This is the sign

Years ago I lost a contact in a swimming pool.

Something was in my eye after trying to adjust my swim mask and I unintentionally popped that sucker right out into a massive community pool. 

The contact lens was tinted blue.

It was our neighborhood pool, a couple of blocks from our home and the contact was a semi-rigid gas permeable—meaning it was a “hard” lens and neither disposable nor cheap.

Panicked I sopped home with two small kids in tow, so discouraged and undone.

When I relayed the story to my husband, he did not show the same dismay I did or become undone at the idea of a couple hundred dollars for a new pair.

“I’ll find it,” he said confidently, matter-of-factly. 

I laughed when he asked for my swimming mask and took off in his swim trunks.

Less than half an hour later, he appeared with a wide grin and my lens carefully cradled in his cupped hand.

I was astounded.

I have worn contacts since I was 11 and lost only a few over the years because my eyesight is terrible and they are of great value to me.

I cannot see without them and I do not do well with glasses. They are a necessity and it is for this reason I shy away from water activities of almost any kind. Certainly I enjoy them—trips to the lake, the pool, the beach are all things I look forward to but do not ever feel fully immersed in (pun intended).

As JP and Luke continue the series on Jonah on Sunday mornings my thoughts keep turning to the sea, the wild sea with the great wind hurled upon it by the LORD himself. The all caps LORD hurled the wind when Jonah promptly went the opposite direction that God told him to go.

A short-sighted move no doubt.

Even when I am in a swimming pool, I always feel short-sighted and a slight unease. 

Perhaps it is the inherent danger of the water and the fact a life can end there in mere moments. Perhaps it is my struggle with my vision. If I want to fully enjoy the water, I have to remove my contacts for fear of losing them. If I remove them, I can see only what is just in front of me. If I leave them in to preserve my vision, I am constantly making sure I don’t get splashed in the face or dunked under.

Regardless I worry.

I am also known to let wild imaginings get the better of me and as a child in the Jaws era, it always feels like something large is approaching from beneath. 

When I imagine Jonah being hurled out of that boat, I wonder did he feel, did he sense the approach of that massive creature? A fish large enough to swallow a grown man whole had to be felt. Yes the great wind had brought upon a mighty tempest and threatened to break a ship, but once Jonah was in the water, the sea ceased to rage.

To be in that stilled water, watching the ship sail onto safety and feel that approach makes me wonder how long Jonah was in the water before the creature enveloped his body.

Most of my tastes run towards what Flannery O’Connor calls the comic and the terrible and the book of Jonah so distinctly walks this line.

Jonah softened while inside the animal and prayed again to God, crying out and admitting that salvation belongs to the LORD.

Then he was vomited—vomited and once again commanded to go to Nineveh. 

I picture the kind of sulky obedience I get when a child is in no uncertain terms to clean their room after dishonesty and resistance on the subject. I can almost see Jonah’s slumped shoulders on his final trek into Nineveh to deliver the mere eight word sermon in the center of the city:


On Sunday Luke talked about our emotions and the role they play in our lives. They have value and they have their place, but ours emotions must fall before God’s commands. Where there is certainty, clarity with God’s directives, there is uncertainty, blurred vision when our emotions rule.

Jonah was angry that God would save a wicked, foul, foreign people who could compromise the integrity of God’s plan. Jonah’s vision was distorted by his own skewed view—did he lose his lens in those storm-tossed waters? He could not see all that God was going to do. 

God is making all things new and Jonah and his emotions, thankfully, do not have the final say.

I nearly laughed out loud on Sunday morning as I read again Jonah’s prayer immediately following the repentance and salvation of the Ninevites.

It is a comedy of the absurd, the irrational and emotional. The eight word sermon of Jonah’s has rescued 120,000 people who were perishing in sin and Jonah’s prayer is I knew it! I knew you would do this and be gracious and now I just want to die.

That same merciful and gracious and steadfast loving God just simply replies with a kind of modern day and how’s that emotion working out for you? 

Like JP said last week, God uses broken and sinful people. He uses any of us, all of us, no matter where we have been.

As I look around our sanctuary, my home, Georgia 400, the grocery store, my street, I think God uses broken and sinful people because that is the only kind of people there are in the world.

It is truly grace upon grace upon grace as we faltering, flailing, disobedient prodigals decide that we know better than that same great, gracious God who is waiting with steadfast love to use us for his purposes. 

If this prophet of God is unwilling to go where the God (that he professes to fear) tells him to go, how can I, the weak-willed wife and mom of five, accomplish that which I am being called to do?

A few summers ago I had the words “talitha cumi” tattooed on my wrist.

The story of Jesus taking Jairus’ daughter by the hand and calling her back from the dead with those Aramaic words that mean “little girl arise” brought great comfort to me. Knowing that I too have been called by Jesus back from the dead and that one day He will call me again when this earthly body fades away is my daily reassurance. 

As I read the book of Jonah over and again this week I can’t ignore the call from God to Jonah that begins with “arise.” 

Though Jonah directly ignores the imperative, God is gracious in His pursuit.

The pagan sailors also command Jonah with the same word arise, asking Jonah to call out to his God. (And those same pagan sailors would also come to call upon the all caps LORD.)

After his attempted flight to Tarshish God again speaks to Jonah, beginning with arise.

Arise, go to Ninevah.

Arise, call out to your God.

Arise, go to Ninevah. 

There is no doubt that Jonah’s calling is my very own. 

It is the same calling for all of us who believe.

Many a time I have operated in direct disobedience and many times I have been angry and slump shouldered and certain that my way was the better way.

When my only clarity, my only vision has been lost like a contact in the depths of a pool full of emotions, I have not been relinquished. When I have let my emotions rule the moment instead of the commands of God, He has quietly and calmly asked how’s that working out for you?

And in Matthew when the scribe and Pharisees ask Jesus for a sign, he points to this disobedient and prodigal prophet. 

“An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.” 

This is the sign!

This story, like all of those before and all of those after, like the list of the faithful in Hebrews, will point not to the worthy and faithful person or the disobedient prophet but instead to the gracious God who is merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love relenting from disaster.

For what is impossible for men is most certainly possible with God. 

When Jesus went into the earth for three days and nights, victory seemed impossible. 

Rescue seemed lost in a wild and raging sea of sin.

Yet, all was not lost. 

Death was stilled.

Jesus arose and in that return from the depths, ours was also made possible.

Jonah accomplished his purpose not because he got his head on straight, but because God took him under and then brought him back to life.

God gave him those eight words and God rescued those 120,000 souls. 

Let us trust not our own limited vision but that of the God who saves. 

“The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.”

Matthew 12:41


go-for-broke rescue mission

Connie looked at me across the conveyor belt in her checkout line at the Mart.

Find everything you needed?

Staring at the ombre plastic eggs, nerf gun, and gummy bunnies, I thought there is no way.

I smiled and told her I think something’s gotten lost, something’s missing.

When she realizes I mean more than an item missing from my cart, she eyes the Easter cards with scripture on the front and says they are great. 

She tells me she believes.

I tell her I think I want to find a new way to really celebrate what’s going on and she heartily agrees. She continues:

It’s great that He was born and all, but what He did at Easter? Without that…

She trails off.

There’d be nothing, I reply.

Again she agrees eagerly and we both begin to tear up. 

She grabs my hand and grins and tells me it’s a blessing. 

Nodding and sniffling myself together, I leave and turn over in my mind how we are so easily distracted, so easily moved. How we miss it.

We miss Him.Seder 2

The Tuesday morning Bible study I am in has been covering the book of Matthew. I had marveled as Jesus spelled out for his disciples, repeatedly, that he would be killed. They barely respond, if at all.

He told them in chapter 16 he would suffer at the hands of elders and chief priests and teachers. He said he would be killed and then raised again.

In chapter 17 He told them again he will be killed and will be raised again. 

Heading to Jerusalem in chapter 20 He told all 12, He will be condemned and mocked and flogged and crucified and then raised again!

Immediately a mom asked if her sons can rule with him in his kingdom.

What is going on?

I feel like she’s asking what aisle the plastic eggs are on.

They, like us, were missing something.

The day before I stood in the aisle at Walmart trying to figure out how to convey the glory, the weight of this season to my children without candy and eggs, that same Bible study group celebrated our weekly gathering with a traditional Passover Seder demonstration.

For the first time in my life, I saw the intricate details of the meal celebrated by Jews for centuries. It was a specific, beautiful ritual that recalled the Israelites flight from Egypt. The festive occasion marks the beginning of Passover.

It marks our rescue.

In Exodus 13, God commanded the Jews to retell the story to their children. It is the story of rescue and so clearly points to the coming Messiah despite the many Jews who do not see it that way. 

Somehow in the tradition, He is missed.

In chapter 26 of Matthew when the disciples and Jesus move to what is now called Maundy Thursday, the Last Supper, I suspect maybe they are beginning to find what they need. 

Throughout the ritual details of the meal, glasses of wine are consumed—four to be exact. 

On the night of the Last Supper, as Jesus was celebrating that same Passover meal with his disciples, He once again told them.

Matthew 26 opens with Jesus telling them “As you know, the Passover is two days away—and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified.” (Matthew doesn’t even record a response from the disciples.)

The chapter ends with Peter denying Jesus as he faces his accusers.

But it is the time in between that He uncovers what is missing.

The sacrificial lamb has come. 

The bread is his body.

The wine is his blood.

Seder 1He shows them, tells them—He is the sacrifice. 

He is what is missing.

This is the rescue even greater than that flight from Egypt.

It is that rescue we are all longing for.

It is what is missing when we are combing the aisles.

It is what Connie tries to put into words.

In our own demonstration, I recognized one of many things I have missed. Jesus did not drink that fourth cup of wine. 

Verse 29 tells us “I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s Kingdom.”

As I gulped down my last goblet of red grape juice at the fancy table in our church sanctuary, I could hardly handle the image of Jesus at that table with those men. I can hardly handle the thought that one day we will drink at His table with Him there—because He became the sacrifice. Because He missed so much for us. 

He watched them drink, fully aware of everything about to happen. He was looking ahead to completing his go-for-broke rescue mission and also thinking of the day when we would celebrate together at His table.

His mission would require everything. It would require His life. 

While the disciples, while we, are easily entertained, enticed and engaged elsewhere, He had set his face towards His purpose.

Thankfully, His purpose was the cross.

His purpose was us.

There is now nothing missing and He is all we need.


“Or who shut in the sea with doors

when it burst out from the womb,

when I made clouds its garment

and thick darkness its swaddling band,

and prescribed limits for it

and set bars and doors,

and said, ‘Thus far shall you come, and no farther,

and here shall your proud waves be stayed’?

Job 38:8-11

A couple of years ago I painted a picture from the Jesus Story Book Bible.

It’s the one of Jesus asleep in the boat while it is being tossed about in the storm. As I painted, my mind wandered to the squalls I was currently in while my worries rose and heaved like the waves I attempted to portray with a paltry tool.

I smiled at the funny, but scared faces of the men clinging to the worn boards of the tossed boat. The momentary smile quickly dissipated as I thought again of the men—frightened men, grown men, men who knew the sea. 

They were acquainted with wind and wave and bad days afloat. They knew the power of these natural forces.

Recognizing the capability of these forces, they were afraid.

It was the ugly, consuming and overwhelming fear that comes from much focus and study on the storm at hand.

I spent multiple days working on the wild water, the cresting waves. For the next section, I worked on a boat that looked like it may or may not hold together. 

Then I came to these fearful faces (including my own) clinging to life inside the boat.

I cling to life frequently the way these strong and salty fellows must have done that day.

Real life and real problems beat us about and threaten like dark clouds overhead. There are serious storms, legitimately large problems lurking—moments of our lives when the fact that we were never in control finally becomes an unavoidable truth. 

Unbelieving loved ones, unforeseen expenses with unknown means to meet them, an illness turned life-threatening, sadness that we cannot seem to shake, guilt from rotten choices, lost jobs. 

They are the thoughts that seem to keep us awake at night.

For me, when it is time to sleep, even the most trivial of worries seems to blow up larger than life. The mind runs awry and the mental waves beat like those on that tattered ship at sea.

It is as if a groove develops and breaking free, setting foot on dry land never again seems possible.

JP covered that stormy scene last week when talking of Mark 4 and Mark 6. Two instances of the worried fisherman battling the immediate and seemingly insurmountable storm.

He reminded us that there are times in our lives when we behave as if we are unbelievers, operating out of unbelief in bleak circumstances. We act like this when we cannot see past the moment.

We focus on the storm, the danger. We dwell on the surroundings. 

I think again of the work on that painting.

I spent so much time on the storm on that canvas—the details of the wind and waves. 

Working to get the angles right on the boat, the boards, the lightning, the effects of the wind.

That was before the obvious shone from the unpainted portion of the canvas. 

There He is.

I AM is in the boat.

The penciled in portion, not yet painted, almost glowed with His simply drawn face—eyes shut in peaceful slumber, a smile even at his stilled lips.

The lips that would open upon His waking and still the wind and waves instead. 

He was not only in the middle of the storm, He was able to sleep peacefully within it.

His mind is not perturbed, turning flips with the worries we have. He isn’t shaken and surprised by our suddenly overwhelming circumstances.

I’m in the boat, rolled and tossed and weary, but He is in the boat with me!

Initially I smiled, even laughed because the grown, weathered fishermen looked scared and nearly foolish much like me. But how could they be?

Jesus was on board, asleep even. 

My smile is back as my slow-to-understand mind fully wraps around that clear thought. He is also on my boat. 

He’s in it.

He isn’t asleep.

He is not afraid and He is in control. 

tangible brokenness

You don’t want to see it.

Trust me on this one.

The gruesome image of my husband’s ankle split wide apart—bone exposed—taken by an audacious ER nurse who couldn’t believe his eyes is unsettling at best.

The incongruity can only be fully understood by knowing that my husband is a natural athlete. He throws a football 65 yards in the air from one knee, launches a golf ball 350 yards. Grown men just stand quietly and gawk.

The night he came down on another guy’s foot while playing volleyball, however, ended with a break, a gaping wound. It was hard to absorb, comprehend. Everything I knew of this strong, brave, powerful man was dramatically altered in that moment on the gym floor with a bone exposed. 

Again grown men stood silent and gawking.

This is not how life is supposed to go. This goes against the very design.

When JP talked last week in the ongoing series about the life of Jesus, he worked through Luke 7 when Jesus healed the centurion’s son and later brought the widow’s son back to life. 

He talked about death. It is a part of all our lives. Inescapable.

“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord,” Romans 6:23. 

Ultimately the result of our rebellion against a good God, death is the final wage paid for our own disobedience.

So JP poses that question, why is death the consequence? Why is it the wages of sin?

He explains that God reveals what our lives would look like apart from Him. Feeble minds grasp, strain to comprehend the gravity of life away from Yaweh.

God gave us life. We were made to live and yet we chose death.

God literally is life so when we choose to go away from Him, we are choosing separation, a broken relationship that is the equivalent of death.

Our choice of sin over God is a turning of our backs on life. 

This is a fracture. This is a tangible brokenness—like a bone protruding. It is a no-doubt-kind of broken thing.

When sickness, brokenness, death enter in, there is a suffocating desperation for it is the literal cutting off from the source of life. It goes against the very design.

JP goes on talking about death and funerals and this reality we all will face. 

My own family is fresh off a funeral—that of my sweet father-in-law. We are still processing what life is like on the other side of that. Do you actually move past death? It is a raw and ugly learning of what death does to life. It shakes all those left living right down to the core. The closer you were to that one now dead, the more altered your ongoing life now is.

The ripple effects of that life lost rock all that is your world. 

So it had to have been for that widow in Nain. Her only a son, a young man that must have borne an abnormally larger weight without a father at home to help ease the burden of caring, supporting, providing. Her affections, her lifeline were severed with his loss. Already reeling from a husband lost, now this. 

This is not how life is supposed to go. This goes agains the very design.

The wages of sin is death because it is the ultimate separation from life and it is only grace that lets us see and grasp this.

We see that bone coming out through skin and know that this is not how things should be. Pain and suffering remind us we were not made for this.

We see a the body of our loved one in a coffin and know that this is not how things should be. Death is separating us from love, from life.

We see a mother with no prospects for life as her son is carried out for burial and know that this is not how things should be. 

A broken, fractured and sinful world lets us see fully the absence of communion, see the horror of sin and separation. 

That mother’s hurt must have been enormous, desperation palpable.

Only in these moments of magnificent deficit can we begin to understand the beauty of rescue.

The beauty of His life set against the barren backdrop of death is what reveals the glory of God.

We see best in the darkest moments by the light of His life.

The King of all creation gazed upon death, upon that mother and had compassion. 

Jesus saw her and her need. She saw the wages of sin. 

He could see her through the crowd and while grief consumed, he pursued her.

The wailing crowd encompassed this mother and her son laid out on a platform.

The bier held his body as he was carried outside of the city to his eventual burial spot. According to Jewish law, touching a dead body would make a person unclean—in fact it was considered a pollution of sorts. 

Death pollutes. It defiles the living. Impurity is imputed when the living is touched by death.

For a person to touch death meant a cleansing ritual was imperative if one was to rejoin the living, to go again to worship.

Jesus saw the depth of her ache and despair and the overwhelming death that isolated her and He walked right into it.

He offered comfort with words and then Life touched death. He reached into impurity, uncleanness, defilement, and brought back life.

“Young man, I say to you arise.”

Suddenly and without doubt, the contrast of separation from God and the reality of His presence brought fear and then worship.

Jesus would one day again walk right into death. 

He would willingly take it on and again triumph.

The disciples minds must have run wild, not unlike mine trying to find a way to get help for my broken husband, not unlike that widow wondering wildly what now? Their world was shaken.

This is not how life is supposed to go. This goes against the very design.

The giver of all life hanging on a a cross allowing death to rule was the turning point. 

That moment of surrender inevitably alters all that comes after. Life itself could not be ultimately overcome. 

The glory of God is revealed in that barren backdrop when Life fully conquers death and a tomb is left empty and we are no longer left alone and separated.

The wages are paid.

When they are paid we find that  

  • the rebellion that leads to death has been permanently staved.
  • the broken body, wide open and exposed is healed and covered.
  • the ripple effects of a life line severed are stilled despite the storm.
  • the ritually unclean is made permanently pure.

When we have looked the desperation fully in the face and recognized its depths, we can begin to comprehend the heights. 

It is grace that shows us that nothing else will satisfy, not for a moment, not for eternity.

It is grace calling us again, stripping away sin so that we are not deceived and so that we too will rise again.

This is how it is supposed to go. This is the very design and it is something you will want to see.

Fresh cut

Three days before my father-in-law died, I visited a local florist seeking some cheer, for me, for all of us.

Stepping through oddly placed, automatic, glass sliding doors that had been an afterthought on an old house felt like stepping into open jaws ready to consume.

Willing to be eaten, I entered to find promises too high for their deflated follow through.

I waited alone and stared hard at outdated, patterned carpet and paneled walls for what seemed like far longer than needed.

The sweet smell of fresh cut flowers that first greeted me quickly turned sour, like an overly powerful perfume that makes the stomach turn. 

My mind bounced around trying to imagine the suffering he was experiencing in stage four pancreatic cancer and all of its quickly accumulating complications. 

Tomorrow would be he and his bride’s 58 year anniversary of “going steady.” A bold 17-year-old had persuaded this girl that going steady only made sense. After 53 years of marriage, two kids and eight grandchildren, his point had only been made over in a million little ways. Together they made sense.

The garish insides of this florist shop did not.

Outdated, undersized, overpriced teddy bears lined the shelves and weird displays betrayed the intent of the place. 

The initial sights and smells intended to invite celebration were really only a covering of the truth. 

That constant, droning of the large refrigerated displays were like the sound from the waking side of a dream that pulled you back to reality. Loud and annoying it was like they were giving away the end game: Everything you are looking at is already dead, we are just here trying to give the appearance of life.

I tried to push it away that sad day as I held out hope that he would make it to tomorrow to celebrate again with his bride, a milestone in relationship, a joyful moment in the slow march of coming sorrow and separation.

It is true for him. It is true for us all.

From the moment we are born, we are dying and all of the rest of this is an attempt to keep it at bay, to stay alive for one more moment of celebration, to make these lives worthwhile.

Not unlike the fresh cut flower, we are beautiful and fragrant that moment of birth, visibly bursting with life.

Yet like the flower on the vine, once we are cut away, the death and decay are in full pursuit.

Those refrigerators remind that their work is to keep beautiful its already dead inhabitants. 

Once cut, we give them water, oxygen and preservers but after a short time, that sweet smell begins to unintentionally reveal the stench it hoped to cover.

A hospital bed rolled into a living room is an intrusion into our lives we think. It is delivered and assembled awkwardly, trying to find a way to fit it with the decor and the life it is interrupting. 

Rolling it in only rolls back our covering and reveals the truth of life, we are all going to meet this moment. This intrusion is part of life for all of us as much as choosing that living room decor. 

The sound of an oxygen machine has the same awful mechanical rhythm of those refrigerators holding dead flowers. 

Without intervention, when life begins to ebb, there is only a thin thread holding us tied to life but not life eternal. We claw and strain and hold fast to the mechanical hum of machines. The oxygen is pumped from its tank to refresh a body succumbing. 

The sweet turns sour.

The pleasures turn painful.

Sin stains and sets back.

We hold tighter though all the while what we need is release, relief from this sinful, fading body of death.

We need resurrection, new life, a life line without the artificial tying us down.

There is but One.

When my father-in-law talks candidly about his own approaching death he tells me he knows that this is God’s will. He tells me that he is okay with it because though he doesn’t understand it, he knows that there is One who does. 

I sigh deeply, grateful in the acknowledgement.

The One who knows is the One whose own body was destroyed. 

It was a life yielded up to God’s will.

The flesh was destroyed, blood lost. He was fresh cut, but those fresh cuts ended with flesh restored through the very instrument of death.

Jesus became our lifeline in the end for His


end was resurrection.

That One body was life restored, renewed, complete. 

The fragrance raised there was that of eternal life.

A few hours before his breath gave way and the pain and struggle subsided, he told me he was hoping it would be the night that Jesus would come to take him. 

So instead of holding fast to fading hope, labored breath, we are held fast by renewal and grace and an empty grave. 

All that is left on this Eve is the crown

As I sat reading this morning while drinking diluted, doctored coffee, my eyes and mind went over and again to this Advent countdown with cutout cardstock in the center of the kitchen table.

My youngest and I have worked our way, day by day, cutting and sorting and displaying the individual steps.

I realize as I stare that all that is left on this Eve is the crown. It is the final piece and with it we are to crown Him King.

Each of the steps has walked us through the reality of that mind-boggling event.

The baby is in the manger.

The shepherds have been stunned.

Joseph and Mary have both borne shunning but now become something more. They are now bearing Grace, Relief, Comfort not yet fully known.

Wise men have perceived and studied and journeyed.

Jealous rulers have raged.

The angels have declared, proclaimed and worshiped.

The Innkeeper gave the only small space remaining.

We are down to this final piece, here on the table.

That crown.

That crown and the question of what we do next.

As I rejoice in a home that is literally warm on a cold winter morning and was filled with laughter into late night hours, I am thankful.

I am thankful for a 23-year-old who would choose to be home with siblings and enjoy silly times with third graders and teenage girl sisters and a best friend brother.

There is a part of me that still feels broken.

The breaking part comes when I think of unrest, unwelcome, cold, desolate ones who aren’t experiencing these same grace-filled moments. Strangers on borders looking for a home, mobs in stores emptying shelves, those fighting and tearing one another down, death and disease—there is desperation all around. 

I think of brokenness and it lurks within my own heart. It is all because we have enthroned self, not Savior. The crown is still looking for its rightful place.

My own heart has chosen self.

I think of this Christmas Eve, the Eve of all eves.

I recall original Eve and there it is again, original sin. It is the choice handed down, born in time and throughout the ages. Choosing self even in the midst of beauty and wonder. 

We chose that one other thing we didn’t have, hadn’t tasted. 

Not unlike today, there is one more think I didn’t have, I haven’t tasted and thus the tree in my living room is stacked high with gifts. Like a tree in a garden bearing fruit that was not intended that way. 

I stop and thank God on this Eve that He has more than restored what was wrought in that Eve.

This King arrived in humility and arrived to give all that He had. His very life yielded up willingly that I can sit safe, rescued and reassured that this is not for naught.

He has overturned the selfish choice by demonstrating that selfless love. 

He entered the mess and made the way.

So that cutout crown lies in the middle of my table and the last step is my choice. 

What to do now with this God King, humbly cut out, cut up, raised up on a tree. 

I look to Mary and Joseph in that quiet moment on a silent night and find rest in the grace of the One who came to save.

This Eve I rejoice for the King who came to save and gladly give up the crown.

Leviticus and how God wants you (yes, you) near

This learning curve is steep.

New job, all new terminology, volumes of unfamiliar acronyms and unfamiliar operating systems are a tad overwhelming.

I could chalk it up to a lot of things— age, background, disposition—but it is now a moot point. In the last three weeks I have learned more than I ever thought I would about Georgia motor vehicle laws, chain of custody for a vehicle, weight classifications for truck tractors and straight trucks, millage rates, replacement titles, property taxes and insurance lapses. 

When I try to sleep, the DOS based software I am fumbling through flashes behind my closed eyes.

It is as if I am lost in a scene from The Matrix. The screen is blinking with numbers and codes and to someone insightful they mean so much more. There is so much detail and every inch of it has a meaning whether I fully grasp it or not.

It is as if I am in a foreign land and do not speak the language. I just nod and smile and ask for help over and over again. I plow forward hoping that at some point this will suddenly click and what is now foreign will feel familiar and ways I feel I’m failing and a hindrance will transform into some type of success and helpfulness.

When JP began the current series on the Pentateuch, I loved the overviews of Genesis and Exodus and took ravenous notes reminding myself of the beautiful details of so many stories I have known since childhood. They are a reassuring continuum of God showing his faithfulness to an unfaithful people.

As he turned last week to Leviticus, the foreign feeling I have been grappling with at work came flooding in. So many times I have attempted to trudge through the readings of entrails being washed with water, hands placed on an animals as they are killed, the blood thrown on the sides of the altar and the processes for ritual purity.

The feasts, the sacrifices, the blood shed. Burnt offerings, peace offerings, sin offerings and scape goats—Nadab and Abihu consumed by fire for unauthorized fire. It can overwhelm the mind and, not unlike a code you’ve never seen and are trying to learn, seem like it makes no sense.

This moment in history is yet one more beautiful reminder of the God we desire to know, the God who has called us to love. He chose the people. He chose their leader. He answered their cry while laboring under oppression and slavery. He called them to himself time and again while they chose to turn away.

At the beginning of their relationship, God called to Moses from the burning bush. At the beginning of Leviticus, God called to Moses from within the tent, the tabernacle, He had instructed them to build. Once constructed, however, no one was able to go in.

They could not bear to be in His very Presence.

It is the great divide in need of bridging for every person on the planet. How do sinful people draw near a Holy God? 

The details required and contained within Leviticus seem so foreign and strange, and at times barbaric. But like JP explained, they truly become the most amazing component of it all. In the middle of the details, there is the one detail that matters. The one that amazes.

This is what it takes to have sinful people draw near. 

And this Holy God, He wants them near.

He wants us near to Him.

He wants you near.

Author, Creator, Finisher, Perfector is seeking you. He is seeking a relationship that will change and shape and remake.

Whatever it means to let us into this dwelling place with God, He will prescribe a way. There is a standard, a code, that brings order and ultimately a solution to the sin problem.

If the steps to get there in Leviticus seem monumental and daunting, they are. To approach God, who is like no other in heaven above or the earth below, offers a way to approach, it is no wonder it boggles the mind. It is essential, it is the least that could be done for someone to approach and still survive.

Laws are in place to protect people There are codes that provide order and keep people surviving.

Like a renewal on your car’s registration, however, this type of solution must be repeated. If someone takes ownership of a vehicle, a tax is due. It is the cost of having an ordered society where people can come and go on safe streets and with protection in place.

The sacrifice required to approach, to find relationship is astonishing. It is the cost of a people who continue to choose sin as long as they are bound in earthly flesh. Year after year, day after day, sacrifice and rescue are imperative to continue the relationship. 

But much like dreading going to a job day after day with details I don’t yet fully comprehend and certainly have not mastered, the day in and out of offering sacrifices was wearisome. It was a system that was only foreshadowing a more perfect solution. The One Perfect Solution.

Hebrews brings Leviticus into focus through the lens and person of Jesus.

Leviticus was straining to see the glory of what was to come and Hebrews reflects the beauty of what He accomplished. The context unlocks that mysterious code and ritual:

“For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. 25 Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, 26 for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27 And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, 28 so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him….

When he said above, “You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law), then he added, “Behold, I have come to do your will.” He does away with the first in order to establish the second. 10 And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

11 And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But when Christ2 had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. 14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.”

Hebrews 9:24-28; 10:8-14

Like the flashing numbers that are so foreign, and the rituals of blood and sacrifice. There is meaning in every detail. The rituals of sacrifice foreshadowed the One Sacrifice that would put it all in place. His One perfect offering brought an end to all others and relationship is granted, established. 

Here we find rest in a finished work as we move towards greater understanding.

I will move ahead and trust that The Perfect Sacrifice offered in my place will take my fumbling and failings and use them. There is a purpose and He has already accomplished it.