship on Mary's part. In fact he says that it is wonderful. And Mary, so secure in her love and acceptance in Christ, no longer cares what the cost is or what others may think or say about her. She's free in her love for Jesus. 

During this passion week I want to reflect and think on how I can be more extravagant in my love for Christ, as he has been above and beyond extravagant in his love for me. And in turn how am I showcasing that to others? With fear with what onlookers may think? Or in abandoned freedom? Maybe you'll join me in asking the same questions.
I want to be more of a person that would do things that are inappropriate to other people for the sake of it being appropriate to Jesus. ~Amena Brown Owen