Nazareth!

“…Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” Luke 18:37

Nazareth! Little village on a hill.

Remember those games without toys, invented by dust-covered, poor boys?

All the water jugs filled and brought home, Mama cooking on a stove of hot stone,

Every child to his house, every father sitting down,

Some folks saying bad words loudly, drinking buddies getting rowdy.

A million years, the same things happening. A million souls, the same sins committing.

Nazareth! So much moving, so much staying still.

 

Nazareth! Did you always know it?

Remember when they first came in, young parents with a toddler babbling Egyptian?

Their generations had left markings here, a typical mix of blood, vomit, sweat, tears.

Refugees returning, newlyweds still learning,

Grandma just around the corner, grandpa sure is looking older.

For you nothing much had changed. For them nothing was the same.

Nazareth! Did you realize who’d shown up?

 

Nazareth! Podunk town where God grew up.

Remember how he played those games, knowing all those dirty boys’ names?

Bringing water jugs inside for Mama, mediating sinful family drama,

Helping siblings to behave, callusing, learning the trade.

Angry men discussing politics, angry kids discussing gossip,

And him right there, listening to everything. To man-made things, man’s Maker assimilating.

Nazareth! You taught God a lot about us.

 

Nazareth! A certain time and place.

Remember when you kicked him out? It stung because you could not doubt

That he had loved and known you, that even his true self he’d shown you:

Every alley memorized, every neighbor analyzed,

Favorite haunts with friends and brothers, fresh-baked bread from second mothers,

Particular faces in obscurity. You, not convinced? An absurdity.

Nazareth! You saw the very face of grace.

 

Nazareth! Foolish little plot on the ground.

Imagine! The Son of God’s hometown.

A world of work and food and friends and sleep:

Sweaty human life, the very thing he came to redeem.

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Amarga

She said to them, “Do not call me Naomi (pleasant); call me Mara (bitter), for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me.” Ruth 1:20

You were born

because they put nothing on

when they tried to force their dolor into each other.

You grew up

because what else to do

when receiving just enough aceite to keep the cogs turning.

You laid down

because he made it happen

for himself even though it split you open like a coco.

You made eyes

because what else to offer

when that is all they’ve ever wanted and tienes hambre.

 

Amarga, bitter at the world, bitter at me,

bitter at the men, bitter at your mom.

Dulce, could you ever change your name?

Will my good Lord ever sweeten up your taste?

 

She’ll be born

because your flesh was naked

though you yourself were covered inches-thick by muros.

She’ll grow up

because what else to do

when you brought her into this relajo and can’t blame her for it.

She’ll lay down

because you will lay her down

so she sleeps in peace and bathes in prayers and knows amor.

She’ll make eyes

because she is a playful child

and knows nothing else but hugs and games and confianza.

 

Amarga, bitter at the world, bitter at me,

bitter at the men, bitter at your mom.

Dulce, could you try to change her name?

Will my good Lord sweeten you up, just for her sake?

And I will give to each one a white stone, and on the stone will be engraved a new name… Revelation 2:17

Unless God Has Spoken

Reminders and prayers when college gets hard.

There is no objectivity
unless God has spoken.
There is no real redemption
unless Christ is risen.
There is no hope of healing
unless there’s an incision.
There is no truth or beauty
without God’s existence.

And the world is a war, waged without waiting for me to wake up.
I’m sleepy from ceaselessly singing my sighs to the silence — speak to me!
Find me in fear, frustration, and f**king things up,
In the midst of the muddiness made by our madness in mushing
Our lies with your truth.
Unmuddle me!

Loneliness lurks, laughing at love and lying about life that’s coming.
I’m tired from trying to take on the task of transforming
The hearts of the hardened, the heads of the half-paying-attentions.
Be with me, bear with me, bring me back to basic things:
Your love of my mess.
Unmangle me!

Because the Lord has spoken,
there is a word that’s certain.
Because the Lord is risen,
I know I am forgiven.
Because there was a piercing,
I know there comes a healing.
Because you are existing,
I’m giving up resisting.

book review: “Redemption” by Mike Wilkerson

 

The word “redemption” is one of my all-time favorites. Though some of its meaning has been generalized and corrupted by overuse, it still manages to capture much of the awesome power of the concept that lies behind the word. The Bible itself has been frequently and accurately called “God’s story of redemption.” Ultimately, Mike Wilkerson tells us in this book that redemption is all about drawing near into the presence of God (Revelation 21:3). The subtitle is: “Freed by Jesus from the idols we worship and the wounds we carry.” That is essentially what the book is about – how Jesus redeems us from the double-edged sword of this fallen creation, sin and suffering. Anyone who lives experiences both. 

Wilkerson unpacks the concept of redemption by examining its Biblical prototype: the Exodus story. Recorded in the second book of the Bible, the Exodus story is the record of how God freed his people, the descendants of Jacob, from slavery in Egypt. A constant drumbeat-like theme of the Bible is “remember the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.” When the Jewish New Testament authors wrote about the redemption in Jesus, they had the Exodus story in mind (see Romans 3:24-25, Ephesians 1:7, Colossians 1:13-14). Wilkerson therefore uses it as his outline, exploring its many aspects and showing how Jesus himself is our redemption.

I loved reading this book because it is so real. The real-life examples Wilkerson uses are filled with intense human brokenness, and are devastatingly relatable, yet brimming with hope. He looks honestly at abuse, addiction, and the many other brutal manifestations of sin faced by so many in the world. He also goes deeper, penetrating the heart of these issues by examining idolatry, shame, desire, repentance, forgiveness, and more, as well the both obvious and subtle manifestations of each. Thankfully, he treats both sides – the idols we worship as well as the wounds we carry – with justice and clarity. He also relentlessly does away with every counterfeit redemption which may so easily substitute for the real thing: Christ the one mediator between God and man. Cloaked in religious language or not, anything else is simply another idol.

To anyone seeking healing and restoration from a really screwed-up life, especially from abuse or addiction, this book will introduce you to a God who sees and knows, and who ransoms and redeems. You will be amazed at the faithfulness of God, the applicability of the Bible, and the reality of what Jesus’ sacrifice means for your life. God is good, and trustworthy, and he holds out true, transforming redemption to you, personally. He forbids that you settle for anything less.

To others who have been relatively sheltered (so far) from life’s more brutal side, this book is for you too. It will unveil the slavery you settle for and the freedom you may be missing out on by looking towards your own “Egypt” or “golden calf,” whether by minimizing sin, rationalizing sin, partially confessing sin, accepting sin as part of who you are, or in any other way serving an idol that is not the living God. Understanding redemption by reading this book will greatly help you in reaching out to the very broken people around you who, underneath their hardened exterior, are yearning for the forgiveness and renewal found only in Jesus, just as you are.

Chapter 1 – When You Suffer, God Is Near
Chapter 2 – Bricks without Straw: How Long, Oh Lord?
Chapter 3 – The Passover: At Your Worst, God Gives His Best
Chapter 4 – Crossing the Red Sea: Into a New Life Free from Shame
Chapter 5 – Demanding Manna: The Subtle Significance of Everyday Desires
Chapter 6 – The Golden Calf: Volunteering for Slavery
Chapter 7 – The Covenant-keeping God: Our Only Hope for Lasting Change
Chapter 8 – Is God Your Promised Land?

Also included are an epilogue about the responsibility to pass on the truth of God’s redemption to others (“The Redeemer’s Mission”) and an appendix about the temptation to substitute a living faith with the trappings of religion (“Religious Addiction”).

I plan on buying my own copy for future use. If anyone would like to borrow it, I will gladly share it with you.

the gospel

gospel = good news that brings great joy

There is no other place to start than with the gospel. The gospel is the central message of Christianity and the grand theme of the Bible. It is the starting place and ending place of the whole Christian life. It’s a story, and it begins with God…

Get a bigger idea of God than the one that you have. God exists: he is completely self-sufficient, independent, perfect, pure, and eternal. He exists in an eternal fellowship of three persons in one essence, whom we call Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. John 5:26

As for God, his way is perfect: the LORD’s word is flawless. Psalm 18:30

Who has understood the mind of the LORD, or instructed him as his counselor? Isaiah 40:13

God created the universe out of nothing, from the vastest galaxy to the protons and electrons of the smallest atom. He created spirits and a spiritual world. He created the earth and everything that lives on it. He created all these things for his own glory and purposes, and for the love and joy of his creation. At the pinnacle of his creation on earth he created humans to “bear his image” (represent his qualities; hold in themselves a reflection of who God is) and to rule the earth: not autonomously, but in everything dependent on God; loving him, praising him, loving and helping each other, and willingly submitting their wills to his.

You alone are the LORD. You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to everything, and the multitudes of heaven worship you. Nehemiah 9:6

So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. Genesis 1:27

Humanity rebelled, and has continued to rebel to this day. Humanity’s rebellion against God, called sin, is an exchange of the worship of God for the worship of self and things God has created. God hates it, for it is a perversion and distortion of what he has made. Its results are suffering, misery, evil, and, ultimately, death and the holy wrath of God.

They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Romans 1:25

All humans participate in this rebellion. Not just occasionally, when they lie or steal, but constantly, whenever they fail to worship God with everything in them, or when they love themselves more than other people. All humanity has turned away from God and gone their own way, and as a result, the world is evil, violent, self-serving, and corrupt. All of us have rejected God and pretended we were gods instead. And all of us deserve nothing other than his anger and judgment.

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. Ephesians 2:1-3

[God,] your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrongdoing. Habakkuk 1:13

It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. Hebrews 10:31

Now, God – eternal, independent, all-powerful, self-existent, glorious – did not leave it at that. He never planned to leave it at that. In all love, in all kindness, in unimaginable grace, God the Son entered time and space as a man, a real man. He was conceived miraculously, was born naturally, lived sinlessly, was murdered unjustly, and was resurrected to life again after three days. His name was Jesus, which means “God saves.”

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14

Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him. Acts 2:22-24

Through Jesus and only through him, reconciliation to God and freedom from sin and death are freely available. He lived perfectly so that those who believe can be credited before God with his perfect record. He died on a cross so that their debt to God can be paid for and their sins forgiven by his own taking on of the wrath of God. He rose from the dead because death could not hold him. God accepted his sacrifice on our behalf and promises the same kind of resurrection life to all who believe.

He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. Colossians 2:13-14

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die.” John 11:25-26

Through Jesus, the image of God in a person, once broken and distorted by sin, is restored. Through Jesus, sinful humans are recreated into what we were always meant to be. Through Jesus, the judgment of God is turned away and the love of God is lavished on us. Through Jesus, the unapproachable Deity becomes freely accessible; we are adopted into his family. Through Jesus, the Holy Spirit of God lives in us and changes us. Through Jesus come peace, joy, hope, freedom, value, and meaning. Through him comes true, indestructible life. He is the answer to our need, and the purpose of our lives. His love is the most incredible, truest reality in the whole world.

For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 2 Corinthians 5:14-17

In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. Ephesians 3:12

It is through faith – belief and trust in what Jesus has done – that any person receives this free gift of God called redemption. No one can earn it; any good thing a person does is merely what they ought to have been doing all along. And even the good things we do outside faith are distorted by wrong motives and self-love. If you think God will save you from judgment because you are “good enough” or because you try to love him, understand that you not good enough and that you hardly love him. Instead, understand, know, and believe that Jesus is in all ways good enough and that he has loved you first.

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 1 John 4:9-10

“The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” Mark 1:15