Category: The Cross

White As Snow

2009 has been a good year for snow!

There was obviously the hefty dump we had in February, and now at the end of the year we’ve had the first white Christmas that I can remember. And the white stuff’s not done with yet! In fact as I sit here typing there are massive flakes falling from the sky, several inches lying on the ground and very few people out and about on the estate (apart from the usual snowball terrorists!) I love the snow – it brings out the kid in me like very few other things can (except possibly Jelly Babies!)

However, this particular flurry has got me feeling all theological.

Well perhaps not theological – perhaps just thankful…for grace!

I found myself thinking about those brilliant words in Isaiah 1v18:

“Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow

I love that God Himself wants to talk us through the realities of grace! He gets us to face up to the scarlet scandal of our own sin, then points us to His promise of forgiveness and the gift of a snow-white soul. These words echo those penned by king David as he pleaded with God for forgiveness after his sin as an adulterous murderer had been exposed:

“Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. (Psalm 51v7)

How is that possible? How can scarlet sin, such as adultery and murder be made whiter than the pure snow?

Answer: The cross of Jesus!

Fast forward 1000 years. Jesus – the spotless Lamb of God – was nailed to a cruel Roman cross and stained with every last trace of my sin (and the sin of the world) shedding His own blood as payment for my debt and transferring His own righteousness to my account. Crazy as it may sound, my scarlet soul was purged – whiter than snow – by the crimson blood of Jesus! Check out how John put it:

“the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1John 1v7)

Across the valley from my house I can see several industrial slag-heaps – black coal-tips that scar the mountainside, telling the story of decades of industrial abuse. When it snows like it is today – the black slag is completely covered by a pure white blanket.

It’s a strong picture of what Christ has done for me.

Ugliness is replaced by beauty.

It’s the majesty of the gospel.

Offensive Little Rapper

Teaching at Offensive09A few weeks ago I had an email from a pastor in Newport saying that one of the young people I had taught to emcee at a youth camp last month, and who had done the Offensive course last year, wrote and performed a rap in church on Easter Sunday that was all about the cross. Apparently it brought the house down! Anyway, he did Offensive again on Saturday and I met his dad who was blown away by the depth and passion of the lyrics that his son had penned. When this boy rapped it for me, I was so impressed that I asked him to email the lyrics to me, so that I could post them up on my blog!

He willingly obliged so I’ve copied them below. I hope they’re a blessing to you! (Bear in mind this kid’s only 14!!!)

Stuff like this makes the Offensive course so worth doing…

I’ma follow him and I won’t give up / ‘cuz he took my place and he took the cup
He’d done nothing wrong yet he drank it up / so now I decided to lift him up
He was convicted to die, up on a hill / he was crucified like those who kill
He coulda backed down but he said your will / and he raised back up and he lives on still.

Yo! Jesus took all my sin away / it went down with him on the cross that day
‘cuz he was and is life, truth and the way / but you can’t keep living your life in the grey
So think about just what I say / where you gonna go on judgement day?
I’ll say again Jesus took my sin away / but the choice is yours at the end of the day

JESUS! It’s amazing what you did / JESUS! It’s amazing hope you give
JESUS! Your life’s how I want to live / JESUS! Assaulted now exalted
JESUS! It’s amazing what you did / JESUS! It’s amazing hope you give
JESUS! Your life’s how I want to live / JESUS! Assaulted now exalted

He carried the cross with his back ripped open / while all the people was laughin’ and joking
Roman soldiers threw lots for his clothin’ / stripped hung up on a hill in the open
Humiliated, up there he died / as he did “it is finished!” he cried
But, thing is he knew he would rise / and as a result I am purified

Yo it’s his salvation that I claim / it’s eternal life with him I gain
C’mon man you won’t ever be the same / I promise this in Jesus’ name
You won’t wanna turn your back again / you’ll just wanna give Jesus the praise
True man it means a massive change / but think it’s worth it in the end

Yeah it’s terrible how crucifixion killed / it’s hard to imagine it’s what God willed
But ‘cuz of the way Christ’s blood was spilled / the God shaped hole in my heart is filled
I just rapped a line about a God shaped hole / I believe it exists in every human soul
Without it filled life’s dark and cold / but get with God man he’ll make you whole

Something about salvation’s great / there ain’t like a point where he says “too late”
He’ll welcome you back in and he’ll call you “mate” / but that don’t mean you can say “I’ll wait”
‘cuz judgement day man it could be tomorrow / if that’s the case you’ll be filled with sorrow
Sorry pal but hell’s the place that ya go / unless Jesus Christ is a guy that ya know

Easter Reflections Pt.1 – The Savage Beauty of the Cross

crossIt’s been a fantastic Easter weekend! Hectic in many ways but full of gospel grace and despite all the busyness I’ve had lots of time to reflect on the glory of the Easter story and just why it’s still the best news ever! Over the next few day I’m going to be sharing a few of my Easter reflections:

1. The Savage Beauty of the cross: Several years ago my very good friend Ben Franks (who helped us to plant Hill City) started writing a song which opened with the lyrics “On the cross of savage beauty, My sin was nailed to a perfect body”. As far as I know he still hasn’t finished writing it, but to me those words really do captivate the essence of what the cross was all about. It was savage because it was God showing the world the sheer horror of sin and just how offensive it is to him. In effect it was God saying to our guilty world“look what your sin does to me!” Even after being a Christian for 17 years, the cross still rocks me to the core, because it was MY sins that put Him there – I deserved that death!

However, the cross is also intensely beautiful. As Paul reminds us in Romans 5v8 – it was God demonstrating His own, deep love towards us. The love that God holds towards us is neither passive nor sentimental, but active and sacrificial! On the cross God was actually forgiving the unforgivable, redeeming the wretched and opening a way to the Father for rebels like me who have no right to be in His holy presence. Nothing displays the beauty of God’s grace to us more graphically and more beautifully than the cross. Therefore, only focussing on the savage reality of our sin on Good Friday is to do a disservice to what was truly taking place on that dark day on Calvary. The cross was, in effect, God saying to our broken world “Look how much I love you – I love you to death!” 

As far as I’m concerned, Good Friday should be a day of both sober reflection and repentence, coupled with deep gratitude and passionate worship to our God who loves us unconditionally, even to the point of death on a cross.

Praise God for the savage beauty of the Cross!

Satisfied Saviour

crucifiedThis morning we had a short, intimate, Good Friday communion service at our house for our church family. We sang, prayed and broke bread together and I preached a simple message on the Prophetic Portrait of Christ Crucified in Isaiah 52 and 53 – one of my favourite pictures of the cross, painted around 700BC by the prophet Isaiah. While the whole passage is dripping with graphic, humbling gospel truth, there is a verse towards the end that just gets me every time:

“Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities.” (Isaiah 53v11)

Several years ago a good friend of mine cycled from Bangor to Cardiff in 48 hours to raise money to purchase some bikes for missionaries in India (amazingly he did it, whilst suffering from colitis too!) I remember him telling me afterwards that there were several points on the ride when he had felt like quitting because he was so tired. What kept him going, however, was a vision of a young Indian girl who signified to him that his sacrifice was going to make a difference in real lives for the gospel in India! He pushed through the pain and raised a fat wedge of cash for those bikes.

This verse in Isaiah reminds me of that, though obviosuly on a much larger scale. I’m forever blown away by the grace of the cross of Christ. It’s preached every single Sunday in Hill City and we take communion every week to make sure that the cross is at the heart of all we do and are as a Church. However, it’s sometimes easy to forget the cost of Calvary. Jesus was fully man and therefore the agony of the cross was something that He had to bear in His humanity, and the temptation to give up would have been as real to Jesus as it would have been to any of us (Gethsemane teaches us that!)

But He didn’t quit! Why not?

Because through the pain, through the blood, and through the “anguish of His soul”, Jesus saw something that satisfied Him. Something that made the cross worth enduring and that inspired Him to push through.

That something was me!

Jesus was satisfied that His sacrifice was worth it as He saw beyond the physical, emotional and spiritual torment He was facing and fixed His gaze on the “many to be accounted righteous.”  He knew that through the cross He was redeeming for the Father a people whose sins would be completely forgiven and who would be robed in His own beautiful righteousness!

We are why Jesus died. We are who He saw through the blood, sweat and tears of Calvary. We are who He was saving!

Thank you Jesus, my precious Saviour – you’re awesome!