Monday, March 31, 2008
Michael's question stemmed from John 20:24-29. Thomas hasn't seen the resurrected Lord, and for him, the reality is that Jesus is dead. The ride they've been on has stopped, and the park has closed, so to speak!
But, Thomas' reality is a false one. He doesn't think Jesus is alive, even though the remaining disciples assure him he is. Thomas finds his reality to be the foundation for what he believes.
We all do that; it's human nature. We base our thoughts and feelings around what we perceive to be the truth. Sometimes, though, we're just plain wrong, and Jesus has to step in and defy our own lies with his truth. But, just because Jesus stands in front of him doesn't mean that Thomas will believe - it might be Jesus' ghost, after all. So Jesus offers him better proof than that; he lets him touch his hands and side to stroke the bruised and tender flesh, to feel the scabs and scars, to sense the warmth of the blood pulsing through his veins. This was the Jesus he'd known and followed. A little worse for the wear, but the same, nonetheless.
Suddenly, Thomas' false reality crumbles, and the new, truthful reality explodes his heart into a powerful statement of worship: "My Lord and my God!" Sometimes, that's all we can say. A simple, yet profound acknowledgment of Jesus' mastery of us and his power over creation's natural laws.
Why is this significant? Because if Jesus is truly our Lord and God, then he can master the circumstances of our lives and even hold sway over the natural laws of creation itself. So, what we perceive to be our reality, may in fact be a day or two (or three!) behind, because he has begun another work to be completed.
For Thomas, the apparent reality was that Jesus was dead; the truth was that he had risen. Jesus asked him and calls us to look beyond what seems to be the reality of the situation to a new dimension of faith. The disciples [saw] the embodiment of this new reality. In resurrected flesh and bone and blood, Jesus [stood] before them. He even [ate] a piece of fish for them, almost like a parlor trick, to show them that this - that he - is real (see Luke 24:42-43). And because he is alive and real, everything [else] he has promised them can be seen now to be true.
What's even more amazing to me is John 20:29. Jesus says that you and I receive a blessing that those who physically witnessed his resurrection can't have: "Blessed are they who did not see and yet believed." So, even when we can't see his hand at work, we can trust his power and loving heart. He's not idle. Assuming your sin account with him is cleared, the rut you may feel you're in is likely a false reality.
Take courage that Christ is alive and is with you. Today. Now. It's a reality.
*All italics from Michael Card, "New Dimension of Faith," March, 2008
Saturday, March 29, 2008
Friday, March 28, 2008
Thursday, March 27, 2008
Monday, March 24, 2008
Truth is, I've never been terribly afraid of death, and I suppose I have my parents to thank for that. Unlike some, they felt it was important for children to understand the reality of death, rather than shelter them from it. Either that, or they couldn’t find babysitters, so we got to go along. Nevertheless, I vividly remember my first experience at a funeral as a 7 or 8 year old, because like many kids, I saw every new event as an adventure. Much to my delight, although we were in central
My dad probably didn’t help my increasing comfort level with death by telling amusing stories of working at a funeral home while studying for his Master’s Degree. My favorite that he tells was of the day he and a co-worker were called to pick up the body of a recently deceased, rather obese woman. With some difficulty, he and the fellow managed to get the body to the funeral home, but to get it onto the mortician’s table, a few extra hands were needed. With two men on either end, they strained to lift the woman's body onto the table. As gently as possible, they laid her down only to hear her offer up a deep moaning sigh. There’s still a Daddy-shaped hole in the wall, I think. As it turned out, the woman was indeed dead, but some air had been trapped in her lungs, and with the movement of her body, it escaped out her mouth, vibrating her vocal chords.
Of course, there is a side of death that lacks any amusement. Like learning as I did as a junior in high school that one of my best friends had been killed in a car accident due to the negligence of an on-coming driver, or watching as families tear themselves apart over an inheritance rather than simply dividing that inheritance among themselves. And I’ll never forget the Mother’s Day Darin left our family festivities to bury a woman in a pauper’s grave while her children drove away in automobiles made by Lexus and Cadillac.
But death can be a blessing, an escape for those who have struggled with pain and illness. My great-grandmother’s death was an example. A crippled, but godly woman of 96, she said to my aunt moments before she died, “Straighten out my legs, I want to be able to walk into heaven.” Both my grandmothers were merely shells of who they had been before disease and sickness ravaged their bodies. I also remember the emotion surrounding the death of a 16 year old girl named Julie. Debilitated from Leukemia, she found wholeness in the complete and final healing of her body. Even as a mere child, I knew that with the sadness was a restful blessing; that the striving her body had known for so long was finally over. The fact that I shared her name forever impressed upon me that I, too, would one day experience death – maybe not in the same way, or under the same circumstances, but it would nevertheless come as another note in the song of life.
Despite the power death has over this body, I'm so thankful to know that the Lord of life is Lord over death. He has proven that there is no reason to fear its hold. For he has made the devil (who had the power of death) powerless (Hebrews 2:14), thus "we are free from the law of sin and death" (Romans 8:2)! Praise God!
Thursday, March 20, 2008
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
- When have you been suddenly and unexpectedly aware of the presence of Christ?
- What effect did the experience have on you?
Monday, March 17, 2008
Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. "Abba, Father," he said, "everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will." Mark 14:35-36Gethsemane literally means "place of crushing," a place where olives were crushed for their oil. That name took an infinitely deeper meaning when Jesus knelt down there to pray that night in the garden.
A man knelt there, a man of unspeakable courage and obedience. Jesus looked the Father in the face with mature, though anguished honesty and said, "If there is any way for this cup to pass, let it be so!: Yet a child also knelt down there to pray,. "Abba, anything is possible for you!" Jesus' words sound like a child's cry to his father for help, not a theological statement about an all-powerful Universal Being.
Jesus cried out, "Abba." Never let anyone clothe that word in theological sophistication. It is not a sophisticated word. It is baby talk! Papa, Daddy, Abba - they are all the same thing: the first stutterings of an infant, not to be categorized in some theological structure, but to be cried out from the heart of a child, a heart of faith.
PRAY: Bring the deepest cries of your heart to your Abba, your heavenly Father. Do not be ashamed of your feelings before him.
Friday, March 14, 2008
Thursday, March 13, 2008
- Joseph, in Genesis 37:14-16, while wandering around in the fields, was asked this. He was looking for his brothers. Oddly enough, finding them didn't work out so well for him.
- Micah (not the prophet) in Judges 17:9 asked a man, a Levite, what he was looking for. The man's reply: "I'm looking for a place to stay." Micah quickly hired him to live with his family and serve as their priest unto the Lord, since this was a time when there was disorder in the religious and political landscape.
- In Samuel 8-10, Saul was out looking for runaway donkeys; he was ordained king instead.
- Simeon, in Luke 2 was looking for the hope and redemption of Israel, the Messiah. He saw it, in the form of an infant boy brought to the Temple by Mary and Joseph.
- Matthew 26:59-61 records the chief priests and Sanhedrin for false evidence against Jesus. They found it.
- The women were looking for a dead Jesus, but found him to be alive (Matthew 28:5-7).
- Psalm 69:3 - I am worn out calling for help; my throat is parched. My eyes fail, looking for my God.
- Psalm 119:82 - My eyes fail, looking for your promise; I say, "When will you comfort me?"
- Psalm 119:123 - My eyes fail, looking for your salvation, looking for your righteous promise.
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
This change won't come easily, as they certainly know, but the risk toward fulfilling a drea is certainly worth taking. Andre Gride, a French writer, said it this way, "One doesn't discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time." Columbus' first voyage was 71 days of uncertainty and sameness, until that thrilling moment on October 12 when Rodrigo de Triana, a sailor on the Pinta, spotted the lands of the Bahamas.
So many of us choose to sit on the shores of life, wondering what the world looks like on the other side of the oceans of our unknowns. Patrick has worked hard, physically and musically to be prepared for this new challenge, and I think his efforts and courage are biblically sound. In 2 Timothy 1:6-7, Paul tells his friend to fan into flame his God-given gift, and to exercise that calling with a spirit of power, love and self-discipline, not fear. Whatever our gifts/talents/skills/interests may be, taking steps toward using them, though frightening at times, will only bring about a greater strength of character in us and greater faith in the character and nature of God Himself.
Blessings, Patrick and Misty. Through your step of courage and faith, I pray God will reveal more of Himself through the twists and turns of this adventure into the ocean of this exciting new unknown.
Thursday, March 6, 2008
Tuesday, March 4, 2008
Checking the date, we realized we'd bought the cans in '04. Why we moved them from Corsicana last summer I don't know. I'm just so thankful I didn't serve that to anyone we know and love!
I'm sure there's a spiritual application here somewhere, but let's just leave the moral of this story at check expiration dates from time to time.
By the way, I checked every other can in the pantry. No more explosions are expected in the near future. So if you come over to eat, you don't have to be afraid.
Our current Ladies Bible Study, "I Saw the Lord," led me to ask some tough questions this afternoon as I was working through this week's pages. One of the first questions was, "Do I make it a disciplined practice to give where and when giving is needed?" This wasn't necessarily referring to money, although that could be included. For me, the question focused most prominently on my time and words or acts of encouragement.
I'm quite selfish with my time. I realize that full well. Especially time with Darin or other family/close friends. But, honestly, I'm even worse when I'm tired. Somehow, I think that being selfish when I'm tired is an excuse for brushing off the loneliness of others or their need to have someone listen.
Jesus certainly got tired and took time away from people to refresh and renew so that he could more effectively minister. That's biblically documented and certainly godly wisdom. But nine times in the gospels it is stated that Jesus "had compassion" on people. My favorite instance is recorded in Mark 6:34. Jesus has been talking and ministering with the disciples so long they've not even had a chance to stop and eat. However, a large crowd (5000+) gathers and in his compassion, he begins teaching them and even feeds them a meal of bread and fish.
I need to have that kind of compassion, especially when I'm tired and hungry! Because I've seen how the focus on "me, myself and I" hurts others. I had a student several years ago whose parents were both incredibly busy and on the road with their careers, and when they did carve out time to spend with him, he never got a vote in what they did. In fact, they usually considered letting him ride with him to their next appointment as "quality time" enough.
Certainly he didn't need to be the center of their universe, but I'll never forget standing in the hallway at school with him one day. The tears formed in my own eyes as he wept, having just learned that his mom had "rescheduled" their afternoon together to include a 2 hour press conference.
The compassion they lacked was the very kind of compassion Jesus demonstrated. Jesus didn't only do those things that caused mutual benefit for himself and others. He willingly placed the needs of others ahead of his own. I don't think it was necessarily because he wanted to, but rather because the compassion that overflowed from his heart dictated self-less actions.
Imagine the impact for the Kingdom if even just once a week, out of compassionate hearts, we said "no" to "me, myself and I" and said "yes" to the needs of someone in our sphere of influence. That's seeking first his kingdom. Let him add "all these things" then, in his way and his time.
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. John 13:34
Monday, March 3, 2008
Although similar, this problem is a little different than the age-old question, "Why do bad things happen to good people?" because this problem acknowledges the active and deliberate efforts of obedience to a Supreme and Holy God wherein the results of those acts were disappointing or at least surprisingly unexpected.
For example, my friends Laura and Jeff chose to follow God's calling as missionaries to an African country. Some of their co-workers, also following God's call, have been arrested for their Christian witness. Why then, since they acted in obedience to Jesus' command to "Go into all the world and preach the gospel" should something like this have resulted?
We have some other friends here in the U.S. who, although they have faithfully ministered for nearly two decades, have been laid-off from their role because the place where they live is in decline, and the church can no longer afford to pay them. They've been obedient in serving the Lord, proactive in ministering in his name, so why is termination the result?
Or more personally, Darin and I were both pure at the time of our marriage, so our inability to conceive children seems rather odd to us both. Wouldn't the logical result be that infertility should happen to people who were disobedient to the 7th commandment?
Although I have no answers to explain the mind and workings of our omnipotent, omniscient God, I take comfort in this: We're not alone.
The disciples certainly didn't expect Jesus' obedience to look like it did. Even Jesus asked it to take a different route (Matthew 26:39).
Joseph obediently went in search of his brothers, according to his father's instruction, and yet on the other end they were plotting to kill him (Genesis 37:12-18).
David obeyed his father by taking food to his brothers, only to end up fighting a giant (1 Samuel 17:17-58).
Moses obeyed God by leading the people out of Egypt, yet what he got for it was the same meal in the wilderness for 40 years with a bunch of whining complainers (Exodus 3:10; 16:2-17:4).
Hosea obeyed God by marrying an adulterous woman and lived life with a broken heart (Hosea 1:2).
Even Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, in obeying God, first ended up in the fiery furnace from which they were saved (Daniel 3:16-18).
Too often, we want obedience to be attractive and "rewarding." Jesus promises there will be blessing for obedience and his presence ever-near, but we want to believe in a human-conceived reward/punishment system. He's not restricted to playing by our man-made rules.
So, yes, God is using a different set of rules. But he has proven his faithful and trustworthy character again and again, so whatever rules he's using are safe enough for me to live by, even when the results of my obedience don't look like I think they should.