TBT: My Ugly Brown Chair

Today’s Throw-Back-Thursday post comes from January 3, 2014.  And yes, I still have the chair.

I have an ugly brown chair in my home office.  It was given to us years ago.  The fabric was frayed and the arm cushions were eaten by our dog.  We almost threw it out; instead we put some new foam around the arms and bought a brown slip cover for it.  Now it sits in the corner of my office and I love my chair.  It’s where I sit and read, or sit and listen to music, or sit and nap, or sit and think, or just sit.  But mostly, I sit and pray in my ugly brown chair.  You see my ugly brown chair is an open invitation to hang out with Christ.  It’s where we can converse and where I can listen.  I try to do more listening than talking; I learned long ago that I do better when I just listen.

One day as Jesus was talking to the crowds He said, “But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Matthew 6:6 ESV).  He should have added “sit in you ugly brown chair.”  You see, my secret place is my chair, away from the distractions of the day, away from the gaze of the crowds, and out of earshot from the members of my church.  It’s just me and Him talking openly, genuinely, freely, passionately and often times, desperately.  But I know that I can always count on Him meeting me there at my ugly brown chair.  That is reward enough.

So where’s your ugly brown chair?  It can be anywhere.  It doesn’t even have to be a literal chair.  Where is that “place” where you can connect to the One-who-loves-you-most?  He’s calling you to a secret place where you can open yourself up to Him and listen to Him.  Find your ugly brown chair.  He’s waiting for you.


Pleading the Blood – Revisited

I believe there is a legitimate way to “Plead the Blood of Jesus” based on a good understanding of what the Scriptures teach and it is not to either force God’s hand to grant us our wishes or as a magical charm to ward off troubles. (See my previous post – or rant – about “Pleading the Blood…What?”)

We look to the Blood as an inspiration to worship.  When we consider and meditate on the horror of Jesus’ suffering on our behalf, and when we meditate on the depth of love that caused Him to endure the Cross, our only appropriate response is worship.  The Blood drives us to our knees.  The Blood humbles our pride and demands.  The Blood wraps our prayers in adoration.  When we plead the Blood in worship we recognize that our sin plunged the spear into His side and our rebellion nailed the spikes into His hands.  The blood that poured from those wounds completely and eternally took away all the guilt, shame and condemnation of that sin.  The Blood did what no human effort could accomplish.  The Blood was shed voluntarily even while we still rejected His overture of love.  That is why we worship and that is how we plead the Blood.  And every time we take Communion, every time we take the bread and the wine as an expression of worship, we plead the blood that cleanses our sin.

We plead the Blood to deflect and defeat the accusations of the devil.  When he throws our sin in our face and reminds us of what terrible Christians we are, we can say to him, “Yep, but the Blood of Jesus makes me whole, righteous, clean and guilt free.  Go away!”  When devil tries to convince us that we are worthless we can say to him, “That’s not true, the Blood of Jesus makes me infinitely valuable.  Go away!”  When the devil whispers to us that no one could possibly love us we can say to him, “That’s not true, the Blood of Jesus proves He loves me.  Go away!”  Any and every accusation, lie, condemnation, denunciation or allegation that the devil could level against us is dealt with by the Blood.  Remember that Jesus disarmed the devil at the Cross (Colossians 2:13-15).  The devil may bark at us but he has no bite and we can plead the Blood to remind him of that.  We are able to defeat his schemes by standing firm on the work of Christ, not our own merit.  We disable his weapons when we declare the power of the Blood. (Rev 12:11)

Finally, we plead the Blood every time we approach God as a good and loving Father.  It is only because of the Blood that we can be confident and secure in knowing He accepts us, receives us and is happy to spend time with us.  We are His pride and joy.  We are the apple of His eye.  We run into His arms not to demand some “legal” right but enjoy our Daddy.

Oh, my friends, this hardly does justice to all the wonders to be found in the Blood.  We can take each teaching found in Scripture concerning the Blood and spend a lifetime sounding its depths.  Let us not accepted the emaciated teaching that looks upon the Blood as a means to demand of God our wishes or that views it as a force field that protects our stuff.  Instead let us look to the Blood, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love,  may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:15-19)

The Blood of Jesus – Intimacy

I had the joy and privilege recently of attending a friend’s wedding, or should I say re-wedding (if that’s a word).  This couple had been married, had gotten divorced several years ago and now through a lot of hard work had reconciled their differences and decided to re-marry.  If that isn’t a testament of God’s power to change hearts and lives, I don’t know what is.  The point is that these two people had a broken relationship; they were living separate, detached lives.  Sin does the same thing to our relationship with God, it breaks us apart and alienates us from Him; it divorces us from Him.  But again He doesn’t leave us in that sorry state.  The Blood of Jesus is able to effect a reconciliation between us and God.

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. (Eph 2:13)

…and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, (Col 1:20-22)

This is simply beautiful to me.  I have been brought near to God.  It’s like a friend giving me an all-access pass meet the greatest person in the world.  Something that was completely impossible for me to do on my own, He did for me.  Not only that, but I can approach God knowing that He sees me as “holy and blameless and above reproach” confident in His acceptance.

Because of The Blood any offense between ourselves and God has been removed.  He no longer sees us as enemies or as the “bad guy.”  We move from being at war with Him to being at peace; from being an enemy to being a friend.  And much more than a friend – a much-loved child.  The Blood makes it possible to approach Him without fear of rejection or of being spurned.  Our relationship with Him is solid.

With that reconciliation comes the opportunity for real intimacy, real tenderness with the Father.  Through The Blood, He made possible a closeness that goes beyond just a passing friendship.  He made it possible to share our hearts, lives, fears, worries and joys with Him and hearing Him express His joy in us.  See my post A Conversation to get a glimpse into what this intimacy could look like.

Therefore, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus,   (Heb. 10:19)

We can have the confidence and assurance that we can crawl into His lap and be welcomed and heard.  This is more than theological or church-y language, this is enjoying the kind of relationship we all long for.  And it is possible by the Blood of Jesus.

The Blood of Jesus – Clean

I remember as a little kid jumping into the shower after a long day of playing outside (Yes, kids actually played outdoors once upon a time) and the water ran brown with the dirt I had accumulated on my adventures.  It felt good to be clean and fresh and smell good.  It’s a good feeling to be clean isn’t it?  But sin stains our souls and makes us feel dirty and unclean.  It’s that feeling of uncleanliness that we try to expunge through various acts of contrition, through vowing never to do “it” again, through promising to try harder, but sometimes we continue to feel impure, unclean.  The stain on our soul is too deep and we instinctively know that we cannot approach a holy God in that state of uncleanliness so we shrink back and we avoid Him.

King David faced his sin with Bathsheba directly knowing that he could not undo what he had done and that he was powerless to clean himself up.  So David cried out to God for cleansing, “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow” (Ps 51:7), because he knew that only God could do it.  That’s where we are today.  We know we have sinned, we sense the stain on our soul and we are powerless to erase it.  Yet that is exactly where the Blood of Jesus meets us and addresses this seemingly impossible situation.

 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1:7)

Please read those last few words carefully – The Blood cleanses us from ALL sin.  We are in fact clean and sparkly inside.  There is no shame and no need to fear to approach Him because we don’t feel clean.  We ARE clean and pure.  If we would take the time to consider this and let it sink deeply into our souls I think we would experience great joy and freedom.

There is a TV commercial for a laundry detergent that claims it can remove ten thousand and one stains.  I can tell you definitively that the Blood of Jesus can remove ten million and one stains from our soul.  Go to Him and He will purify you and wash away all the filth that has accumulated on your soul throughout your life.  Let’s not be afraid; let’s not shrink back, instead let us run to Him and enjoy a life untainted.

The Blood of Jesus – Mercy

There is a great church-y word that we never hear in normal conversation, don’t understand and usually skip right over it when we come across it.  When we hear it our eyes glaze over and we become positively catatonic.  What we actually hear – “blah-blah-ation.”  That word is Propitiation.  We find it in several New Testament verses.

… whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.    (Romans 3:25).

He [Jesus] is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:2)

Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son [to be] the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:10)

The word propitiation simply means to appease or placate so that when God looks at our sin His wrath and condemnation are placated or satisfied by the blood of Jesus.  In other words, because of the Blood God does not let loose His lightning bolts to smite us.  He is no longer angry at us.  But there is an even more beautiful word picture here.  I’ll quote David Guzik:

A propitiation: The ancient Greek word for propitiation is also used in the Septuagint [Greek Old Testament] for the mercy seat, the lid covering the Ark of the Covenant, upon which sacrificial blood was sprinkled as an atonement for sin. While it might be said that this passage [1 John 2:2] means “Jesus is our mercy seat,” it probably has the more straightforward idea of propitiation – a substitute sacrifice.

At the same time, the “mercy seat” idea should not be neglected as an illustration of propitiation. Inside the Ark of the Covenant was the evidence of man’s great sin: the tablets of law; the manna received ungratefully; the budded rod of Aaron, showing man’s rejection of God’s leadership. Up over the Ark of the Covenant were the symbols of the holy presence of the enthroned God in the beautiful gold cherubim. In between the two stood the mercy seat, and as sacrificial blood was sprinkled on the mercy seat on the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16), God’s wrath was averted because a substitute had been slain on behalf of sinners coming by faith. We really can say that Jesus is our “mercy seat,” standing between guilty sinners and the holiness of God.

Jesus our mercy-seat! It doesn’t get better or more beautiful than that.  So by faith in “the Blood” we benefit from the propitious, covering, mercy-giving nature of His sacrifice.  The Blood acts to cover us, hide us from the wrath of God for our sin.  The notion of the Blood as representing the mercy seat is powerful.  It is the Blood that allows God to see US as precious, accepted children and not objects of judgement and condemnation.  We are freed from that condemnation as God sees the Blood and turns away from wrath to mercy.  In mercy we are able to approach God.  The Blood makes possible the re-introduction of Father to children.

So when I feel defeated by sin, when I think I’ve finally stepped over the line and God has just turned His back on me I remember the Blood.  I step under the covering of the mercy seat and I thank God that Jesus bled on my behalf.  I don’t have to cower or fear.  God doesn’t see my sin instead He sees Jesus.

The Blood of Jesus Considered

When Adam ate the forbidden fruit he really mucked things up! That one act of disobedience has continued to plague mankind since then until now.  The effects were devastating to Adam himself and to his relationship with God.  Consider that when Adam disobeyed God’s command he became guilty of breaking God’s law; Adam was guilty of a crime and deemed a criminal by Heaven.  And of course, Adam’s sin literally separated him from God’s presence.  He was kicked out the Garden and no longer could Adam walk and talk with God in close communion.   The relationship between God and Adam was ruptured and now the two close friends were enemies.  It goes without saying that Adam lost his intimacy with God.  But that’s not all, Adam’s disobedience forever tarnished him with the stain – the impurity and uncleanliness – of his sin.  There’s more but I’ll stop there.  All this because of a piece of fruit!  Do you think Adam would have taken that bite if he knew just how destructive that bite would be?

The effects of Adam’s sin have characterized human experience since that fateful moment and we have ever since made our own unfruitful efforts to recover what Adam lost.  All to no avail.  How can a dead, guilty, impure soul approach a Holy God on its own merit or effort?  He cannot and so he is forever doomed to this separated existence.

This is where the power of the Blood of Jesus comes in.  When you search the New Testament you will find remarkable and life-giving statements that address and reverse every consequence of Adam’s fall.  We learn that the Blood of Jesus provides a path to becoming guilt-free, reconciled to God, pure and clean in His eyes.  Through the Blood we gain an unprecedented intimacy with Him and we are literally transferred from darkness into His light.  It undoes everything Adam did!  It establishes our confidence in approaching the Father.  It assures us of a warm reception into His presence.  It provides the ammunition to dismiss the condemnation heaped upon us, either from ourselves or the devil, when we do fail.  It is no magic elixir to be “applied” to our stuff, it is the Truth of Jesus’ life, death, resurrection and ascension that we receive in wonder and worship into our spirits.  It is the foundation upon which we build our Christian walk.

But before I go too much further let me clarify one important point.  When the New Testament refers to “the Blood” it is not primarily meaning the actual fluid the flowed through Jesus’ human veins.  It is a shorthand way of saying the death and resurrection of Jesus.  It is the same as saying “the Cross” or “His sacrifice.”  This is important because it demystifies “The Blood” and allows us to look at the entire teaching of Scripture regarding what Jesus accomplished on our behalf.

There is more depth and teaching on the Blood than I can possibly cover in these short posts and each topic deserves a treatment of its own.  I could write about “justification” in the Blood of Jesus (Romans 5:9); His Blood makes it possible for God to see us as not guilty.  Instead of punishing guilty sinners, He treats us as we had never sinned and are not considered guilty of any “crime.”  There is therefore no fear of punishment.  That’s a topic worth of hundreds of books, but enough said.

I could write about “redemption.”  God’s justice demands that some payment – the “fine” – imposed as a penalty for breaking His law be paid.  It’s great that we are not guilty, but we are still required to compensate God.  We may be declared judicially not guilty but we are still in our jail cell until the fine is paid.  We need some way or someone to pay the ransom in order to spring us from captivity. Fortunately, the Blood of Jesus has that covered.  Here’s my take on redemption.  Even though I know I’m forgiven and I’m no longer under condemnation for my sin, it still feels like I have to do something to pay God back for His kindness.  I don’t feel it’s fair that I get off scott free, so I try to find some way to “make it up” to God.  Redemption takes all that away.  Redemption is Jesus’ way of saying that we don’t owe anything.  Any obligation, any debt we incurred has been cleared.  I don’t have to walk around wondering if I’ve done enough.  I can never do enough to pay God back for my offense, but the good news is that I don’t have to.  But I won’t write about that either.

In the coming weeks, I will look at three aspects of the Blood that have impacted ME the most.  It’s the truths I fall back on when I am feeling defeated, dirty and distant.

Pleading the Blood…What?!

Allow me a moment to rant – with apologies to my more charismatic friends.  I have heard the phrase “plead the blood of Jesus” numerous times throughout my life.  The last time I heard it, a couple of months ago, something snapped in my mind and I said to myself, “What does that even MEAN?!”  I’ve always heard it used in association with dealing with some demonic influence in someone’s life.  We “plead the Blood” to ensure that Satan is convinced that we mean business.  It’s like using the phrase as a “power-up” to our prayer.  It’s not enough that we pray in the power and authority of Jesus, no, we need to append “pleading the blood” to make sure we are heard.  It’s like the devil perks up when he hears that and says to himself, “Well I guess I have to go now since they are pleading the blood.”  Really?  I don’t think it works that way.

But perhaps I as being too harsh or had misunderstood the use of the phrase, so I went online to search various teachers and websites to get a better perspective.  It only got worse!  One site actually taught that we should plead the blood over our stuff – our cars, houses, credit cards and finances.  They went on to say that when we did that our stuff would be protected from anything bad.  Our houses would be protected from hurricanes or tornadoes; our cars protected from breakdowns; our finances protected from identity theft or bad credit.  And we had to make sure that we pled the blood at least monthly otherwise the protective nature of the blood would expire!  I was horrified!  But perhaps this was an extreme case so I searched on.

A couple of sites told us that “pleading the blood” was a legal term (whatever that means) that we could use in prayer to “insist” that God grant our requests.  In other words, He owes us because we plead the blood.  Really? “INSIST?”  We are going to demand that God act according to our wishes just because we use the magical phrase!  I don’t think I would dare.  Many sites presented the same idea in various ways, but all suggested that the blood was to be used as a bargaining chip.  Never mind asking that His will be done, or that His kingdom come, or that our prayers would bring Him glory, instead let’s make sure we claim our right to ask for whatever we want.

Many sites promoted the protective nature of the blood.  They appealed to the Old Testament story of the Passover, where the blood of the sacrificed lamb brushed on their doorposts protected the Israelites from the angel of death.  These teachers then take that to mean that the blood of Jesus – our Passover Lamb will protect us from bad things happening to us.  I think that misses the point of that story.  The blood was not meant to protect their stuff but to save them from literal, physical death.  It foreshadowed the saving nature of Jesus’ sacrifice to deliver us from eternal death.  Nowhere in the New Testament is the idea that Jesus’ life, death and resurrection was meant to protect us in this life from bad things happening.  Nor are we ever instructed to “plead the blood” when we come before the Father in prayer.  Nor does the phrase even appear in the New Testament much less carry the seemingly magical powers ascribed to it.

OK, rant over.  I am truly, truly saddened (and angered) when I read these kinds of things.  I think it cheapens and misrepresents the power and glory of Christ’s death.  I think it reduces the splendor of Christ to a lucky charm.  I believe there is great power to radically transform lives when we properly understand the meaning of the Blood of Jesus.  But I don’t believe that “pleading the blood” is either necessary or biblical, at least, in the way it is commonly portrayed.  Over the next several weeks I will be looking at the New Testament teaching on “The Blood.  Let’s consider the wonder of Jesus’ sacrifice and stand in awe of its power to undo all the effects of sin and disarm the devil.  Only then can we rightly “plead the blood” in a way that honors Him.