In Excelsis Deo

Imagine eternity.

Imagine infinity—imagine absolute life and infinite power, with no beginning and no end. Imagine infinite size and mind, boundless knowledge, unapproachable holiness in both being and motive—perfection beyond anything anyone ever dreamt—ultimate power to create and destroy with utter absence of malice entwined with supreme, omniscient Justice. Such power—such absolute personhood—holy and just, vast and unstoppable—light so brilliant and holiness so blinding that only the holy can enter. Yet He is compassionate, tirelessly loving, overflowing with grace and mercy—all superlative qualities lavished on sullied beings—on the rebellious, rejecting, wicked little creatures that He, in the beginning, created to be the recipients of His giving nature—of all His love and grace. Suddenly the simple, often clichéd words Jesus told a desperate Pharisee take on new force, new weight, fresh worship:

 “For God so loved—He gave…”

And, as if that were not enough, He told us to approach this infinite, eternal, all-powerful, all knowing, all holy, all righteous, all discerning, supremely just, immeasurably vast God as “Our Father…”

That is miraculous. That is Christmas.

O come let us adore Him.

—j

Toast for Thanksgiving

I confess have a favorite movie—Babette’s Feast*. Babette, a spectacular chef who fled the French Revolution, made a feast for a village of Christian people who hated each other. The table was set with more than food—it was rich with joy, mercy and reconciliation. Just like Jesus when He ate with sinners. I hope you’ll watch it someday.

Near the end a surprising character, Old Lorens, offers a wonderful toast…

“Mercy and truth have met together. Righteousness and bliss shall kiss one another. Man, in his weakness and shortsightedness believes he must make choices in this life. He trembles at the risks he takes. We do know fear. But no. Our choice is of no importance. There comes a time when our eyes are opened and we come to realize that mercy is infinite. We need only await it with confidence and receive it with gratitude. Mercy imposes no conditions. And lo! Everything we have chosen has been granted to us. And everything we rejected has also been granted. Yes, we even get back what we rejected. For mercy and truth have met together, and righteousness and bliss shall kiss one another.” —Old Lorens Lowenhielm, Babette’s Feast

Hallelujah.

—j

*Rated ‘G’, French-Danish, with subtitles

A Light in Mordor

There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tower high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.” ― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King

It’s like a chapter from Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings—hope dims in the creeping clouds of Mordor while armies driven by fear and rage cower in the eaves of the deepening shadows. But it was just today’s Facebook and news reads. Angry? Depressed? Fearful? Hopeless? It’s easy to slide into the reeking pits of the Land of Shadows.

Who do we believe? What is truth? We won’t find it in Mordor. The shadows “are only a small and passing thing,”—hope, truth, light remain like the stars and aren’t going anywhere. Man has made his mess, God made the stars.

“Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. They are brought to their knees and fall, but we rise up and stand firm.” —Psalm 20:7–8

Arise.

—j

Someone OFFENDED You?

“Followers of Jesus are not fearful people. Followers of Jesus are not angry people. Followers of Jesus are the least offendable people in the world because they are not of the world. When did so many followers of Jesus forget this, I wonder, and why?” —JRM

The Resurrection According to J.R.R. Tolkien

“The Birth of Christ is the Eucatastrophe* of man’s history. The Resurrection is the Eucatastrophe of the story of the incarnation. This story begins and ends in joy. There is no tale ever told that men would rather find was true, and none which so many skeptical men have accepted as true on its own merits. For the Art of it has the supremely convincing tone of Primary Art, that is, of Creation. To reject it leads either to sadness or to wrath.”
J.R.R. Tolkien

The greatness of the Resurrection of Christ is beyond measure—it’s the superlative of all happy endings. Are you His? revel in it. Are you not? Plunge into Him. You will live forever, just like Him. Besides, He loves you—He still has the scars that prove it.

—j

*The ultimate happy ending

His Unquenchable Fire

I sometimes think about the cross
And shut my eyes and try to see

The cruel nails, the crown of thorns
And Jesus crucified for me;

But even could I see Him die,
I would but see a little part

Of that great love, which like a fire,
Was always burning in His heart.

Bernard of Clairvaux

Well said, St. Bernard. Now it’s our turn to seek and see.

—j

Here is Your Epitaph

“He never went off subject.” —Journalist Tom Brokaw, of Billy Graham

No one had to ask what his subject was—when you heard the name Billy Graham you knew it was, without apology, Jesus.

Let me meddle a minute…

When others say your name, what do they think of? What do you aspire to be known for? Will it outlive you? Is it greater than you? More than that, what will you be remembered for? That’s the subject of your life.

Billy never went off subject—he knew that everything in life is less than Jesus except the people Jesus died to save. Do we? Like Billy, our subject is known by everyone around us, and it will be our epitaph.

—j

A Prayer to Be Like Jesus

Lord help me live from day to day
In such a self-forgetful way
That even when I kneel to pray,
My prayer shall be for others.
Help me in all the things I do,
To ever be sincerely true,
And know that all I do for you
Must needs be done for others.
Others, Lord, yes others,
Let this, my motto be.
Help me to live for others,
That I might live for thee.
Author Unknown

Just like Jesus—so it’s what we do.

Go make someone else’s day.

—j

Perfect Recklessness

“He made us the lamps of His light, not the salesmen and customers of His fire. He fits no category, exceeds every attribution, defies all literary description. He is immeasurably more than the object of our study—He’s the subject of the universe itself. He is “the superlative of everything good you choose to call Him”, Rev. Lockwood preached— yet we still tread the waters of the Sea of Him seeking to stay afloat, waters in which He intended us to drown.” —JRM

We want to tread our own paths in Him. He is everywhere you go—get lost in Him.

We want to keep our heads above the waters of His dreadful depths. He is gooddrown in Him.

We want to know all about Him. Know Him.

We fear the Lion. Let Him catch you—He won’t hurt you.

Sometimes reckless abandon is perfect.

—j

What’s on Your Bucket List?

“What pain to find your life-work to be a lot of wood, and hay, and stubble that will blaze furiously, and die out in ashes! You know what I mean: so much time spent in planning frivolous amusements for the people, so much talent expended in teaching that which is not the gospel, so much zeal consumed upon matters that do not concern eternal things, all this will burn. Beloved, do your Master’s work, win souls, preach Christ, expound your Bibles, pray men to be reconciled to God, plead with men to come to Christ. This kind of work will withstand the fire; and when the last great day shall dawn, this will remain to glory and honor!” —C.H. Spurgeon

“It’s all gonna burn” my pastor used to say. Not just houses, cars, money, possessions, politics or physiques—but ambitions, wants, lusts and goals both pursued and achieved. Even an atheist would agree. But God guarantees that some things last forever—human souls, His Word and the reward for being about His business while we’re here. “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us,” Gandalf told Frodo in The Lord of the Rings. Frodo decided to save the world.

You have a day ahead of you—invest wisely.

—j