At sundown, we begin Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. This is the highest holy day on the Jewish calendar, and one of great Biblical and historic and cultural importance to my people.
I so wish I was home with Lynn and our sons in Israel tonight. Instead, I am in the U.S. speaking at a number of events, from Dallas to San Luis Obispo to Washington, D.C. to Toronto. I am speaking about the darkness that is falling in our world. But I am also explaining to people about a fascinating phenomenon that I’m observing.
Since last Yom Kippur, millions of Jews have begun a quest to find the Messiah. For reasons I cannot fully explain, Jews are suddenly searching for answers to the deepest and most important questions concerning…
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I will give you thanks, for You answered me;
You have become my salvation.
The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone;
The LORD has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes.
This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.
O LORD, save us; O LORD, grant us success.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD.
From the house of the LORD we bless You.
The LORD is God, and He has made His light shine upon us.
With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession up to the horns of the altar.
You are my God, and I will give thanks;
You are my God, and I will exalt You.
~Psalm 118: 21-28
They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting,
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Blessed is the King of Israel!”
I saw Dad’s restlessness when I arrived for my night’s stay in the hospital. He had a look of fear and bewilderment in his eyes. The look that always broke my heart.
After the nurses finished their rounds and things began to quiet down, I changed the channel on the TV to one of those meditative stations the hospitals make available. As the beautiful photography and soft instrumentals drew him in, he began to relax. He watched for over an hour. I’d look at him from time to time and he’d catch my eye… giggle a little… then cry.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been so moved before,” he said. “I keep praying the same words over and over, ‘Forgive me, Lord…forgive me, Lord…forgive me, Lord.'”
Some might wonder at his confession, but I think I understood his meaning…
When we are weary, bone-tired, dazed, and confused, wondering if the dark night of the soul will ever end; then, suddenly, we catch a glimpse of His beauty — the wonder of His creation, the soothing sounds of His music — the truth of knowing He is in control hits us.
We are awestruck.
We turn. We refocus. We repent.
He is greater than all our fears. We know He loves us…more.
My Jesus, I love Thee, I know Thou art mine;
For Thee all the follies of sin I resign;
My gracious Redeemer, my Savior art Thou;
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.
I love Thee because Thou hast first loved me,
And purchased my pardon on Calvary’s tree;
I love Thee for wearing the thorns on Thy brow;
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.
I’ll love Thee in life, I will love Thee in death,
And praise Thee as long as Thou lendest me breath;
And say when the death dew lies cold on my brow,
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.
In mansions of glory and endless delight,
I’ll ever adore Thee in heaven so bright;
I’ll sing with the glittering crown on my brow,
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.
Do this, knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed. The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.
Now as to the times and the epochs, brethren, you have no need of anything to be written to you. While they are saying, “Peace and safety!” then destruction will come upon them suddenly like labor pains upon a woman with child, and they will not escape. For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day would overtake you like a thief; for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness; so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober. For those who sleep do their sleeping at night, and those who get drunk get drunk at night. But since we are of the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation.
~1 Thessalonians 5:1-8
But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells. Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless, and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation.
~2 Peter 3:8-15a
Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming. But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what time of the night the thief was coming, he would have been on the alert and would not have allowed his house to be broken into. For this reason you also must be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will.
~the Lord Jesus Christ (Matthew 24:42-44)
Rereading The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning:
It remains a startling story to those who never understand that the men and women who are truly filled with light are those who have gazed deeply into the darkness of their imperfect existence…
The Good News means we can stop lying to ourselves. The sweet sound of amazing grace saves us from the necessity of self-deception. It keeps us from denying that though Christ was victorious, the battle with lust, greed, and pride still rages within us.
As a sinner who has been redeemed, I can acknowledge that I am often unloving, irritable, angry, and resentful to those closest to me. When I go to church I can leave my white hat at home and admit I have failed.
God not only loves me as I am, but also knows me as I am. Because of this I don’t need to apply spiritual cosmetics to make myself presentable to Him. I can accept ownership of my poverty and powerlessness and neediness…
To live by grace means to acknowledge my whole life story, the light side and the dark. In admitting my shadow side I learn who I am and what God’s grace means.
“God blesses those who realize their need for Him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is given to them…
Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me–watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
~Jesus (Matt 5:2; 11:28-30 MSG)
Are we good enough for God?
We are not.
We know very well that we are not set right with God by rule-keeping
but only through personal faith in Jesus Christ.
How do we know?
We tried it–and we had the best system of rules the world has ever seen!
Convinced that no human being can please God by self-improvement,
we believed in Jesus as the Messiah so that we might be set right before God
by trusting in the Messiah, not by trying to be good. ~Galatians 2:16 (MSG)
No one will ever get it right.
No one will ever be “good enough” for God.
It’s impossible to please God without faith, and trying to “be good” is not faith.
It is trusting in self.
Believe me, please. For, you see, I tried it.
For years and years and years which turned into decades upon decades.
I was even given the name “Goody-goody” throughout my school years. Yes, I thought I could keep myself saved through good works. It doesn’t matter if you believe your good works will save you before, or after, you come to know Christ. Either way, you’re still only trusting in self.
It wasn’t until my late forties that I realized I can do nothing to save me.
I either have faith in Christ, alone, or it’s all a sham.
And guess what?
On the other side of self-abuse, wretched sinfulness, and family-shattering betrayal…
Finally, I understood the GRACE of God, through His Son, Jesus Christ.
He looked upon my sinfulness
And bestowed upon me His forgiveness.
I saw my sin,
And I knew He saw it.
Yet, I felt His grace.
I found it is only through Christ, my Lord, that I am able to stand before God, the Father.
Jesus took the punishment I well-deserved. He endured the suffering for my sins — all of them — before I was even born. Yes, and even before the foundation of the earth, the Lamb of God was crucified for us all.
As a child I learned Jesus loved me. But I was also taught I must keep myself “good” for Him. And if I didn’t, He would not accept me. My standing before Him was based upon my good works, not His sacrifice, alone.
Why all of the clarification now???
Because, I spent so many years teaching it wrong. And so many people heard me. Eventually, I did learn the right teaching, but without the experiential knowledge, it wasn’t completely understood within my soul. I kept being “good” for I knew it was wisdom to live well.
He turned up the fire of trials in my life.
He tested my knowledge and let me go down a path that would solidify my faith.
It wasn’t pretty.
Seeing our own sinfulness is never pretty.
And now I KNOW that I KNOW that I KNOW …
I am the LORD’s and He is mine.
And nothing can separate me from His love.
Thank you, thank you, thank you, Dear LORD.
Please, hear me, it is still wise to live well, BUT, never ever believe your good works will save you, or keep you saved…
In Christ, alone, is our salvation.
For by GRACE you are saved
and this is not from yourselves,
It is the gift of God.
February 13, 1933 — December 14, 2014
My dad was an amazing man.
He was a charmer, a singer, an artist, a soldier, a director, a provider, a comic, a gardener … and my teacher.
For most of my life, Dad was my inspiration. From grade school he encouraged me to hone my artistic abilities. He was a professional artist.
Dad saw beauty everywhere and much of the time it brought tears to his eyes. He had an uncanny, God-given ability to paint landscapes. He was also one of the few truly talented calligraphists in the country.
He was a man of faith.
I wrote this poem for his birthday in 2006 …
I remember watching Dad
When I was only nine,
Creating pictures for the news
And adverts for the Times.
He inspired me to watch and learn,
To see beauty everywhere.
He gave me guidance as I tried
To express myself with care.
As we traveled on vacations
He pointed out the sights;
Showing much appreciation
For the expression of God’s might.
The waterfalls, the sparkling streams,
The chipmunk on the wall,
Were shown to me through his eyes
As we walked to view them all.
The mighty oak reaching to the sky
With gnarled limbs and shade;
Dappled sunlight shining through,
Creating wonder with all God made.
I thank you, Dad, for inspiring me
To see beauty in the world;
I feel a fullness, a breadth of wonder
You helped me to unfurl.
It’s not good-bye, Daddy, just farewell.
I know you are living the best life yet…see you soon.
It always hung in our bedroom.
From our first apartment to our last home I used my exquisite wedding veil as a focal point in our sacred, holy place. A hand-made gift of tatting lace with our names and the date of our wedding, alongside our wedding picture, completed the memorial. Throughout our years it was a special place in our home. Many days through many years I lingered by the picture, fingering the embroidery on the veil. Remembering…
Seeing how young we were and so completely inexperienced in life, the photographer captured our joy laced with hope. My best friend played Debussy and my sister sang, “Savior, Like a Shepherd, Lead Us.” My grandfather led us in our vows to one another.
We. meant. every. word.
After the divorce I had no idea what to do with the veil or my dress. I strongly doubted my daughter would ever want to use them; nevertheless, I couldn’t give them away. I still loved Phat. Even after all that was said and done, I knew I would always love him.
Feelings come and go. Love is a choice.
Noticing how dusty the veil had become, I gently washed it by hand. As I did the lace began to fall apart, disintegrating as I pulled it out of the sudsy water. Once I realized what was happening I quickly laid it on a towel and began blotting it dry. I wondered if the tears would ever stop flowing…
When I found my little house and decided to buy it, I had another bedroom to decorate.
I remembered my tattered veil, folded away, as I began calling myself the names I knew I deserved.
That’s when it all came together.
That’s when God spoke to my heart.
He stopped me … (thank You, Lord, for stopping me).
Gently, He told me that I am His bride.
Lovingly, He reminded me that I am redeemed.
Tenderly, He guided me to His word.
I am my Beloved’s and my Beloved is mine!
For the LORD has called you,
Like a wife forsaken and grieved in spirit…
O troubled one, storm-crushed, uncomforted!
See, your stones will be framed in fair colours,
and your bases (foundations) will be sapphires.
Above the surface over their heads was what looked like a throne
made of blue sapphire.
And high above this throne was a figure
whose appearance was like that of a man.
The One sitting on the throne was as brilliant as gemstones
––jasper and carnelian.
And the glow of an emerald circled His throne like a rainbow.
I will rejoice greatly in the LORD, My soul will exult in my God;
For He has clothed me with garments of salvation,
He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness,
As a bridegroom decks himself with a garland,
And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
Therefore, we who have fled to Him for refuge can take new courage,
for we can hold on to His promise with confidence.
This confidence is like a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls.
It leads us through the curtain of heaven into God’s inner sanctuary.
This hope we have as an anchor of the soul,
a hope both sure and steadfast
and one which enters within the veil.
My tattered veil became a garment of salvation…literally. Through His restoration and assurance of eternal love, I understood I needed to create a symbol of my Heavenly Bridegroom and of His covering for me. I adorned the veil with crystals of emerald and sapphire. I created a bow of colors just like the one I imagined encircling His throne. And now, every night before I go to sleep, I look up at my wedding veil. My once tattered veil. And, I envision the beauty of the One who has loved me without condition.