Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Kneel at the Cross

Sometimes the most spiritually satisfying moments come when we least expect it.

This past weekend we held a Youth “Heroes” Retreat at Hillcrest Baptist Camp. I hope to have pictures soon to display! Honestly, although I was excited about the event and looking forward to this time for the students, I confess that I did not saturate it in prayer as I should have. My own heart was not prepared to meet the Lord in that place.

I could blame that neglect on other things (a pastor’s work is never done!), but it falls ultimately on me. God was (as He always is) more than ready to pour out His blessings on His children as they seek Him, but even as I hoped God would move among the students, I was not personally eagerly expecting Him to move in me.

Yet He did. What a Savior we have who first loved us! He takes the initiative to draw us to Himself – it’s not that we come looking for Him. Praise the Lord that God, being rich in mercy and kindness and grace, because of His great love for us, puts the surpassing riches of His grace on display in Christ Jesus. Our hope in Him never rests on our own goodness or merit, but wholly and only on His amazing grace!

At the camp they have created what they call the “Kneel at the Cross Prayer Garden.” My first reaction to seeing it was along the lines of, “Oh, that’s cool. Maybe they should add some flowers around it or something to make it look nicer.” I wasn’t super impressed.

But on Friday night as we gathered at the cross set into the concrete pad – the cross with the nail holes and blood stains visible where the hands and feet of Jesus would have been bound, the cross not made of polished silver or glittered gold but rugged wood, the cross where one Man took the pain that should have been ours – we knelt in reverence and humble adoration. And my soul was moved at the love of Christ.

I tried to imagine the depth of suffering Jesus endured on my behalf. I tried to imagine the pain and agony of such a horrific and gruesome physical death. I tried to imagine the spiritual anguish He felt and the incurable ache that would make Him cry out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Who has believed our message
and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?

He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.

He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.
Like one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Surely he took up our infirmities
and carried our sorrows,
yet we considered him stricken by God,
smitten by him, and afflicted.

But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
and by his wounds we are healed.

We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed and afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before her shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.

By oppression and judgment he was taken away.
And who can speak of his descendants?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
for the transgression of my people he was stricken.

He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence,
nor was any deceit in his mouth.

Yet it was the LORD's will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering,
he will see his offspring and prolong his days,
and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand.

After the suffering of his soul,
he will see the light of life and be satisfied;
by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many,
and he will bear their iniquities.

Therefore I will give him a portion among the great,
and he will divide the spoils with the strong,
because he poured out his life unto death,
and was numbered with the transgressors.
For he bore the sin of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors. (Isa. 53)

“When I survey the wondrous cross

On which the Prince of Glory died
My richest gain I count but loss

And pour contempt on all my pride.”

And I wonder who’s been praying for me. I wonder whose prayer God has answered? Dr. Jester? My church family? My wife? For someone surely was praying as Paul prayed for the church in Ephesus:

"For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge--that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God" (Eph. 3:15-20).

And God answered. When I expected it least, God showed up most.