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The Sounds of Silence in God’s House

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Have you ever felt grieved over something you cared deeply about, but had no control over? Lately, I’ve been feeling this way, like someone who just stepped out of the pages of the Old Testament.

Like Jacob of old, I have wrestled with the Lord over this post because I know as soon as it is read, I will be branded a critic of the Church. Unlike Jacob however, I have given up trying to hide my feelings any longer and admit that I am defeated.

Let me explain.

Whenever it became necessary for the Lord to deliver a message of correction to His people Israel, often He would raise up a man or woman and instruct them to go to the people and deliver the message. We refer to these servants as Prophets.

These Prophets are scattered throughout the Old Testament. Some we have labeled as “Minor Prophets” while others are called “Major Prophets”. All of them were called of God for a specific task and season in the history of Israel.

Of the many things these Prophets had in common, one was that they all shared a burden for God’s people. They bore this spiritual weight in their hearts because the people loved the pleasures of sin more than they loved God.

Oftentimes, as in the case of the Prophet Jeremiah, the magnitude of the weight they bore would reduce them to tears and cries of anguish. [1]

While I am certainly no Prophet, I can empathize with them because of something amiss among God’s people today. In fact, if I dwell on it too long, I become almost grief stricken. What is it that has me feeling this way?

It is the sound of silence in God’s house.

It is the realization that the church no longer desires revival; thus, she no longer travails in expectation of a new awakening. Rejecting the call from above to “come out from among them” [2], she has decided instead to align herself with the world, and in the process has rejected the Lord of Glory.

There is no longer a sound of weeping and anguish in the house of God over our spiritual barrenness, and the sound of this silence is deafening.

The church of Jesus Christ has married the world and thus has come under its spell. In doing so, the church is now more impacted by the world than the world is impacted by the church. Who can deny this truth?

We have sold our birthright.

I grieve because the church no longer wants God, but rather has discovered a way to carry on without Him. Remove the Holy Spirit from the church? No problem, hardly a soul will notice as we carry on with our regimented programs disguised as religion.

In our efforts to appease the masses, we have compromised all that made us unique, and our birthright has been auctioned off on the altar of pragmatism. We have copied the error of ancient Israel, who rejected the Almighty in favor of a flawed and imperfect king. [3]

I am distraught over the absence of Holy men and women of God, those who have been in His presence and now carry with them the burdens of a people gone astray. Where are those who have heard His voice, who have received the clarion call to sound the alarm and cry aloud for the church to return to its former glory? How long will they remain silent?

Incredulously, in the span of but a few generations the church has become little more than Sunday morning entertainment. Impassioned, God-inspired, soul searching sermons have given way to polished speeches that have more in common with the mantra of positive thinking than they do with the Word of God!

Instead of preparing our hearts for an encounter with the Holy One, we have created a sterile, guilt free environment where our hearts will never be pricked, and our conscious will remain unseared.

This environment is better suited for a coffee house or a nightclub, places where one never need concern themselves with being confronted with the sin that permeates their life.

We dim the lights and crank up the sound system in our efforts to mask the reality that we no longer walk in the Spirit, therefore we are resigned to manufacture a spirit of our own. The cheering thousands are proof enough that we have found the right formula.

Never mind that weeping and anguish of soul are no longer found in God’s house. The church now exists to make us feel good about ourselves, and all who enter its doors have entered a “Guilt Free Zone’. We have created a safe place where sin is never acknowledged or confronted. Come as you are and leave as you came.

We do not want revival. We do not want a return to the old paths. We do not want a fresh revelation from God as to the pitiful condition our souls are in. No, we want none of things because if we did, we would have them!

If the church wanted revival, it would have revival. It would pay any price in order to once again be endued with power from on High. But the church does not want revival because to have it means she would have to divorce herself from the harlot, worldly system it has aligned itself with.

The church is not inclined to return to the old paths, where the good way was [4]. To do so would force us to choose whether we will be hot or cold. To return to the old paths would force us from our lofty seat on the fence of mediocrity and lukewarmness, and we are quite comfortable there, aren’t we?

Instead, we want to be like the world in nearly every respect, while still calling ourselves “Christian”, and we will stop at nothing to accomplish this goal.

What has this illegitimate marriage given us? It has given us a parade of sexual predators in the church that has left untold thousands broken and bleeding in its wake.

It has given us a litany of ‘wolves in sheep’s clothing’ [5] disguised as clergy who reject the teachings of scripture in order to cozy up to the world, thus allowing every conceivable and base lifestyle to stand in the pulpit and declare their own twisted version of ‘truth’.

It has given us an anemic and sick substitute for Christ’s church, the very church He bled and died for. What is supposed to be His Body has been rendered powerless to stem the tide of sin and degradation that has enveloped it.

Such a church has forfeited its birthright and is no longer Christ’s representative on the earth. It is a counterfeit, and the deafening silence from within its lukewarm walls is proof enough that she is in danger of being rejected by the Lord. [6]

May God have mercy on us…

Ron

 

 

[1] Jeremiah is often referred to as the “Weeping Prophet because of his own words in chapter 9, verse 1: Oh, that my head were waters, and my eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of my people!

[2] 2 Cor.6:17 Wherefore come out from among them, and be separate, says the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing, and I will receive you.

[3] 1 Samuel 8:19 Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, No, but we will have a king over us.

[4] Jeremiah 6:16 Thus says the Lord, Stand you in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and you shall find rest for your souls. But they said, we will not walk in them.

[5] Matthew 7:15 Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.

[6] Rev. 3:16 So then because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of my mouth.

 

 

A sure and steady anchor

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As I look out the window of what we refer to as our multi-purpose room(the ladies of the house refuse to give me complete control of it so I can’t call it my office), everywhere I look I see signs of life.

Here in Florida the grass has been growing for quite a while now. Since March I’ve been mowing once a week, and in a few more weeks the rainy season will change that to a twice-weekly chore.

Songbirds are constantly singing their unique songs, while a chorus of screeching jays, cardinals, and blackbirds announces the arrival of a bobcat, now hidden in my flower bed. Little gray squirrels run about the yard, chasing each other in an endless game of tag.

If I look to my right, I see pots of shrubs I started from cuttings a few months ago. Just beyond them is a pineapple plant that I grew from a rooted top of a pineapple bought at the grocery. Another one sits in a glass jar, awaiting the development of its own root system.

Palm trees are everywhere, which reminds me I need to call someone to trim the tallest ones. I no longer have the balance I once did, so climbing a 20’ ladder no longer seems like the wise thing to do.

The jasmine are beginning to bloom in force, filling the yard with their musky fragrance. Pink, red, and coral hibiscus are showing off their brilliant colors, as are flowering shrubs I potted up months ago but can’t recall the names of at the moment.

If all of this seems a bit idyllic, it’s because it is. Though I may be surrounded by homes, traffic, and people all running here and there doing whatever they are doing, this is my refuge.

You see, I need a place where I can get in touch with the things that matter to me. Whether it’s getting my hands in a flower pot, mowing the lawn, or simply enjoying the sights, sounds, and smells of a myriad of living things, these are the things that ground me.

This does sound pretty nice, even if I do say so myself. And I do not want to give the impression that like the Apostle Paul, “I have learned that whatever state I find myself in, I am content”. I wish! Yet I know all too well that any peace and contentment would be impossible were it not for the anchor of my soul that holds this all together.

Jesus is that anchor and the rock that I rest upon.

While I do not have great wealth, I am rich in ways that no amount of money could purchase. When you possess the love of Christ, the desire for material wealth fades into obscurity.

I would like to think that you also have a place of refuge, a place to get away from the daily grind and the stresses of this life, a peaceful place to enjoy the things that are most important to you.

Most of all, I trust that you are anchored in Jesus Christ. Without Him, any such peace and contentment would be impossible.

Be blessed,

Ron

 

 

 

 

 

We now have life in His name!

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Amazing grace, how sweet the sound

That saved a wretch like me

I once was lost, but now am found

Was blind but now I see.

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound. To such a blind, miserable, wretched, and lost man as I once was, there is nothing so sweet as Amazing Grace.

Easter reminds me once again of the unfathomable grace that the Creator extended towards humanity when He put into motion His redemption plan. And what a plan it was! God sent His only son into this world to purchase our salvation by His own blood.

I just have to ask: who but God can do such things?

It was the beloved disciple John who recorded these eternal words of lasting hope when he said “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life”.  John 3:16

Before you and I were ever born, God had already thought of us! I just can’t get over that! Oh, if only this world could see that there is no reason to live in hopelessness. There is no reason for us to live our lives in desperation.

Jesus came that we might have life, and have it more abundantly!

God so loved YOU, before you were ever born, that He gave His son as a ransom for your sins. By doing this He freed you from every chain and shackle that has you bound! No matter the burdens we bare, or the pains of past mistakes, Jesus died to set us free from all of it!

I am living proof of the power of the Resurrection. You name it, at one time I tried it, did it, and wanted more of it all in a vain attempt to silence the fear, anger, and loneliness that was destroying me.

I was destined for Hell just as sure as the sun is coming up in the morning.

But one day, one glorious day, Jesus tugged at my heart and slowly but surely I began to have my eyes and my heart opened to a love I never knew existed. God’s love, eternal love, the kind of love that will get you from here to Glory enveloped my very soul and I’ve never been the same since!

I’ve made a lot of mistakes along the way, but in every instance there was that amazing grace to gently guide me back to the straight and narrow way. Thank God He’s still guiding me along every step of this journey.

I once was lost but now I’m found!

I love how John concludes his gospel by telling us that the things that Jesus did were done to help us to believe in Him, and in doing so we can have eternal life in His name.

And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.  John 20:30,31

May this Resurrection Day be so precious to you that you will never forget it, and I pray that the Lord will reveal Himself to all of you in a special way.

He is alive forevermore! Amen!

Ron

I wonder…what was in that cup?

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Of all the events leading up to the crucifixion of Jesus, there is one that leaps out at me more than all the others. Perhaps it is because of the sheer magnitude of what is about to happen to him. Maybe it’s the fact that the humanity of Jesus is front and center.

Whatever the reason, there in the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus uttered a statement that for over two thousand years has been studied, preached about, and been the source of countless debates.

As the hour of His death approaches, Jesus does what he has always done for the past three and a half years. When he feels he needs encouragement and strengthening, he withdraws from his disciples and begins to pray to His Father.

And he was withdrawn from them about a stone’s cast, and kneeled down, and prayed, Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done. And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him.   Luke 22:41-43 emphasis mine

“Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me” is the anguished cry from Jesus. We understand, of course, that the cup that Jesus was referring to was the impending scourging of His Body and eventual crucifixion.

While I am not a scholar or a theologian, I believe that there was far more to this cup then we may suspect. So, with that in mind I ask that you allow me, an ordinary, simple man that loves God, to share with you what I believe was in that cup.

Fear…yes, there was fear in that cup. Jesus had no doubt seen many crucifixions. After all, it was a preferred method of execution by the Romans, one reserved for slaves and the worst of the worst criminals. So common was crucifixion in those days that it hardly drew the attention of the masses. [1]

Rejection…Jesus had already experienced the rejection of His disciples. As gallant as they may have tried to appear on the surface, when it came down to a choice of whether to identify with Christ, and thus risk death, or  flee to safety, all of them chose the latter. Add to this the weight of scripture that refers to him as a man despised and rejected, a man acquainted with grief, and you can begin to get a sense of the magnitude of rejection he felt. [2]

Humiliation…There were many ways the Romans could have chosen to kill Jesus, yet the scriptures foretold that He would be crucified. Crucifixion was a humiliating way to die. Unlike the popular paintings we are all familiar with, the ones that for modesty’s sake depict Christ partially clothed, the fact is that Jesus hung on that cross completely naked. Beaten, bleeding, forsaken, and now humiliated before his family and a multitude of mockers. [3]

Suffering…The Romans chose crucifixion as a means of inflicting the most amount of pain and punishment possible on a human being. Crucifixion was a slow, agonizing, and tortuous method of execution typically reserved for the most violent of criminals. Though modern medical science has attempted to describe in accurate detail what happens to a person who is crucified, our minds struggle to grasp the horror of such barbarity. [4]

Darkness

The gospel of Mark tells us that it was the “third hour” when Jesus was crucified. A day began at six o’clock, so it would have been nine o’clock in the morning when this took place. [5]

For three long, tortuous hours Jesus endured the agony of the cross. The taunts and jeers of the crowd, the insults, the mocking. He endured it all for three hours. Then, something happened that had never happened before.

From the sixth hour [noon] until the ninth hour [3:00 PM], darkness came over all the land. (Matthew 27:45)

This wasn’t a solar eclipse, as some have tried to explain. No solar eclipse lasts for three hours! It was if God Himself suddenly cast the world into darkness.

Separation…Darkness had settled over the earth. Many believe that this is the moment when God looked away from His Son. Because Jesus became sin for all of mankind, their thinking is that because God is Holy, He cannot look upon sin and therefore was forced to look away.

While I understand this train of thought, I think there’s was another reason.

Eons before God ever created man and placed him in the garden, sin was present in the form of rebellion against God. The angel Lucifer had permitted pride to enter his heart, and he decided that he would be as God. [6]

From that moment in time God has had to look upon sin, and there has never been a moment since that He hasn’t been looking upon sin. From the fall of man in the garden to the sins you and I committed today, God has looked upon sin.

If He were not able to look upon sin, as the common thought is, why then did God not turn away from you and I while we were still sinners? How is it that He looked to us instead of away from us, if it is true that He cannot look upon sin?

The answer is obvious, isn’t it? The fact is that God can and does look upon sin. He never looks away from us because of our sins, just as He never looked away from Jesus because he had become sin for all of mankind.

Why then, did God look away from Jesus while he was on the cross? It is because Jesus had to die completely alone. With no support from his disciples or family members, and especially not from his Heavenly Father.

As impossible as that sounds and as hard as it is to believe, Jesus was alone on that cross. He had to be, there was no other way for Him to bear our sins except that He did it all alone. Being made the scapegoat meant going it alone.

It is important to remind ourselves that God never stopped loving his Son. On the contrary, Jesus said “Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. (John 10:17). How could his Father cease to love him while he was willingly laying down his life? How could any father do such a thing?

No, the Father did not stop loving the Son during those three long hours of darkness. But for Jesus to bear the sins of the whole world alone, He had to be separated from this love.

Think of this: Jesus is now in a place where he has never been: the love that the Father and Son have enjoyed for all eternity, is now for the very first time beyond his grasp.

And on that cross, the sinless Son of God comes face to face with the sheer terror of this separation. This causes him to cry out “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me”? Matthew 27:46

You see…God had to look away from his only Son, because had he not done so, He would have had to intervene. God did not look away because He couldn’t look upon sin. He looked away because if he hadn’t, He would have taken his Son off that cross in order to stop his suffering.

Just as any loving father would do.

And you and I, indeed all of mankind, would have been lost for eternity. God looked away from his suffering Son so that you and I could escape the punishment our sins demanded. He looked away from his only son and looked to you and me!

Which brings me to the final thing found in the Cup of Gethsemane. You must look hard to see it. You must look past the fear, the humiliation, the darkness and the separation to find it.

It’s cloudy at first, but the more you look at it begins to come into focus. Finally, you realize that what you are staring at is your own image. There, in the bottom of that cup lies a portrait of you.

When it was all said and done, it was your image that Jesus saw in that awful cup. And when He saw you, nothing could stop him from fulfilling His destiny to die for you on that Cross. When He saw you there in that cup, there was no turning back.

I am so thankful that Jesus Christ would die in my place on that cross. The Hell I deserved He himself willingly endured on the cross.

Good Friday and Easter mean redemption has been made possible through the blood of the spotless, sinless Lamb of God. My prayer is that all of us will take some time to reflect upon the enormity of such a sacrifice.

God bless you all,

Ron

 

[1] The history and pathology of crucifixion:   https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14750495

[2] Matthew 26:56   But all this was done, that the scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled. Then all the disciples forsook him and fled.

Isaiah 53:3 He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with griefand we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

[3] Psalm 22:7,8   All they that see me laugh me to scorn: they shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying,  He trusted on the Lord that he would deliver him: let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him.

[3] Psalm 22:16   For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have enclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet.

[4]The history and pathology of crucifixion:   https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14750495

[5] Mark 15:25 And it was the third hour, and they crucified him.

[6] Isaiah 14:12-15….How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High. Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Being separate from the world does not mean ignoring the world

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In such a time as this, when the lines of distinction between the church and the world are growing ever more indiscernible, we must exercise caution in order not to fall prey to deception and false teaching.

While there are a great many beliefs today that are outright heresies, there are also beliefs that contain a modicum of truth yet miss the mark entirely when applied incorrectly.

Such is the case with the teaching that Christians are to separate themselves from the world. Certainly, no true follower of Christ should argue that we are not to emulate the world and its behavior. Nor are we to align ourselves with its un-Christ-like ideologies. Scripture makes this very clear; I believe.

We must be careful however in our application of this teaching because God has called us to be salt and light to this world. Or to put it another way, if we are to be effective witnesses for Christ we must interact with this world. We cannot hide our light under a bushel. [1]

To sequester ourselves apart from the world is to destroy both our witness and our credibility. The world today is in desperate need of a Savior, and you and I have been assigned the awesome responsibility of taking the Savior to the world, not hiding Him from the world.

It’s true that God has called us to be a people set apart unto himself. Sadly, due to a misapplication of this concept, many people use this as justification in setting themselves up as morally superior to everyone that doesn’t subscribe to their erroneous doctrine.

We see this attitude on display among pseudo Christian cults, such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses, as well as certain “fringe” Christian groups like Oneness Pentecostals. Both groups consider themselves to be the “elect of God” and anyone not in agreement with their doctrines as apostates, thus condemning any “outsiders” to be lost. [2]

Obviously, we need to examine the scriptures in order to determine the truth about the whole notion of separation from the world. Here is what Paul said about this in his teaching to the church at Corinth.

And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will dwell in them And walk among them. I will be their God, And they shall be My people.”

 Therefore “Come out from among them And be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, And I will receive you.”

“I will be a Father to you,
And you shall be My sons and daughters,
Says the Lord Almighty.”
   2nd Corinthians 6:16-18

So, is Paul teaching that Christians are to have nothing to do with those outside the church of God? Of course not! That is the hallmark of a Pharisee, to see oneself as superior to others because of religious position or tradition. [3]

Paul is saying here that once we have been born again, God’s Spirit takes up residence within us and we then become His dwelling place, or temple. As such, God both lives in us and walks with us, all of which means we are on intimate terms with the Creator.

This special, intimate relationship requires that we abstain from those things, or idols, that defile our hearts and corrupt our intimacy with the Father. We may be in the world, but not of the world.  [4]

What are these idols Paul speaks of, the ones we are to come out from and separate ourselves from? Some are obvious, such as having no other gods in our lives, but some are not so obvious. And dare I say they can be different for all of us?

An idol is essentially anything that comes between you and your Creator. Whatever consumes the bulk of your time, or so much of it that you have little time left to worship God, is an idol.

For some of us it is sports. Maybe TV takes all your time. Or a job that demands most of your waking hours. It could even be your boat, golf clubs, or fishing rods. For some of us it’s our electronic devices, such as cell phones and iPads.

What Paul is NOT saying in these verses is that we are to cut off all contact with anyone who isn’t part of our tribe (church). True enough, we should not hang around with people who are obviously negative influences. None of us should desire to become best friends with the neighborhood drug pusher, for example.

The fact remains however that even the worst among us needs a Savior, just as you and I did at one time. We may not have been the neighborhood drug pusher, but we were just as lost as they now are before coming to Christ. Our hearts were just as sin-laden as any other lost person. [5]

After all, sin is sin, and lost is lost. Race, ethnicity, income, ancestry, or any other factors notwithstanding, everyone needs the Savior. That’s why Jesus came: to seek and save that which was lost. [6]

Paul tells us that because God now dwells within us, we are the sons and daughters of God. As such, our light should shine before all men that they might come to know Jesus Christ as Lord. [7]

Come out from among idols? Absolutely! Separate ourselves from those things which turn our hearts away from the Lord? Without question!

Please don’t however, turn away from anyone in need of a Savior just because they aren’t like you. Don’t distance yourself so far from them that you can no longer have compassion on their plight.

Remember: that was you and I at one time.

Be blessed, in Jesus name.

Ron

 

[1] Matt. 5:14,15…You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.

[2] Jehovah’s Witnesses are a cult because they deny the deity of Christ, which makes them anti-Christ even though they claim to be ‘Christian’. John 1:1 states “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”. In their New World Translation, Jehovah’s Witnesses translate John 1:1 as “the Word was a god”, thus denying Christ His divinity.   Emphasis mine

[3] Matt. 23:1-7…Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, saying: “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do. For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. But all their works they do to be seen by men. They make their phylacteries broad and enlarge the borders of their garments. They love the best places at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues, greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called by men, ‘Rabbi, Rabbi.

[4] John 17:14…I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.

[5] Colossians 1:21,22…And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight

[6] Luke 19:10…for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.

[7] Matt. 5:16…Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

 

 

What do you see?

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There.

In the pew.

Sitting over there.

What do you see?

Dressed for success?

Clothed in hand-me-downs two sizes too small?

A crisp, new outfit?

A rumpled,wrinkled shirt?

Who do you see?

The preacher’s daughter?

A woman branded with a scarlet letter?

Perfectly dressed boys and girls driven to church in a shiny new Cadillac?

Ramshackle kids from the other side of the tracks who arrived in an old school bus transformed into a makeshift Sunday School taxi?

What do you hear?

A heavenly choir?

A wannabe rock band?

Too loud?

Too soft?

Just right?

Whispers of “what is he doing here”?

The muffled cries of the broken and abused?

Yes, here in God’s house, the one place where at the foot of the Cross the ground is level for all….

What do you see?

Who do you hear?

Maybe the better question is do we see and hear the same things that Jesus does?