Tag Archives: Christ

The Image and the Likeness

A meditation during Advent

Made from the dust of the earth,
God breathed life into the man,
And there arose our ancient forefather,
Adam, father of us all.
Firstborn of mankind,
Crowning jewel of creation now complete,
Made in the very image of God,
And walking daily in His presence.
Endowed with authority over all Creation,
Blessed with mind and might.

Would that the story ended there father Adam,
For now the image is broken,
The presence taken away,
And the power and might turned toward harm,
The presence that brought you life,
You no more may see,
And the image in you becomes corrupt, unclean.
Deceived and deceiving you fell away,
Pulled down by false desires conceived in your own pride,
Destroyed by thine own hand.

Now the image of God in our young race,
Is broken and almost lost,
Shining through but from time to time,
In a world whose hope is gone,
Violence grows,
And darkness rages,
As our race despairs,
We see not the image,
Still planted though broken in each heart,
And turn away blind and broken.

Yet through it all the rumors spread,
Of a coming King,
A new Father,
A Prince of Peace,
One who will bring us life,
And restore our hope,
The renewer of the Image,
Hands that heal,
What will our healer look like?
When will He arrive?

Only begotten of the Father,
Firstborn of all things,
Creator of heaven and earth,
All hail The Lord Jesus,
Descended to our broken world,
Born in a backwater town in a backwater nation,
In image like one of us,
But in Likeness God Himself,
Lying vulnerable in a cattle trough,
And come to die that we might live.

His hands are healing,
Yet they are pierced,
We must look on the one whose stripes heal us,
The King of all Creation came,
And we killed Him on a tree,
The broken Image could not stand before the Likeness,
And we walked instead in the violence we knew so well,
Yet see how he conquered our hearts,
For even in weakness and death,
The Likeness conquers over our darkness.

The barrier to the Father removed,
By the atoning death of the Son,
That Likeness was placed inside our chests,
In the person of the Spirit,
Restoring the Image anew,
Beyond even father Adam’s first condition,
We become something new,
Redeemed men indwelt by the Savior God,
Bearers now of the Likeness,
The Image now being restored.

So let the Likeness reign in your heart,
By walking with the Spirit,
And become this Advent season,
That which our Savior was,
On the day of His advent,
Bring in your person the Likeness of God,
To a world where the broken Image is still all many men have,
In a world of know hope,
Release the Likeness to its good work,
And leave the Spirit to heal the rest.

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The Mustard Seed and the Candle

My poems often reflect my prayers and meditations, whereas other posts reflect my thoughts. I’m working on laying out some very important thoughts, but I’ve spent a lot of my time in prayerful meditation as of late.

This poem is for all my friends struggling with their doubts and unbelief, let us pray together “Lord I believe, help my unbelief”

There are times when the darkness closes in like a prison,
And unanswered questions rain down like a deluge,
The storm soaks to the skin,
And the heart floods with doubt in dismay.
Is He real?
Does He care about me?
Am I forgotten?
Where is His strong right arm?

In this dark and doubt,
The light becomes unclear,
Answers become questions,
Beliefs are turned to doubt,
The turmoil reaches fever pitch,
And crisis grips the heart?
Is there something wrong with me?
Why does my heart entertain such fears?
Perhaps I need simply to believe harder?
Or maybe I never believed at all?
Am I a son, or do I yet remain a slave?
Is my heart truly renewed?

These questions are not yours to answer,
Anymore than faith stems from yourself,
But there is one who answers such questions,
If you have only enough faith to ask

Yours is the way of the candle,
Light a small wavering flame in the dark,
And wait in quiet expectation,
For the blinding light of breaking day.

And yours is the way of the mustard seed,
A tiny grain of faith,
But cling with diligence to it,
And the roar from the throne above will move mountains of unbelief.

Thomas needed to see the scars,
Gideon had a fleece,
Moses was reaffirmed twice by signs and doubted still,
Yet The Lord did not lose patience,
And Thomas touched the scars,
Gideon’s fleece proved true,
The God of signs and wonders,
Will prove Himself to you.

Bring your questions before the throne with boldness,
Lay open your heart before Your King,
If it was your own faith that saved,
You would be dead in unbelief,
But our Lord is not unable to make His servants stand,
He strengthens the weak knees and steadies trembling hands,
His final answer was a man called Jesus,
Who could be seen and touched,
Ask Him what you will,
And His answers will be just as real.

If you know the Almighty is real,
And that Jesus is alive,
Why hesitate to ask Him to reveal Himself?
Do you fear that He would do it?

A Poem for Sons, in the Dark

A Poem for Sons, in the Dark

Darkening Sky,
Pelting Rain,
Gathering Inertia,
Swelling Pain,
Slipping Feet,
Muscles Strain,

Down, Down, Down I fall onto my face.

The trail ahead is steep,
Shrouded in darkness and fog,
But the Mountain looms through dark,
Forbidding all who come.
Enemies line the way in mass,
And I am overcome.

The way is choked with thorns and foes,
And I am choked with fears and doubts.

Faith finds me not in this hour of despair,
Alone in the dark,
Weak and unable to press ahead,
The dust of the earth chokes my lungs,
blinds my eyes,
and dries out my tongue,

Then in the solitude of my misery and defeat,
I let out an anguished cry
And it goes up, up, up into the sky

Little do I know,
In the ignorance of despair and pain,
The cry pierces the darkness falling,
And the falling rain,
It flies straight and true like an arrow,
Into the heart of God.

Then from within comes the Comforter,

The Helper raises His voice,
And despair shakes in fear.
“Look back before you try to rise,
And see from whence you have come”

The world will always say,
“Leave the past in the past and don’t look back”
But I turn my ahead anyway,
At the command,
There behind is a trail of tears and blood,
Of toil, struggle, and pain.

But then my eyes clear,
There streaming back mile after mile,
Piles of broken chains and shattered fears,
Defeated Foes,
And joy through tears,
Peace in the midst of chaos,
Victory through defeat,
All the way back to an old, rugged cross,
Where a slave died and a son was born,
And the all sufficient man placed His life,
Into the insufficient man who had none.

I weep tears of joy at the sight,
Then comes my Counselor’s quiet voice
“Now Son you may look around you,
And set yourself for the road ahead”

And when I seek to rise to dance upon this mountain of injustice,
I find a hand waiting to lift me up,
Where I swear there was none before,
There I find an army waiting,
That had been there all along,

So I rise up on my feet,
But leave the dust as a reminder on my clothes,
Shields of Faith locked around me,
Safe in the community of brothers and sisters,
Comforted by those placed by the Swift, Sure Hand at my side,
This is the fellowship of those who do not fear despair,
The sons and daughters who have turned defeated into a sweet offering.

We are not a people who need relief from pain and torment, death defeat or despair,
For every time we die,
We rise again!

See the Morning

Having wrapped up my Permaculture Design Course, it is time to begin writing again. I have missed being able to share my thoughts and feelings in this way. The last few months have been hard, and today’s poem captures the thoughts and emotions I am wrestling with right now. The last phrase is of deep significance to me personally, it is credited to 2 of the first Moravian missionaries. They are said to have shouted it back to shore as they sailed out intent on literally selling themselves into slavery for the sake of the unreached. May we all have such courage and faith, and when we struggle to do so may we drive one another forward.

See The Morning

The road ahead is rough and rising,
The road behind long and painful,
The road ahead is choked with thorns,
The road behind is slick with my sweat and blood,

Moving forward is painful,
I am stiff and struggle to force one foot before the next,
My muscles strain from the trial,
And sweat drips down like rain,

Each step forward I am buffeted,
Forced to my knees but not pushed back,
I set my face into the wind,
And rise to continue my journey,

The pain it begs the questions,
And the wind whispers subtle lies,
In the face of pain and heartache,
The lies pour out with smooth rhythms,

They say:
Is faith worth so high a price?
Can you continue to walk, who cannot stand?
If He cannot or will not provide, do you trust that He will save?
You are weak and weary, lie down and do not attempt again to rise.
You are alone in this struggle, therefore give it up and walk away.
There is no victory for you here.

In the swirling flows of fears and doubts,
Despair takes a deep root within my heart,
I have no answer to the charges,
For I am certainly weak and near to fainting

Yet I will walk on this night,
Even under the utter blackness of despair,
I will fall and rise, fall and rise again
If for no other reason than to see the morning

Darkness lasts not forever,
Even when our light is weak,
The light has come into the world,
And the darkness cannot overcome or understand

Feelings lie and deceive,
Emotions fail in the time of greatest need,
Yet he whose faith is properly placed,
Will have a foundation made of stone.

I will recount Thine deeds of old,
And pile stone upon stone in memorial,
Raising high an Ebenezer,
Recounting each tender mercy and strong deliverance,

Lord I believe, but help my unbelief,
In dark of doubt and pain of despair,
Whether visible or not, you are there
So I will trust to see the morning in Thee

Those that overcome follow the Lamb wherever He goes,
Yet the overcoming does not come easy,
The price is often high, higher than I have yet paid,
But the highest price is already paid,
And sin and death defeated once for all,
Therefore no price I pay is any price at all

The Lamb of God will receive the reward of His suffering!

Unseen Grace, Divine Providence

In the past, the phrase Divine Providence, was a common phrase used to refer to God’s overriding prerogative to advance His Kingdom and protect His people even when they were unaware of His guiding hand. In a culture that emphasizes the personal relationship of each individual believer with God most heavily, and that calls for personal seeking of God’s guiding will; this concept of Divine Providence, a grace we cannot see or ask for in our lives, is somewhat lost.

My upcoming 5th wedding anniversary has caused me to meditate heavily on this topic recently. I have been blessed to be married to a wonderful woman, who lives out Proverbs 31 every day. She cares for our family and shows me perfect respect, while not allowing me to move forward in areas of weakness or error. To be honest I couldn’t have picked a better wife, and it truly was the hand of God that brought us together. None of it would have been possible, however, if it wasn’t for one small action.

I met my wife working my first “real” job in high school. Now let me just be honest here, when it was time to decide where to go to college I spent weeks praying with my parents and researching where I would get the best education. When it was time to take that first job, I simply took the first decent job that I could get. There was very little thought, and not too much prayer either; it was simply a decision that had to be made and I made it.

This is the blessing of following Christ. I was pursuing His will for my life with an open heart and mind. I wasn’t looking for a wife, I wasn’t really looking for anything but some money and job experience as I got ready to go to college. Other than a few very important relationships (let me include a special shout out here to my 3rd set of parents, we love you all!), college didn’t really do much for me. That first job however impacted who I married, and as a consequence my 2 precious children. Not only that, it proved instrumental in providing for me all through college and the early years of my marriage and helped me land each new job I’ve had since. What I considered a small thing, turned out to be one of the most important decisions I ever made. Yet there was Christ, watching out for my needs and interests even in something I thought was small. The decision was guided and secured by the strong, sure hand of my Father in Heaven whether I thought it was important or not.

Looking at a more recent example, I have been moving forward much faster in my agricultural education through the online Permaculture Designers Certificate Course I mentioned recently. The funny thing is, I wasn’t looking for educational opportunities. I knew my family needed to do something, but we were having a very hard time finding anything compatible with having small children and a busy work schedule. So we were simply being faithful to try to develop skills at home through gardening and raising chickens in the backyard. I found the class, not through some great search engine or my own ingenuity, but simply because I decided I should finally set up a twitter account to support this blog (follow @thetonedeafbard). In order to keep up to date I followed several Permaculture news type sites, and one of them posted an interesting video by Geoff Lawton about how to develop abundance on just 5 acres. I watched several more videos and he announced the course, and my wife and I chose to enroll. Think for just a minute with me, had the timing of my impulsive decision to get on twitter been off just by a few days, I might have missed a big opportunity, yet I didn’t because there in the background of my life was grace.

Think over your life the last few years, have you had any random events of grace in your life? Be sure to praise God for taking care of you even when you didn’t look for it.

We, as a western culture particularly, get so caught up looking for direct answers to prayers and guidance for situations we have chosen to pray about, that we easily miss these small movements of God in the background. The fact is, life is busy and we don’t always think about the possible implications of our actions. What a joy it is to know that in the fullness of His Divine Sovereignty, God is in the backdrop of our lives, working for our good even when we don’t see it. His purposes will not be frustrated or stopped, all we have to do is submit our lives to His will and the rest begins to fall together.

Can the Old Testament be Trusted?

In the ongoing debate over the morality of the homosexual lifestyle this question is becoming more and more relevant, and yet the focus has been entirely on the issue at hand with most people quietly refusing to ask the hard questions that should be at the center. Can we accept the Gospel apart from the Old Testament? Is the Old Testament reliable, and is it compatible with the message of the Gospels?

Over the past few weeks, I have repeatedly seen info-graphics, pictures of facebook discussions, short “stories”, etc. that take an aggressive posture against the teaching of the Old Testament, particularly when it comes to basic definitions of morality. The argument is that the Old Testament Law is separate from the New Testament teaching of grace and forgiveness. The idea is that when Christ introduced the Gospel of grace all obligation to the Old Testament law was lost. For Christians, according to this line of thinking, the Old Testament is outdated and shouldn’t be relied upon for sound moral teaching.

Those who teach this seem to have forgotten to read the Gospels in all of their haste to separated them from the Old Testament.

Jesus said “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven” Matt 5:17-20

We should note that this passage comes right after the ever popular beatitudes, in the middle of the sermon on the mount, and just before all of the “love your enemies” and “turn the other cheek” teaching that no one wants to dispute.

Is it possible that Jesus could really have meant to uphold the teaching of the Old Testament law? Look at the teachings on murder (5:21-22), adultery (5:27-30), and divorce (5:31-32) that follow right after this teaching. In most of these cases, true to what He said in 5:20 Jesus’ moral teaching either affirms the strictest Pharisaic interpretation of the law or goes beyond it. From this it is safe to gather, that just as He said, Jesus fully intends for Christians to adhere to the Old Testament’s moral teaching.

All the confusion comes from what we see happening in verse 17 “I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them”. The key to understanding what is going on in this passage is to have a correct view of the unity of Scripture.

The Bible is divided into to two testaments, or covenants, but it stands as a unified whole. The key is to understanding this unity is to properly recognize the purpose of the Bible itself. The purpose of Scripture is to tell the history of God’s redemptive working for mankind after our fall into sin, and to ultimately tell how God stepped down to redeem us from our sin and show us the way back to Him through grace.

This purpose is clear from the message itself. Genesis 3 tells the story of mankind’s deception and fall into sin. Yet look what God promises from the first moments of man’s sinful condition, in speaking to the deceiver:

And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her Seed;
He shall bruise your head,
And you shall bruise His heel.”
Genesis 3:15

Even from the beginning God had promised to send One who would crush the head of the Serpent, but since a testament is a covenant, we should recognize that everything that proceeds the giving of the covenant to Abraham in Genesis 12 is the prequel, the back story that explains why the story is necessary. Look at the covenant itself and God’s plan is perfectly clear:

Now the Lord had said to Abram:
“Get out of your country,
From your family
And from your father’s house,
To a land that I will show you.
I will make you a great nation;
I will bless you
And make your name great;
And you shall be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you,
And I will curse him who curses you;
And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
Genesis 12:1-3 (emphasis mine)

From the very institution of the covenant, God is working to see the redemption and blessing of all the peoples of the earth, in fact, those who read the Old Testament well will find that the “Great Commission” is simply a restating of what God has been getting at all along.

When we recognize this unifying theme in Scripture, then we can ask ourselves what the point of all those dreaded books of the Law is. The New Testament writers as well as the early church fathers all agree, the purpose of the Law is to demonstrate to mankind our own sinful condition, the insufficiency of animal sacrifice as well as our own works, and our ultimate need for redemption. This means that the moral requirements of God do not simply go away because we cannot meet them, they are tied directly to God’s divine nature and cannot change. What does change is the means by which mankind ACCESS God.

God gave us the full weight of His moral law, and a sacrifice system for when we failed to live up to it, to demonstrate in fullness that we are unable to live up to His just requirements. As shown above Jesus reiterated and reinforced these just requirements, but then chose to introduce the power of grace. Christ bore the punishment of our moral failure on the cross, once for all time, and freed those who place their faith in Him from the just recompense of their sinful ways. In so doing He put an end to the need for the sacrifice system, by His one perfect sacrifice.

It gets even better though! Rather than excuse us from the demands of God’s just law, the power of Christ allows us to receive the indwelling of the Holy Spirt who makes us able to meet God’s righteous requirements. The moral demands of God cannot go away because to do so would make God not God, but being God He has chosen to not only pardon our past sins but also to empower us to walk a life free from entangling sin. The message of Christ is not that holiness will be redefined so we can reach it, but rather that we will be transformed so that we can attain true holiness.

Where does that leave this discussion? What is it we are actually doing when we try to reject the moral nature of God and His just requirements? There are two ultimate issues with choosing to ignore the Old Testament because we don’t like what it has to say.

First and foremost, those who reject the moral teaching of the Old Testament are closing the door to God’s grace. The Old Testament is necessary to demonstrate to mankind that we are sinners in need of grace, without the knowledge of sin, there is no room for grace. When we try to redefine sin to make ourselves or others more comfortable, ultimately we are blocking God’s ability to forgive us of that sin and to empower us to overcome that sin. God had to give the Old Testament first, before we would have any ability to comprehend what the New Testament meant. Apart from the knowledge of sin, there can be no forgiveness of sin. The reason for this is obvious, I won’t repent of sin that I don’t acknowledge is there. Our goal ought to be to recognize and repent of ALL sin in our lives, and as followers of Christ we are under command to help others recognize and repent of their sin as well.

Second, those who fail to study the Old Testament will fail to see the working out of God’s constant faithful dealings with those who follow Him. The New Testament doesn’t attempt to cover any ground that the Old Testament has already thoroughly addressed, for this reason it dwells on the Gospel itself, the establishment of the Church, and the teaching necessary to establish the Gospel in men’s hearts. Most of the great stories of God’s faithfulness to those who trust Him are in the Old, not the New Testament. Christians would have a much better grasp on how to handle suffering and walk faithfully through difficult times if they would just read the first 2/3 of their Bibles.

Ultimately, Scripture is a unity. It is all written for man’s redemption. If we choose to ignore part of it, we damage the means of our own redemption.

The Triumph of the Lamb

Can you imagine the day without the Lamb? As followers of Christ today, with the constant presence of the Holy Spirit to make clear the meanings behind difficult things as well as to comfort us, it is difficult to imagine the shock and confusion of the disciples. On the one hand it seems so strange that they would be unable to understand all of Jesus’ prior teaching about His up coming death and resurrection, but on the other hand we as humans are very foolish and it should come as no surprise that the disciples would be too.

Here they had been from Friday night until Sunday morning, weeping and deeply distressed by what had happened. The one they believed was Son of God and messiah had perished on a cross and died. I think we have lost hold of the depth of this scandal. How strange indeed that the Son of God would allow Himself to be beaten and killed. He had the full authority to put a sudden end to His oppressors, and yet He chose for the glory of God and our redemption to stay anyway.

Then suddenly Sunday morning, the disciples heard a strange report. Jesus was alive again. This was wholly unexpected. What could it mean?

We who celebrate the Lord’s resurrection every year at this time are prone to forget the depth of its implications. First of all, it serves as full verification of Jesus’ claims about His identity and power. Had Jesus not risen from the dead, our Faith would be useless and also likely non-existent. The idea ought to startle us, that a man should rise up from the grave and walk away by His own power. Certainly such an event has powerful implications.

Jesus is Lord. There should be no question in our mind that God the Father has vested the full authority of the God head in the person of the Son. The authority to overcome the grave and return to God on high reflects the fullness the Son’s power and might

Jesus has won total victory over the power of sin and death. The resurrection represents the total crushing of sin and death through the death of the righteous Son. In this moment the power of sin to trap and hold the followers of Christ was lost. Its only power now is in deception, convincing us that we are entangled when we are in fact not.

This victory serves to demand holiness from us. If Jesus has crushed sin and death once, for all time; then those who are filled with His Holy Spirit are free from entangling sin. We are called, and enabled to walk in holiness. To do less is to deliberately trample the cross underfoot and make it of no effect.

The final implication is that Jesus is that Jesus has become worthy of His own chosen reward, the worship of the redeemed from every tribe, tongue, and nation. I will address that topic separately in my next post.