Saturday, March 30, 2013

That's My King -- Do You Know Him?

When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body.  Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?”

But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.

“Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid Him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see Him, just as He told you." ~Mark 16:1-7

Easter Sunday. Resurrection Sunday.  Whatever you choose to call it, it's a day of joyful celebration among Christians worldwide. 

Raised from the dead by the power of God's Holy Spirit, Jesus stepped out of the tomb, alive once more, victorious over sin and death. Victorious for us. 

Jesus is indeed King of Kings and LORD of lords, Prince of peace, Savior of the world.

Do you know Him?  

"You know the way to the place where I am going.”

Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we don’t know where You are going, so how can we know the way?”

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. If you really knew Me, you would know My Father as well. From now on, you do know Him and have seen Him.” ~ John 14:4-7

This is an absolutely wonderful video rendition of Dr. S.M. Lockridge's sermon, entitled 'The Seven Way King.'  May it bring you to tears and cheers

The Day In-Between

The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate.  “Sir,” they said, “we remember that while He was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’  So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, His disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that He has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.”

“Take a guard,” Pilate answered. “Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.” So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard.

After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. ~ Matthew 27:62-66; 28:1

Today is an in-between day. A day firmly wedged in between two very different days:

Good Friday: a day of great sorrow, fear, discouragement and darkness

Resurrection or Easter Sunday: a day of joy, fearlessness, hope and light!

A day of silence, a day of hopelessness, a day of sorrow, a day of waiting (not so patiently) and wondering what the heck is going on, and where is God and what happened to those promises of His anyway? Perhaps this is what Jesus' disciples and His very own mother were experiencing and wondering after His body was laid in the tomb, as they rested and grieved on that Sabbath Day. 

Perhaps, they felt as if they were in a tomb of their own. 

And perhaps this is what you are experiencing in your own life today, too.  Entombed, grieving, you're laying somewhere in-between hurt and healing; hope and Hell. And the silence in there can be deafening sometimes.  I know, because over the years, I've been there way too many times myself. 

But hang on!  Don't give up! Despite whatever it is you're going through, however you're feeling right now, whatever lies the enemy of your soul is bombarding you with, KNOW THIS:

There is hope, and that hope is in our Lord and Savior, our Beloved Brother and Friend, Jesus Christ, Who gave up EVERYTHING, from the moment He arrived on this earth to the moment He breathed His last breath on that Good Friday so long ago, to give you and me EVERYTHING. 

Every hope. Every help. Every healing.

EVERY blessing.  

There is a song whose lyrics begin, 'Come thou fount of every blessing.'  Who is that fount? Jesus is. Everything we need pours forth from Him.

EVERY blessing. Perhaps not the kind we envision and consider to be blessings  -- not the material or tangible kind, like brand new cars, beautiful, immense homes, gorgeous jewelry, loads of cash in the bank (and in our hands), etc.  But the kinds of blessings the Lord knows we need and is delighted to give.

  • Are you weak today? He will give you His strength
  • Are things chaotic? He will give you His rest and bring things to order
  • Are you anxious and worried? He will give you His peace
  • Are you afraid? He will give you His courage and boldness
  • Are you confused, lost? He will order your steps
  • Are you overwhelmed by sorrow?  He will stand with you and give you His comfort
  • Are you feeling unloved? He will give you His unfailing and unconditional love
  • Are you broken and feeling shattered into a million pieces? He will take those pieces in His hands and send forth His healing upon you

Let Jesus, the Christ, roll away the stone from your tomb of death; step out with Him and into His light and life. The day of resurrection. No longer the day in-between. 

Remember, I am with you always. ~ Matthew 28:20 (HCSB)

Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Bondservant's Way

It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for Him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end. ~ John 13:1

Feet.  Would you agree they're fairly essential body parts? Without them, we’d be hard pressed to stand, walk, run, ski, rollerblade. Kicking a ball might prove difficult.

But honestly – feet can be ugly. And smelly.

Granted, there are some women who were just born with dainty little photogenic feet. They probably have no need to scrape and slough them with pumice stones, to spritz them with perfume, or to slather them with Intense Skin Repair Lotion with Shea Butter on a daily basis.  But some of us do.

Then there are those of us who enjoy decorating our feet with brightly colored nail polishes, rhinestones, toe rings, tattoos, etc. 

And c’mon, who doesn’t love pudgy, smooth-as-silk, baby lotion scented tiny, little baby feet?

Guys – sorry, but it seems you all are pretty much stuck with those Fred Flintstone appendages of yours. If you indulge in any of the aforementioned activities, that’s fine, but please keep it to yourselves. I really don’t want to know.

Our socks and shoes protect our feet from the elements and the environment. We have so many types and styles available for every season, event and activity. But back in the day – Jesus’ day – not so much. You had your basic leather sandals or else you went barefoot. Either way, that made for some extremely dry and dusty, filthy and funky smelling feet.

And yet, one evening long ago in an upper room, as Jesus and His disciples were in the midst of their Passover meal, their final meal together, these were the very body parts that Jesus chose to attend to at that moment.  Not their hands or their faces. But their feet. Their dirty, dry, disgusting feet.

The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. ~ John 13:2-5

In those days, the custom of foot washing was a courteous, hospitable gesture done for a person's house guests. The host would provide the water and the other necessary items, as well as the servant to take care of the guests. The servant performing this task was known as a doulos, the Greek term for bondservant, the lowliest of the low. And a bondservant was the role that Jesus -- Son of God, King of Kings, the Anointed One and Messiah – was born to play.

Jesus, the One the disciples called ‘Master’ and ‘Teacher,’ was showing these men another side of Himself. A tender, loving, compassionate and very HUMBLE side.  As Jesus washed the feet of each of His disciples – and please keep in mind that included Judas, the one who would betray Him MINUTES later – His actions displayed pure and uncensored agape love. Redeeming love. Humble love. Jesus began to take on a new form to His friends.

He was now their bondservant.

When He had finished washing their feet, He put on His clothes and returned to His place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” He asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am.  Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.  Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.  Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them. ~ John 13:12-17

Why would Jesus do something like this? Something so lowly, humiliating, perhaps even embarrassing and obviously uncomfortable for the Twelve.  Why? After all, Jesus was the Son of God. Throughout all four Gospels, people were either throwing themselves at His feet; laying things and people at His feet; or sitting at His feet.  Yet here, we find Jesus exchanging that posture, placing Himself at the feet of others.

He explains His actions in verses 14- 15: “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.”  Jesus wanted them to learn humility and loving service to others. And not just to learn and know these things, but to take action.

The world – our world – aspires to pride, domination and entitlement, no doubt more so today than it did back then. But Jesus wanted to show His disciples, His friends, as He longs to show us now, another way. A better way. His way. The Bondservant's way.

“If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.” ~ John 13:8

Will you let Him? On this Maundy or Holy Thursday, will you find a quiet place of solitude, and take some time with Jesus? Will you allow Jesus to humbly kneel before you today and wash your feet? Will you refrain from being embarrassed and uncomfortable and crying out like Peter did, “No, You shall never wash my feet!”

And then, will you humble yourself even further, look around and ask yourself this next question:

‘Whose feet do I need to wash?’

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Silence Before The Shearers

Just a few moments ago, I was audience to a 'war of words' taking place between quite a few folks on Twitter.  At one point, even WITH a scorecard, you wouldn't have been able to tell who was who among the players. Some professed to be Christian, but with the temperatures rising and the 'Haterade' flowing like a mountain spring, you seriously could have fooled me.

Earlier on Facebook, someone made a comment on a friend's page how they were struggling to 'like' Christians over a particular heated and much publicized debate; a debate where the more people weigh in with their opinions on it, the more they seem to fan the flames of hatred. And this person who made the comment was a Christian themselves. 

With social media such a huge part of everyone's lives these days, doesn't it seem that more and more, we feel we can say whatever we want -- Christian or not -- and we always MUST have the last word? That's just how it seems to me anyway.

And then two Scripture verses kind of popped into my head (I say 'kind of' because since I'm not Barbie Bible Scholar, I didn't remember them word for word, I actually had to look them up):

He was oppressed and treated harshly, yet He never said a word. He was led like a lamb to the slaughter. And as a sheep is silent before the shearers, He did not open his mouth. ~  Isaiah 53:7

When they hurled their insults at Him, He did not retaliate; when He suffered, He made no threats. Instead, He entrusted himself to Him who judges justly. ~ 1 Peter 2:23

As a result of all of this, I got to wondering just what my life would look like if I truly followed Jesus's example here and applied these verses to my everyday interactions with people -- face-to-face and online.

How would your life look, dear one?

Just some food for thought today.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Gone Astray

I'll help the blind walk, even on a road they do not know; I'll guide them in directions they do not know. I'll turn the dark places into light in front of them, and the rough places into level ground. These are the things I will do, and I won't abandon them. ~ Isaiah 42:16, ISV

There are times in life when we go astray and find ourselves hopelessly lost.  

Sometimes, it's physically. I'm what's commonly known in the politically correct arena as 'directionally challenged.' In my younger days, I had a fantastic sense of direction, but those days disappeared along with my flat belly, smooth skin and natural hair color. My favorite traveling companion these days is my Magellan GPS, or Maggie, as she is fondly referred to by me. Although there are days when, thinking I know a BETTER way and don't need her, I give Maggie a run for her money and wind up far from my destination. If it's possible to give an electronic device a nervous breakdown, I'll be the one to do it.

Other times, we may find ourselves lost relationally. What I mean by this is we may find ourselves in a dark and hopeless place in a relationship with someone -- like an exclusive love relationship, a marriage or even a close friendship -- a place where we never intended to go and haven't any idea as to how we arrived there. Or how we'll find our way back. 

And sometimes, we lose our way spiritually. In our walk with our Lord, we choose a wrong path. We subtly veer to the left when we should be moving to the right, and suddenly, we find ourselves quite a distance away from where we need to be with Him. We're out of God's will. We feel scared. We feel disoriented. We feel alone. 

I've been in that place. Actually, as recently as two weeks ago. It's not a pretty place. What are we to do? How do we find our way back? 

ASK for help. That's right, it's as simple as that. 

Have you lost your way? Your purpose? Your strength? Your peace? 

Do you feel as if you've lost your place in God's will and in His family?

Take heart, dear ones. Cry out to the Lord and ask Him to help you. He hasn't moved. He's right there with us. We've just lost sight of Him. He's waiting to guide us back to the right path, the one that leads back to Him. 

He is the Finder of the lost:

lost sheep
lost people
lost minds
lost souls

He has everything we need. If only we would just ask.

I have wandered away like a lost sheep; come and find me, for I have not forgotten your commands. ~ Psalm 119:176

I Have Gone Astray, by Darlene Slavujac Thau
And then....listen. He will answer.  

Your ears will hear a word behind you, "This is the way, walk in it," whenever you turn to the right or to the left. ~ Isaiah 30:21, NASB

It's my hope that the words and music from this beautiful song by Sidewalk Prophets will encourage, strengthen and comfort you, wherever you are right now. 

Friday, March 15, 2013

And They'll Know We Are Christians By Our Love

"A new command I give you.: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another" ~ John 13:35

Yesterday in my post, The Snarkiness of Christianity,  I ended by wondering what Jesus might be thinking about all the arrogant, self-righteous and mean-spirited attitudes and comments from His followers that have been flying around on the Internet recently concerning the announcement of the new pontiff, Pope Francis I, and about the Catholic Church in general.

I cannot be so arrogant and self-righteous myself to state that I KNOW  exactly what Jesus is or could possibly be thinking.  But I do know from Scripture that Jesus reserved His harshest criticism for those who were considered the religious elite of His day -- the Pharisees and teachers of the law.  These holy men followed Jesus, too. But not because they believed He was the Messiah, but to judge and criticize and condemn every word He spoke and every move He made.

In the Bible, Matthew 23:1-36 is subtitled in one translation as ‘Seven Woes To The Scribes and Pharisees,’ and ‘A Warning Against Hypocrisy’ in another. Jesus admonishes their actions, telling His disciples and the crowd of people following Him not to do what they, the religious leaders, do, because they do not practice what they preach.

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!”  Jesus says to them over and over, calling them blind guides, blind fools, whitewashed tombs, snakes and a brood of vipers.  These men gave the appearance of righteousness and holiness on the outside, but inside they were unclean and dead. Hypocrites.

Might these same accusations aimed at the Pharisees and teachers of the law by Jesus so long ago strike a chord with many of His people today who are speaking maliciously of other folks who love and serve the Lord? Might these same warnings resonate within them, making them uncomfortable in their sin?

I must say, I am all too aware that while we may be followers of Christ, we are also an imperfect bunch of people.  We make mistakes. We give in to temptations. We fall down. We say hurtful, inappropriate things.  We set bad examples. Most times unintentionally, but sometimes not.  

And to be painfully honest, there was a time when I was what some call a ‘baby Christian’ (someone immature in their faith in Christ) and I would often sarcastically and self-righteously refer to myself as a ‘recovering Catholic,’ as I toggled between looking down my nose at and feeling sorry for anyone who still found themselves ‘trapped by the tradition of guilt and shame’ (my words) within the Catholic Church.

Can you say ‘World’s Biggest Jerk?’ Yes, that was me to a T, my dears. I THANK GOD for His grace and mercy with me over the years. I am thankful for His persistence in pointing out my arrogant stupidity and Pharisaecal attitude, for His help in removing this ugly attitude in me. And I’m grateful that today, God still sends loving, yet stern reminders and lessons whenever I seem about to veer over onto that path again.

May I ask for something here? Could we all just be willing to lay down our verbal swords? Could we all  just be willing to put aside our differences and disagreements on theology and doctrine? Could we – as a people who profess to love Jesus Christ – learn to see one another as beloved children of our Father God and precious brothers and sisters in Christ, united by and with and through the Holy Spirit?

As a matter of fact, in John 17:20-23, this unity is what Jesus prayed for in the upper room after the Passover meal, the night He was betrayed:

“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in Me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as You are in Me and I am in You. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that You have sent Me.  I have given them the glory that You gave Me, that they may be one as we are one—  I in them and You in Me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that You sent Me and have loved them even as You have loved Me.

Could we -- dare we -- as Christians, humble ourselves and pray this way, too, for our Catholic friends, family members, neighbors, classmates and coworkers and for their pope? Could we -- dare we -- pray for those whose religious denominations and traditions aren't mirror images of ours?

I’ve said this before, but it’s worth repeating – we need to be ever so careful about what we post, how we speak and act. The way we live and love.  Others – non-believers, new believers and people of different faith denominations -- are watching us. And they’ll know we are Christians…not by our Christian T-shirts, key chains and car magnets displaying clever slogans; not with our Jesus jewelry and our Bible verse Pinterest boards…but they’ll KNOW, without a doubt, we are Christians by our love.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Snarkiness of Christianity

Wednesday, March 13, 2013, was certainly a day for the history books. After the siting of the white smoke rising out of the Sistine Chapel's chimney, social media sites, newsfeeds and blogs were all abuzz about the election of the Catholic Church’s new pontiff, Argentinian Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, now known as Pope Francis I, the pontiff of firsts. CNN's webpage reports that Pope Francis is
  • the first non-European pope of the modern era
  • the first Latin American pope
  • the first Jesuit
  • the first to take the name of Francis

As a former Catholic, I was delighted for my Catholic and Latin American friends, as it was such an exciting moment in history and the beginning of a new era for them! However, I was not so delighted, Christian and non-denominational gal that I am, over the many comments made by folks in response to the question posed on various news sites and social media pages after the announcement:

‘What do you think about the election of the new pope?

I’m certain those who posted this question expected a plethora of responses ranging from hopeful and ecstatic to doubtful and indifferent .

But I’m guessing that the folks who maintain the social media page of a particular Christian organization NEVER expected the many, many negative and damaging comments made by....gulp...fellow Christians.

GASP!! The heck you say?

Yes, my friends. The snarkiness of Christianity came out in a big, ugly way on the Facebook page of  'I Am Second'. The folks at I Am Second describe themselves, as it states in the picture above, as ‘a movement meant to inspire people of all kinds to live for God and for others.’  They place much of their emphasis on humility, encouraging people to serve God by serving others FIRST, while humbly relegating themselves to second place.  That's some great stuff there, because that's what Jesus did. 

I’m not faulting those over at I Am Second for posting that question. I’m sure it was asked with good intentions and in all sincerity, as many of its page members are from the Catholic faith, as well as other faith denominations.  No doubt they may have expected some negativity and indifference here and there. But I truly don’t think they expected the onslaught of finger-pointing, name-calling and mockery that followed. 

Before I began writing out this post, I surfed over to their Facebook page and found that the post in question had been removed. I can’t say that I blame them and I actually applaud them for doing so. I must admit, I was appalled and saddened by the over-the-top mean-spiritedness and arrogance of people’s words and attitudes towards those within the Catholic faith.  So many spoke of the pope and Catholics with the same sneering contempt that one reserves for speaking of crack addicts, child molesters and Adolph Hitler. 

It was a prime example of Christians behaving badly.

And that prompted me to wonder what someone brand new to the Christian faith would have thought after reading such arrogant, sarcastic, self-righteous and hurtful comments.

Or how about someone who is seeking a relationship with Christ; or someone who has never felt the need or a desire for God but who perhaps stumbled upon I Am Second’s Facebook page or was encouraged by someone to check it out? What do you suppose they would have thought about those comments and, more importantly, about the Christians who posted them?

And what do you suppose….Jesus thought about them?

I’ll get to that and finish up in my next post. Stay tuned.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Worship Song Sunday -- You Are I Am, by Mercy Me

'While Jesus was still speaking, some men came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue ruler. "Your daughter is dead," they said, "why bother the Teacher anymore?" Ignoring what they said, Jesus told the synagogue ruler, "Don't be afraid; just believe." '~Mark 5:35-36

' "If you can?" said Jesus. "Everything is possible for him who believes."  Immediately, the boy's father exclaimed, "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!" '~Mark 9:23-24

'But when they saw Him walking on the lake, they thought He was a ghost. They cried out because they all saw Him and were terrified.  Immediately, He spoke to them and said, "Take courage. It is I. Don't be afraid." '~Mark 6:49-50

'But He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness."  Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.'~2 Corinthians 12:9

'Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I Am!" '~John 8:58

Bridegroom, The Great I Am, by Dee Brestin

Whenever you doubt; whenever you're afraid; whenever you think you have to do everything on your own, in your own strength, remember who He is.....

You are the One Messiah....You are I AM!
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